Mark Crosby (
Fri, 21 Nov 1997 09:18:11 -0800 (PST)

On Thu, 20 Nov 1997 19:28:50 -0500 Twink wrote about
< It looks to me, from reading the preface, that his
theory can be subsumed under the notion that our
minds function by trying to put things into causal
chains. In a sense, this subsumes and explains the
parable/story metaphor -- and can be true even if
Turner's theory turns out not to be. At the very
least, the wider notion of causality underlies much
of our understanding. (Some would argue, and I would
agree, that it is axiomatic, and that our knowing of
it is merely a identification not of a fact about
mind but about reality as such.) >

Our minds may TRY "to put things into causal chains"
but I'm not sure that implies that "causality
underlies much of our understanding".

The following is from a Discover article that was
available around the time that Damien Broderick first
mentioned this book to the Extropians list:

"Knowledge, in other words, comes from the sparks
stories display as they strike up against each other.
And since that's an inherently dynamic process,
knowledge is also consequently unstable. 'Meaning,'
Turner says, 'is a complex operation of projecting,
blending, and integrating over multiple spaces.
Meaning never settles down into a single residence.
Meaning is parabolic and literary.'"

Now, this "sparks [of concepts] striking up against
each other" may sound causal, but projecting,
blending, and integrating at the level above this
where we interpret and apply the allegories,
metaphors and parables doesn't sound all that causal
to me.

It seems to me to be saying that human thought is
based principally on pattern matching, an on-going
variation and selection, feedback between many
levels, where it is effectively impossible to
untangle all the causal threads. We may frequently
jump to causal conclusions about events happening in
our environment that work for practical purposes even
though the causality really isn't there.

Anyway, I haven't actually had a chance to read
Turner's book, though I'd like to. It's interesting,
however, to quote something about causality that was
JUST posted to another list (psyche-D) where
neuroscientist Walter Freeman wrote:

< I wish to challenge the assumption that the world
is causal. There are interrelations of objects and
events in varying degrees of invariance, scope, and
temporal order. We humanize them by assigning
'cause'. I think I know how it is that we do this,
through the neural processes of corollary discharge
and reafference. If this is valid, then causation
holds in human actions, but it is misassigned to
phenomena in the world, leading to the quandary
described above. >

and Chris Malcolm, Department of Aritificial
Intelligence, Edinburgh University, responded in
agreement and went on to describe how:

< Cause is relative to the capabilities and purposes
of the observer. Cause is an observer-related
abstraction from the matrix of conditions which
underlie the existence of something. [CUT] Consider
for example an instruction in a computer program to
"beep" (make a beeping noise). [CUT] It is immaterial
in the same way as a melody, the rules of chess, a
plan, or an idea. Yet we all agree that what just
caused the computer to beep was the beep command in
the program it was running. Wait a minute! It
*wasn't* the instruction in the program that caused
it, it *was* the configuration of voltages across
transistor junctions. But they are the same thing! No
they're not!

That's the sort of trap you fall into when you
stretch "cause" too far. We know exactly what is
meant by an immaterial computer program causing a
physical action. There is no magic, no need for some
special ontologically distinct realm where
information and ideas reside which has some
specialised kind of causal connection to the normally
causally closed world of physics. The Cartesian
mind-matter duality is an artefact of mistaking the
nature of causality, a misdiagnosis of what the
problem is when causality falls to bits when you try
to use it to explain how software affects hardware
and how ideas affect men. >

Mark Crosby

Sent by Yahoo! Mail. Get your free e-mail at