Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id UAA11813 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Wed, 18 Apr 2001 20:42:20 +0100 From: <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 14:44:59 -0500 Content-type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT Subject: Re: Levels of explanation (was Re: Determinism) Message-ID: <3ADDA86B.9253.40A00E@localhost> In-reply-to: <20010418105214.A11172@ii01.org> References: <3ADC64CE.2139.61499B@localhost>; from firstname.lastname@example.org on Tue, Apr 17, 2001 at 03:44:14PM -0500 X-mailer: Pegasus Mail for Win32 (v3.12c) Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
On 18 Apr 2001, at 10:52, Robin Faichney wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 17, 2001 at 03:44:14PM -0500, email@example.com wrote:
> > On 17 Apr 2001, at 12:49, Robin Faichney wrote: > > > 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. > > > However,
> as I also have said, although the demarcations between > levels are
> fuzzy, and to a greater degree cognitively imposed by us > upon the
> observed than derived from it, there is still some truth, > reflected
> in utility, to having different theoretical expanatory > constructs
> for these various degrees of complexity and eventual > recursion; you
> yourself have said as much.
> I do indeed say as much. Let me quote myself from that last
> > > the phenomena that occur on [different levels] are very different
> > > and require quite different explanatory frameworks, which is why
> > > different disciplines have evolved to deal with them...
> And that's why shifting between levels means exchanging one
> explanatory framework for another, which in turn is why tracing
> causation across levels is so fraught with difficulty.
Translating between levels of explanation is much more difficult that
observing causal efficacy between them.
> > The lower-level
> > explanatory schemas simply are not capable of sufficing to explain
> > what is happening in more complex and recursive milieus.
> Obviously not. Atoms don't reproduce.
> > You
> > can study individual neurons, axons and synapses until the cows come
> > home and lay down to die, and it will not help you to understand
> > free will, self-conscious awareness, or the human bestowal of
> > meaning upon a world of being, because such things do not exist at
> > that level, but at the level at which all the neurons, synapses and
> > axons are united as a material substrate for the precession of a
> > dynamically recursive patterned gestalt configuration.
> Ah, Joe, you'll never use two syllables where five will do, will you?
> :-) But that aside, I'm in complete agreement with this (I think).
> > The bare bones fact is that what IS happening is
> > being initiated at the causal nexus level of human subjectivity, as
> > the temporal succession of verbal decision ("I'll begin reading the
> > text in seven minutes; at 4:30, doctor") and selective area/pathway
> > stimulation (at 4:30, as registered by PET-scan) clearly
> > demonstrates.
> Here we disagree. I'll let go the fact that you continually vacillate
> on whether dogmatic pseudo-objective statements can be made about
> causation in general, as well as specifically within complex systems.
> But my concept of diagonal causation perfectly explains the PET scan
> findings, with no need to charge recklessly across all the lanes of
> the explanatory highway, as you do. "My decision causes my neural
> activity, never mind exactly how, I'll just insist it's top-down
> causation, and if you don't accept that you're an irrational
> anti-scientist." Until you examine and find good grounds to reject
> diagonal causation, you *cannot* rationally claim that top-down
> causation is the only possible explanation for the PET scan findings.
Actually, here you misrepresent your frankenstein reverse bastard
creation ('diagonal' causation) which denies one of it's parents
(vertical); it is not able to deal with the spatiotemporal succession
of a cause already decided (and announced) before it is
implemented and its effect manifested.
> > > You said yourself:
> > >
> > > > Levels are imposed upon objects; they reside in the constructing
> > > > mind.
> > >
> > > 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.
> > >
> > Because the decision to do X can be made before X is done and
> > the corresponding PET-scan noted cerebral changes are measured for
> > correlation with the subjective task, as I noted in the above
> > example.
> But that's perfectly explained by diagonal causation! You continue to
> dismiss what you haven't bothered to glance at!
Not when you deny intentional causation between verbally
announced mental decisions as to future allocation of attention and
the scientifically registered spatiotemporally subsequent pattern
changes in neuronal activation configurations which access the
specific areas involved in those particular tasks upon which
attention is intentionally focused.
> > What can be distinguished in theory is not always separable in
> > practice.
> Which is precisely why I say that, in practice, it's fine to consider
> neural activity to be caused by a decision. I said exactly that in
> the message you quote and -- theoretically -- are replying to here --
> while in practice it seems you didn't bother to read great chunks of
> it. But theory requires that we be much more analytic, and in
> particular, that we don't slip insensibly from one type of
> explanation, one conceptual framework, to another.
Causation passes between 'levels' much easier than explanation,
as it is simply a physical fact of interrelation between existent
entities, not a verbal representation, or linguistic 'aboutness', which
can be confused by multiple referential frames.
> > > 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).
> > >
> > This allows for both top-down and bottom-up, and I concur with it.
> Then it's a pity that both top-down and bottom-up are inexplicable,
> while diagonal causation, which fully accounts for all cases where
> cause and effect are on different levels, is itself quite easily
Diagonal causation is a mutant hybrid which is of necessity LESS
clear than either of its primogenitors.
> > > 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?
> > >
> > I do not think that lower-level schemas possess explanatory
> > capacities for higher-level phenomena, when they are sufficiently
> > separated by degrees of complexity and recursion.
> This again!! Not only do I agree with that, it's the foundation of my
> case -- that is precisely why top-down and bottom-up causation don't
> work -- but what I asked was whether you agree that "we have to
> distinguish between causation and conceptual framework translation".
> Why don't you answer that?
No, that is what makes using the laws and concepts of one level to
attempt to explain one far more complex is a fool's errand;
explanation and causation are two different things - please try to
keep them separated. Causation, both top-down and bottom-up, is
much more easy to attribute than explanations are to proffer, if
those explanations attempt to explain complex emergent
phenomena by recourse to a language that belongs to a simpler
referential frame in which such phenomena do not manifest. That
particular language simply will not possess the vocabulary terms
for the task, or even be conceptually framed to be able to develop
> > You are
> > welcome to try to understand the forest by deconstructing a cell in
> > a leaf if that's what you wanna do, but I doubt if you'll find out
> > much about its ecosystem that way.
> Can you quote one sentence of mine that would lead any reasonable
> person to think I have such a reductionist agenda?
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
> desirable because it means > > losing sight of the bigger picture -
> the explanatory framework of > > chemistry becomes more useful.
And does this reductionistic agenda work with atoms and thoughts?
> Robin Faichney
> Inside Information causes Enlightenment ;-)
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