Re: THE LITERARY MIND and Causality

Mark Crosby (
Mon, 24 Nov 1997 14:38:13 -0800 (PST)

At 09:18 AM 11/21/97 I wrote that Mark Turner's
Literary Mind theory suggested to me 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.

On Sat, 22 Nov 1997 15:43:22 -0500 (EST) Twink responded:
< The statement here implies that there are causal
threads -- i.e., that causality is operative!:) >

I meant that we usually have imputed causality to
'things' where the physical causes are probably
several levels removed: Did I throw the ball, or did
my arm throw it, or did the game I'm playing cause me
to throw it?

Perhaps the point these people I quoted were trying
to make is that, while there is always some
object-level causality going on, that may not be the
most effective way to describe or study a situation.

Regarding the Walter J. Freeman quote that we
humanize the relationships among things by assigning
a cause, and "we do this through neural processes of
corollary discharge and reafference", Twink responds:

< 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. >

Perhaps he has just been a good eliminative
materialist and pared things down to the 'real'
underlying cause ;-) But, as in my ball-game
example, there's some circular causality involved in
most complex situations.

As you point out in your example of the cause of
death of a woman who has been shot, the material
cause of death was the bullet, the efficient cause
was the pulling of the trigger, the formal cause was
the killer deciding to shoot her, and the final cause
... ? Perhaps the one who was shot had threatened
the one who shot her.

Of course, relativism can be taken too far and
interpretations can become trapped in a hermeneutical
circle - then the 'causes' are in the stories we tell
ourselves about what we think we perceive. In the
case of the woman's death, unless it was strictly
self defense on the killer's part, I have no problem
with convicting her of murder, or at least
manslaughter. But, this is a case of human actions
with rather final results for one of the participants.

We don't really know the final causes in most
situations; but, in most situations, one or the other
causes will usually suffice to get us by. However,
if we are trying to get a better understanding of the
"universe that is a totality - an integrated whole"
(as you put it), a relational viewpoint may often
offer a more complete picture than a causal viewpoint
that is practically restricted to a limited set of
objects and their apparent direct impacts on each

Mark Crosby

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