Re: Causality

Eric Watt Forste (
Mon, 09 Dec 1996 15:00:20 -0800

>Suppose someone wants to bring about some event, and as a means of
>doing so, propagates a meme. What kind of causality is supposed to be
>at work here?

Rhetorical causality. The same kind of causality that was used to
establish the United States of America, for instance. Of course, it's
very difficult to disentangle rhetorical causality from psychological
causality, and the whole thing is very messy and historically embedded
and context dependent, but it's an extremely important mode of
causality because it is the primary mode that passes through human
hearts and minds. If it weren't so important, I doubt there would be
so many endowed chairs in the humanities for people to study this stuff.

I think C. P. Snow's "Two Cultures" could be described as the people
who are fascinated with the power of rhetoric (in its most general
sense, which encompasses all the humanities) and the people who
are fascinated with the power of mathematics. I remain fascinated
by both, but I know where my own talents lie. It's funny watching
the people who are wholly on one side or the other of Snow's boundary
running around acting snooty and superior to the people on the
other side. The humanists feel superior to the mathematically-competent
because they suspect that many of the mathematically-competent
people have no idea how much of their own motivations and assumptions
have been shaped by the rhetoric of the past, both forgotten and
remembered. I'm sure everyone here is familiar with the opposite
snootiness displayed by the mathematically literate toward the
mathematically incompetent.

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++