Re: [OPE-L] Derrida's ghosts

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Wed Nov 09 2005 - 08:15:14 EST

Rakesh Bhandari wrote:

> Wasn't astrology what the entirety of Indian cosmology dismissed as?
> Perhaps
> there was some orientalism in the very charge of astrology to all non
> Western
> cosmologies. Perhaps they had some validity and surely were often based
> on accurate measurements without which what you would call science would
> have been impossible. I think Amartya Sen (no postmodernist) may have a
> chapter
> on this in his Argumentative Indian.
> Don't know. But your point does not settle this for me.
> Rakesh
This has bugger all to do with west versus east. If you read Ptolemy he
is an increadible mishmash of astronomy, astrology and what would now
be considered pop-psychology.

The unscientific point about astrology is that uses an imaginary symbolic
connection between the apparent positions of the planets to explain
events on earth: the effeminacy of the inhabitants of asia minor being
attributed to the 'influence of Saturn' for example in Ptolemy.

There were all sorts of pre-scientific theories about stellar motions which
might involve good observations which would later provide the raw material
for scientific causal theories to be developed. But to
constitute a science you need an epistemological break from the prior
ideological explanations of the domain. A separation of the domain from
its projected social determinants and its recognition as an autonomous
material process. This break is essentially constituted by the Galliean and
Newtonian theories of motion.

It is obscurantism to bring in the charge of 'orientalism' in the dismissing
of pre-scientific cosmologies.

Paul Cockshott
Dept Computing Science
University of Glasgow

0141 330 3125

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