Re: Determinism

From: Robin Faichney (
Date: Sat Apr 14 2001 - 13:44:35 BST

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    Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2001 13:44:35 +0100
    Subject: Re: Determinism
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    In-Reply-To: <3AD734DB.3165.45F38D@localhost>; from on Fri, Apr 13, 2001 at 05:18:19PM -0500
    From: Robin Faichney <>
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    On Fri, Apr 13, 2001 at 05:18:19PM -0500, wrote:
    > > > Causational happenings do not require the
    > > > passage of time or changes in space, for causation is
    > > > instantaneous;
    > >
    > > No, there is no reason to believe that. Perhaps you're thinking of
    > > the classic (and classically misleading) billiard ball illustration,
    > > where the period of contact is, in human terms, extremely brief, but
    > > even there it's far from infinitesimal, and I'd guess that it's quite
    > > easily measured, using modern techniques.
    > >
    > You might be confusing a string of causations in the same
    > direction for a single one. Every tiny slide of a textonic plate
    > generates its own pressure; together they are enough to cause an
    > earthquake, but each, while related to the others in a
    > concatenatory chain, is its own entity. One may logically
    > subdivide pressing of billiard balls, deformation, rebound and
    > springing into a series of related but distinct cause-effect relations.

    One may logically subdivide any event into smaller and smaller timeslices.
    If doing so with causation results ultimately in a durationless event,
    then the same will apply to every other event, and if this is the
    "correct" approach, then all events are "really" durationless. Is that
    a useful or in any sense desirable stance to take? Because it looks
    to me like a contortion designed specifically to evade the fact that,
    given the usual concept of causation, it does not extent vertically up
    *or* down the hierarchy of levels of explanation.

    > > Seems to me, even if the duration of causation were always absolutely
    > > instantaneous (though I'm convinced it's not -- is anything?), that
    > > the concept of causation requires the causal entity to precede that
    > > instant, and the caused one to survive it. I'd say it's part of the
    > > definition of causation, as that word is normally used, that cause
    > > precedes effect. Now, I can't deny that there might be some
    > > specialised usage, of which I'm not aware, in which that's not the
    > > case. But I'd seriously question the utility of any such usage.
    > >
    > In fact, all the relevant interacting entities usually both pre-date and
    > post-date such a moment existentially, and what occurs between
    > them is mutual alteration, where one cannot be labeled the cause
    > and the other the effect.

    The entire pre-causation situation can be considered the cause, and the
    post-causation situation, the effect. If time is taken into account,
    the confusion evaporates. It's generated by your own contortions.

    > let us look at P-E pairs, however. When
    > they come together, what entity survives their mutual annihilation?

    You're fixating on "entity". The effect is clearly the absense of
    the pair.

    > > And you're still a long, long way from establishing vertical
    > > causation.
    > >
    > I'm actually establishing that simultaeous cause-effect relations are
    > the only kind we have, so if we don't have simultaneous causation,
    > we are in a world of shit, because sequential causation is an
    > illusion.

    Only in the sense that every sequential event is illusory, which is
    about as useful a stance as saying that the physical universe is nothing
    but maya.

    > Also, what's the problem you have with top-down
    > causation that you don't seem to have with bottom-up causation?

    You're confusing me with someone else, again. Scott Chase, I think,
    this time. I talk consistently about vertical causation, and view the
    bottom-up variety as no more valid than top-down. The only move that can
    occur between levels is a change in viewpoint, going for more detail or
    for a broader scope. Switching between a magnifying glass and a scanning
    electron microscope does not affect the specimen being studied, only which
    aspect of it is seen. Atoms don't *cause* molecules, because groups of
    them *are* molecules. Neural activity doesn't *cause* our decisions,
    because it *is* our decisions. Sure, you can use the word "cause" to
    cover such emergence, but only at the price of generating confusion.
    Top-down and bottom-up causation are both artefacts of sloppy thinking.

    By the way, your favourite example of "top-down causation", the
    correlation between subjects' reports and PET scans, is perfectly covered
    by what I call "diagonal causation", as fully explained on the web page.

    > They are BOTH vertical, and the fact that one's decisions affect
    > which parts of the brain are accessed to effectuate them does not
    > even transgress an entire level; the dynamically recursive reflection,
    > born of the material substrate and reflecting back upon it, is not a
    > completely different level that is absolutely nonrelated to the ground
    > from which it emerged, although they are not seamlessly blended
    > into an amorphic unsignifying nonselfconsciousness, either.

    This sort of talk obviously satisfies something in you, Joe. I'll even
    concede that some sorry folks might be impressed by it. But if you're
    interested in communicating with and convincing others, you'll have to
    change your style.

    Robin Faichney
    Get your Meta-Information from
    (CAUTION: contains philosophy, may cause heads to spin)

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