Twink (
Sat, 22 Nov 1997 15:43:22 -0500 (EST)

At 09:18 AM 11/21/97 -0800, Mark Crosby <> wrote:
>Our minds may TRY "to put things into causal chains"
>but I'm not sure that implies that "causality
>underlies much of our understanding".

My question to this would be: Why, then, would our
minds work to this -- i.e., to put things into causal
stories? (I'm using "causal stories" here to show
the link more directly between stories and causality.
Are there acausal stories?)

>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.

I admit they are not causal in the strict linear form most
would associate with causality. I would hasten to add
that, though I don't want to make the idea of causality
so broad as to defy any attempt at criticism, I generally
accept the neoAristotelean/Objectivist view of causality
-- which is of it as identity applied to change. In other
words, things act according to their nature. This view
need not rule out emergent behavior and the like.

However, I see what you mean and admit causality
and the sort of thing Mark Turner's THE LITERARY
MIND seems to be about overlap to a large extent,
but are not identical. I still believe a lot of his view
-- from the scraps quoted here and elsewhere -- can
be subsumed under causality. Saying that, of course,
should not be taken to mean one to close all inquiry
and merely mummble "Ah, causality!" Just as
biological processes are fundamentally physico-
chemical ones, this does not mean they shouldn't
be seen as a special type of process, almost in a
class by themselves.

>It seems to me to be saying that human thought is
>based principally on pattern matching,

I would say that consciousness is basically pattern
matching. Human thought is only one type of
consciousness. This seems to happen on all levels
of consciousness. Even automatic things, such as
my eyes imaging my bathrobe, are examples of
pattern matching.

>an on-going
>variation and selection, feedback between many
>levels, where it is effectively impossible to
>untangle all the causal threads.

The statement here implies that there are causal
threads -- i.e., that causality is operative!:)

>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.

This is only to say that the mind is fallible. This sort of
thing would cut against any theory of mind, though. To
say, we sometimes get things wrong does not explain
why or why we often get things right.

>Anyway, I haven't actually had a chance to read
>Turner's book, though I'd like to.

I too, though I've enough books now that I should read
that I will need to get my life extended just for that!

>[snip]neuroscientist Walter Freeman wrote:
>"I wish to challenge the assumption that the world
>is causal.

He is not the first to do so.

>"There are interrelations of objects and
>events in varying degrees of invariance, scope, and
>temporal order. We humanize them by assigning

This is the usual starting point for all who attack
causality. The thing is not that we "humanize them
by assigning 'cause'" BUT that we assign causes
at all. To say we do something in such a way is not
a refutation of it. Nor is it a proof that it has nothing
to do with reality. Instead, it might actually the way
minds have to understand reality BECAUSE there
are causes -- even given that we might never
know all of them or be mistaken about quite a few.

>"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."

I disagree, and note how he has assigned a cause
here! He implies "neural processes" are the cause
of the way we "humanize" the "interrelations of
objects and events.":) As usual, those who deny
axioms must use the very axioms in the denial.

>Chris Malcolm [snip] 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.

But observer-related need not imply nonobjective.

>[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!

But even so, the explanations do not contradict one
another and fit together well. Remove the instruction
from the program and, ceterus paribus, the beep will
not happen. Likewise, remove the speaker wires
and, ditto, ditto.:) To use another example, imagine
you witness one woman shoot another. The shot
man dies. You assign the cause of her death as
the other woman. The medical examiner assigns
the cause as a bullet wound to the heart. Etc.
Do the various views conflict? No. Instead they
fit together just like my friend and I seeing my bath-
robe from different angles. (He might even be
color blind.) His view is not wrong while mine is
right, or vice versa, we just have different yet
integratable perspectives.

This is not to say any causal picture is right. The
person who believes that the gods caused the
computer to beep, or magic made the woman die,
or a government conspiracy makes the bathrobe
look different to Bob and me has made a mistake
-- entertaining as it might be.:)

>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.

Not really. I don't accept Cartesian dualism or the
alternative you offer. Instead, I see causality as
active in a universe that is a totality -- an integrated
whole. That mind is a material process does not
mean causality is a chimera.

Daniel Ust