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Who is Richard Tarnas? 
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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
It's surprising that Tarnas takes astrology so seriously. The intellectual sophistication necessary to write an exceptional book like The Passion of the Western Mind seems incompatible with the intellectual sloppiness I associate with astrology. His belief in astrology doesn't detract from my opinion of the book; it's just unexpected. For more background, here's the Wikipedia article about Tarnas.

Robert Tulip:
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I would be interested in people's thoughts about the relation between freedom and capitalism, and to what extent western concepts are universal.

FYI, this book focuses on philosophy in terms of understanding the world, as opposed to moral or political philosophy.



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Robert Tulip
Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:16 pm
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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
JulianTheApostate wrote:
It's surprising that Tarnas takes astrology so seriously. The intellectual sophistication necessary to write an exceptional book like The Passion of the Western Mind seems incompatible with the intellectual sloppiness I associate with astrology. His belief in astrology doesn't detract from my opinion of the book; it's just unexpected. For more background, here's the Wikipedia article about Tarnas.

Robert Tulip:
Quote:
I would be interested in people's thoughts about the relation between freedom and capitalism, and to what extent western concepts are universal.

FYI, this book focuses on philosophy in terms of understanding the world, as opposed to moral or political philosophy.

Hi Julian. Your point about the sloppiness of astrology is well made. Popular astrology is extremely sloppy, relying on hunches rather than evidence. Overall, astrology proceeds by anecdote rather than evidence - "I know some people who are Leo's so all Leo's must be like that" is a very illogical way to form beliefs. It is no surprise that rational people's attitude towards astrology is so contemptuous, given that its role in mass culture is somewhat akin to creationism in pushing society towards a cosmology that lacks evidence. However, the problem is more complex than that.

I have had a long interest in the relation between astrology and science. I found Tarnas' book Cosmos and Psyche very good, although it still suffers from the anecdotal method that bedevils most astrology. I met Richard when he visited Australia a few years ago, and I quizzed him on this question of how astrology sits against the mainstream content of The Passion of the Western Mind. He said (or at least this is the impression I formed) that his interest is to formulate a new wholistic paradigm of attunement to the cosmos, and that Passion of the Western Mind was essentially preparatory for his real work on this agenda. Cosmos and Psyche looks at the patterns of the outer planets, and argues there are clear trends in history.

Tarnas describes the evidence he finds of planetary cycles as 'compelling'. Although his method is more systematic than conventional folk astrology, it suffers from the problem that all astrological effects are so weak that it has been impossible to design statistical tests that will deliver predictable results, except in the weak case of the Gauquelin planetary effects. Most astrologers are more interested in intuition than statistics, so by astrological standards Tarnas is compelling, even though his methods are not statistical. My view is that large scale epidemiological tests could measure for weak astrological effects, for example on Tarnas' main theme of planetary transits, such as when Saturn returns to the position it occupied when you were born. That is another matter.

On freedom, I think Tarnas might question your distinction between political philosophy and epistemology. His argument seems to be that every epistemology has a politics, for example Locke's tabula rasa argument served as a basis to reject religious forms of thought by privileging the modern rational capitalist individual.

Your namesake Julian the Apostate had, if I am not mistaken, a prime agenda of restoring the pagan astrological worldview in the face of Christian hostility.



Last edited by Robert Tulip on Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:51 am, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:47 am
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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
Robert Tulip wrote:
On freedom, I think Tarnas might question your distinction between political philosophy and epistemology.

While those kinds of philosophy influence each other, as I recall the book spent a lot more time on epistemology than on political philosophy.



Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:50 pm
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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
Just ordered the book over the weekend, so it seems I'll have to read quickly to catch up as well.

Robert Tulip wrote:
JulianTheApostate wrote:
It's surprising that Tarnas takes astrology so seriously. The intellectual sophistication necessary to write an exceptional book like The Passion of the Western Mind seems incompatible with the intellectual sloppiness I associate with astrology. His belief in astrology doesn't detract from my opinion of the book; it's just unexpected. For more background, here's the Wikipedia article about Tarnas.

Robert Tulip:
Quote:
I would be interested in people's thoughts about the relation between freedom and capitalism, and to what extent western concepts are universal.

FYI, this book focuses on philosophy in terms of understanding the world, as opposed to moral or political philosophy.

Hi Julian. Your point about the sloppiness of astrology is well made. Popular astrology is extremely sloppy, relying on hunches rather than evidence. Overall, astrology proceeds by anecdote rather than evidence - "I know some people who are Leo's so all Leo's must be like that" is a very illogical way to form beliefs. It is no surprise that rational people's attitude towards astrology is so contemptuous, given that its role in mass culture is somewhat akin to creationism in pushing society towards a cosmology that lacks evidence. However, the problem is more complex than that.

I have had a long interest in the relation between astrology and science. I found Tarnas' book Cosmos and Psyche very good, although it still suffers from the anecdotal method that bedevils most astrology. I met Richard when he visited Australia a few years ago, and I quizzed him on this question of how astrology sits against the mainstream content of The Passion of the Western Mind. He said (or at least this is the impression I formed) that his interest is to formulate a new wholistic paradigm of attunement to the cosmos, and that Passion of the Western Mind was essentially preparatory for his real work on this agenda. Cosmos and Psyche looks at the patterns of the outer planets, and argues there are clear trends in history.

Tarnas describes the evidence he finds of planetary cycles as 'compelling'. Although his method is more systematic than conventional folk astrology, it suffers from the problem that all astrological effects are so weak that it has been impossible to design statistical tests that will deliver predictable results, except in the weak case of the Gauquelin planetary effects. Most astrologers are more interested in intuition than statistics, so by astrological standards Tarnas is compelling, even though his methods are not statistical. My view is that large scale epidemiological tests could measure for weak astrological effects, for example on Tarnas' main theme of planetary transits, such as when Saturn returns to the position it occupied when you were born. That is another matter.

On freedom, I think Tarnas might question your distinction between political philosophy and epistemology. His argument seems to be that every epistemology has a politics, for example Locke's tabula rasa argument served as a basis to reject religious forms of thought by privileging the modern rational capitalist individual.

Your namesake Julian the Apostate had, if I am not mistaken, a prime agenda of restoring the pagan astrological worldview in the face of Christian hostility.


The mentions of astrology really piqued my interest, as it seems so strange that someone interested in writing such a comprehensive book would believe such fluff. Looking at his wikipedia entry, I see that he's at the California Institute of Integral Studies, which is definitely a fringe university. According to wikipedia, "All programs attempt to combine mainstream academic standards with a spiritual orientation, including influences from a broad spectrum of mystical or esoteric traditions." Based on this, I don't think I'll agree with all his ideas about western philosophy, so this should be an interesting read!



Mon Mar 01, 2010 2:48 pm
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Post Re: Who is Richard Tarnas?
Actually, I didn't detect anything fringy about the book, having read it without knowing anything about Tarnas. It struck me as a very comprehensive and level-headed overview of Western philosophy.

Now, it's possible that someone who's more knowledgeable about philosophy or who's aware of Tarnas's background might view the book differently.



Sat Mar 06, 2010 12:03 am
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