Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id MAA07441 (8.6.9/5.3[ref email@example.com] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from firstname.lastname@example.org); Tue, 17 Apr 2001 12:57:11 +0100 Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 12:49:17 +0100 To: email@example.com Subject: Levels of explanation (was Re: Determinism) Message-ID: <20010417124917.A1447@ii01.org> References: <3AD88C1F.14920.40C75F@localhost>; <20010415143557.A787@reborntechnology.co.uk> <3AD9CA15.5238.367E50@localhost> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii Content-Disposition: inline User-Agent: Mutt/1.3.15i In-Reply-To: <3AD9CA15.5238.367E50@localhost>; from firstname.lastname@example.org on Sun, Apr 15, 2001 at 04:19:33PM -0500 From: Robin Faichney <email@example.com> Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
On Sun, Apr 15, 2001 at 04:19:33PM -0500, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
> So you then support the idea of a Platonic Form of Causation
> floating out there in the celestial spheres?
On the contrary, there is no objective truth about causation, because
it's a concept that is useful -- essential, in fact -- in everyday life,
but dissolves upon close analysis. The dispute is about what is the
most useful way to use the concept, and I say that my way is more useful
than yours. But before you react to that, please read my attempt to
restate my views as clearly as possible, below.
> If you reject both
> bottom-up and top-down causation, you are left with Spinozan
> noninteractive parallelism, where it is just a happy coincidence that
> anything whatsoever fits with anything else.
Causal explanations work horizontally along "levels of explanation"
(the terminology is no coincidence). What links the levels is that an
entity or event on one level is composed of a number of lower level
entities or events. Molecules are composed of atoms. The molecular and
atomic levels are actually very close, only a few atoms being required to
make a molecule, but in many cases the gaps between levels are quite vast,
so the phenomena that occur on them are very different and require quite
different explanatory frameworks, which is why different disciplines have
evolved to deal with them -- physics, chemistry and biology deal with
successively higher levels (actually, sets of levels) of explanation.
If biological phenomena are analysed in sufficient detail -- which
is not always desirable because it means losing sight of the bigger
picture -- the explanatory framework of chemistry becomes more useful.
To shift between levels is something we do for our own convenience.
Phenomena on different levels are not entirely separate, but different
conceptualisations of the same reality. You said yourself:
> Levels are imposed upon objects; they reside in the constructing
So how can you also claim that events on one level influence those on
another, when the former *is* the latter? Unless, of course, this is
diagonal causation, i.e. ordinary horizontal causation but with cause
and effect viewed at different levels, as in the case of the PET scans.
All I'm doing is drawing a clear distinction between causation on one hand
and translation between different explanatory frameworks on the other.
This is a classic application of conceptual analysis, a technique that is
absolutely central to modern western philosophy.
> I'm saing that
> causation is not universal, but it is a useful concept for explaining
> how it is that people can be asked to and assent to perform certain
> cognitive tasks and the appropriate cortical areas subsuming such
> functions routinely light up. The only difference between this and
> control over more distal areas of the body (of which the brain is a
> part), such as me thinking that I will type this sentence, and then
> doing so, is a difference of degree, not kind.
Of course it can be "useful" to consider the relationship between what
a person is thinking about and activity in specific neural areas as
causation (though that leaves open the question as to the direction of
the causation -- which I'd suggest is most directly addressed by temporal
considerations, cause preceding effect). It is equally useful to take
it that my decision to start typing results in activity in the relevant
motor neurons. But *if* we want to further analyse what happens in such
cases (and you may not), we have to distinguish between causation and
conceptual framework translation. Do you disagree with that?
-- Robin Faichney Let http://www.ii01.org/causation.html cause a better understanding of causation! :-)
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