The Astrology Wars a closing statement.

The Astrology Wars have also gone viral on the History of Astronomy Mailing List providing a flood of comments pro and contra with some interesting comments from the historians of astrology who frequent the list. The best summary of my position was provided by Lester Ness who teaches at a university in China, he wrote:


I am neither an astronomer nor an astrologer, but an ancient historian
and archaeologist.  Since the people I study took astrology seriously, I
take their belief seriously.  As Bouche-Leclercq wrote more than a
century ago, if people as smart as Ptolemy and Richelieu believed in it,
historians have to take it seriously too.

Lester Ness


Filed under History of Astrology

4 responses to “The Astrology Wars a closing statement.

  1. The mutual incomprehension demonstrated during this debate is understandable. For people who practice history or anthropology, the default assumption is that people have reasons for believing what they do in the times and places they inhabit. Wherever you are, you’re someplace; and it follows that understanding others or, for that matter, yourself always requires consideration of context. If you reject this mindset or, as is probably more often the case, you are simply unfamiliar with it, a great deal of historical writing will strike you as promoting some absurd sort of relativism.

    Philosophers have their own reason for respecting the errors of the past, and it’s not just that we hope to be treated gently when our own certainties turn out to be nonsense. Human reason is obviously highly fallible; but if it routinely produces stupidities instead of meaningful errors, maybe we should all just go home. An adequate philosophy must not only explain how thinking succeeds but why it sometimes bets on the wrong horse.

  2. sometimes…

    Only sometimes?

  3. Jeb

    Jim, thats a very well made measured response.

    I suspect that you can see internal debates within history that seem to share at least some degree of correspondance.

    As a former student of a ‘failed and irrelevant’ 6th century culture I had to spend to much time stuck in a room with an expert in the ‘winning’ culture and aspects of this current topic seem somewhat familiar.

  4. Pingback: Astro-confusion | The Renaissance Mathematicus

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