Re: The Tipping Point

Date: Mon Apr 23 2001 - 04:36:45 BST

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    Subject: Re: The Tipping Point
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    References: <3ADF14D4.22259.23982B@localhost>; from on Thu, Apr 19, 2001 at 04:39:48PM -0500
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    On 21 Apr 2001, at 17:28, Robin Faichney wrote:

    > On Thu, Apr 19, 2001 at 04:39:48PM -0500, wrote:
    > > On 19 Apr 2001, at 11:53, Robin Faichney wrote: > > > "Greater than
    > the sum of its parts" is extremely vague. If you look > > at it that
    > way, every molecule, every cell, every entity that's not at > > the
    > very lowest level of description (whatever that is) is greater > >
    > than the sum of its parts. As you're so fond of saying yourself, a >
    > > statement that applies to everything is not a useful statement. > >
    > > Thw whole equals the sum of its parts plus their interrelationships.
    > It looks like you responded to the first sentence of that paragraph
    > and ignored the rest. My point was that, if everything is greater
    > than the sum of its parts, then that concept is useless.
    Only composite things are greater than the sum of their parts;
    simple things HAVE NO parts - or rather, their whole is equal to
    their only part. Still, though, such atomistic entities do themselves
    have relations with other entities in greater wholes, and there, the
    'plus interrelations' rule mereologically applies.
    > > > And "must be considered" begs the question: for which purposes?
    > > >
    > > In order to have a more complete, hence more correct, conception of
    > > the system as a whole.
    > Is it really wrong to focus in on just part of a system?
    No, but it will not result in all the knowledge that can be gleaned
    even about that part, without considering its function in the greater
    whole of which it is a part.
    > > > The "genesis of the tipping point idea" is too vague to be useful.
    > > > I believe that, historically, sensitivity to initial conditions
    > > > was first noticed in computer simulations of either weather or a
    > > > simple pendulum-type arrangement. This is in one of the
    > > > Complexity titles, but both of mine are currently out on loan. In
    > > > any case, it's not relevant here -- the tipping point is certainly
    > > > an example of it, but top-down causation plays no part in it.
    > > >
    > > So you would define the event of the straw breaking the camel's back
    > > in terms of the straw alone, and not consider the weight already
    > > loaded, or its distribution, or the condition of the camel's
    > > vertebrae, or their discal interconnections.
    > I really don't see how you get that from "top-down causation plays no
    > part in sensitivity to initial conditions". And I don't think "define
    > the event" is a meaningful phrase. The description or explanation of
    > any event that's most useful depends upon the context, what the
    > description/explanation is to be used for. And terms have to be
    > defined to be useful, but events do not. They just happen, and can be
    > looked at from many angles, metaphorical as well as literal.
    To define an event is akin to operationalizing a concept; it has to
    do with discovering the parameters within which it appears. If a
    tipping point exists as a function of the whole sand pile, and the
    disposition of the parts depends upon the tipping point coefficient,
    it does indeed involve both bottom-up and top-down causation.
    > > > You would be perfectly correct if the question had been "what are
    > > > the factors that contribute to the emergence of the tipping point
    > > > phenomenon?" But it wasn't. Of course, to explain the tipping
    > > > point, all that must be considered, but your claim is that the
    > > > tipping point has a causal influence on individual grains, and
    > > > you've yet to demonstrate that.
    > > >
    > > Sure I have. If the grains were not in a pile, the next grain to
    > > fall would not make first contact as soon, and would not either
    > > stand or roll depending upon the slope of the pile, for slope would
    > > nor exist.
    > But the pile and its slope reduce to the individual grains and the
    > relationships between them. As I said before (but you didn't
    > respond), if the behaviour of an individual grain was programmed into
    > a computer, with gravity and a tabletop, and the virtual grains
    > virtually dropped one by one under the influence of virtual gravity
    > onto the virtual tabletop, the tipping point phenomenon would emerge.
    > It's a pattern that arises due to the characteristics of individual
    > grains, and the slope will vary with the type of sand used. The
    > tipping point is not something extra, imposed from above, but emerges
    > from below.
    It emerges from below, but recurses to determine the disposition of
    the parts which comprise it. And indeed, the 'relationships
    between them' is exactly what an individual perusal of the
    constituent grains will fail to consider.
    > > > In fact, to do so is impossible, because the tipping point emerges
    > > > out of the behaviour of the individual grains, and you can't say
    > > > that two things both cause each other.
    > > >
    > > I can say that cause and effect, if understood linearly, are not the
    > > proper terms to use to describe such a recursive feedback system
    > > where the grains comprise the pile yet the properties of the pile as
    > > a whole decide the course of the next grains to fall.
    > The recursive feedback system is in your mind (in more ways than
    > one!). There is absolutely none in the tipping point phenomenon. The
    > reason you imagine it is that YOU are shifting back and forth between
    > different levels of explanation as you think about it. Subjectivity
    > is irreducible, but that is not true of such simple phenomena as the
    > tipping point, and by trying to extend your mysticism that far, you're
    > making it look ridiculous.
    No, it does indeed exist; not on the level of the individual grains,
    but as a function of their interrelationships, which recurse to
    determine individual grain behavior. From the perspective of the
    individual grains, the tipping point as a whole cannot be seen;
    merely its effects. It is in from behavior of these grains, taken
    together, that the tipping point phenomenon emerges.
    > What you do with the tipping point -- shifting between levels of
    > explanation in your own mind, and imagining that's what's happening
    > "out there" -- is exactly what you do when you invoke top-down
    > causation to explain "mind over matter". Selection of levels is
    > entirely in the mind, because in reality activity occurs on all levels
    > simultaneously and continuously, and there is nothing to move between
    > them but the focus of our attention.
    Yeah, right, sure - just like when someone says, at 4:15, that
    they'll read text at 4:30, then they do so at 4:30, and the
    appropriate neural pathways are stimulated, not at 4:15, but at
    4;30. That's REAL simultaneous - NOT!
    > > >Or you can, but not without stretching
    > > > the meaning of "cause" beyond breaking point. Of course, you've
    > > > already demonstrated that's something you're very happy to do.
    > > > I'm a little more conservative in that regard: I prefer my
    > > > concepts to be useful.
    > > >
    > > But not at the cost of correctly reflecting the situation they
    > > purport to represent; of course when that happens, as it frequently
    > > does, their (the concepts') purported usefulness is itself an
    > > illusion.
    > > >
    > > > "Causation" implies a temporal sequence, so, until someone
    > > > invents a time machine, it's a one-way relationship.
    > > >
    > > As I have stated before, the only temporality involved in causation
    > > has to do with the pre- and post-event history; at the instant of
    > > interrelation, the involved entities affect each other, and none of
    > > them can be considered as either pure cause or pure effect.
    > That's just semantics. "Purity" is absolutely irrelevant. It's
    > perfectly obvious that what is a cause in one context is an effect in
    > another. The instantaneous nature of actual causation is also
    > irrelevant, because what we need to know about for all even remotely
    > practical purposes is what you call "the pre- and post-event history",
    > and that makes temporality essential. Non-temporal causation is what
    > JR would call a useless hypothesis.
    If JR would label it so, that is a point in its favor. And semantics
    are indeed meanings which possess referents, so the 'mere
    semantics' dismissal is an invalid (not to mention irrelevant) tack to
    > > > Emergence is not separation, and only separate entities can affect
    > > > each other. An emergent phenomenon is a pattern in the activity
    > > > of lower level phenomena. If we make the common mistake of
    > > > confusing emergence with causation, then we say this is bottom-up
    > > > causation. But there is no temporal sequence, so it's not
    > > > causation of any kind.
    > > >
    > > Emergent phenomena are in interrelation with their substrates, and
    > > causation proceeds through interrelation. Do you have any
    > > counterexamples of nonrelational entities in causal relations?
    > You need to consider your demands more carefully, Joe. Anyone giving
    > a moment's thought to this would see there's no way my case depends on
    > "nonrelational entities in causal relations". Aren't you concerned
    > about people thinking you silly? You're not stupid -- all you need to
    > do to avoid that is spend a little more time thinking about what you
    > write.
    Cut and paste time.
    only separate entities can affect
    > > > each other.
    Your words. I was just drawing out their entailed consequences
    and requesting a concrete example, knowing full well that you
    would be unable to supply same. It's known as a disproof by
    reduction ad absurdum.
    > Getting back to the point, emergent phenomena are not distinct from
    > their substrates, but aspects of them, and so causation cannot proceed
    > in either direction.
    Atoms are not distinct from protons, electrons and neutrons, so a
    well-placed proton cannot disassemble an atom, and neither can
    the absorption of an electron change an atom's isotopic value.
    There's only one small problem with this; it's called particle physics.
    > > > If only you'd acknowledge the significance of subjectivity, you'd
    > > > see there's no need for all these contortions, that willpower and
    > > > even your self are perfectly safe without them. But you won't.
    > > > Ho hum...
    > > >
    > > Acknowledge it's significance? It's all we know and experience in
    > > our concrete lived real world. Objectivity is an abstract ideal
    > > construct adopting a nonexistent god's eye view; human subjectivity
    > > and intersubjectivity are the only -jectivities actually extant.
    > So why do you feel you have to invoke all that stuff about complexity,
    > top-down causation, etc, to protect subjective phenomena such as
    > freewill and the self? Aren't they self-evident?
    They are apodictically self-evident, but they also rest upon
    foundations which they in return causally effect. Just because
    something's self-evident is no reason to forbear its ontological (or
    other scientific) investigation. The thatness being given, the
    whatness and howness are still informative to discover or discern.
    > --
    > Robin Faichney
    > Get your Meta-Information from
    > (CAUTION: contains philosophy, may cause heads to spin)
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