Re: The Tipping Point

From: Robin Faichney (
Date: Thu Apr 26 2001 - 10:15:12 BST

  • Next message: Robin Faichney: "Re: Information"

    Received: by id KAA03596 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Thu, 26 Apr 2001 10:32:38 +0100
    Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2001 10:15:12 +0100
    Subject: Re: The Tipping Point
    Message-ID: <>
    References: <3ADF14D4.22259.23982B@localhost>; <> <3AE35CFD.32370.8DB2FA@localhost>
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
    Content-Disposition: inline
    User-Agent: Mutt/1.3.15i
    In-Reply-To: <3AE35CFD.32370.8DB2FA@localhost>; from on Sun, Apr 22, 2001 at 10:36:45PM -0500
    From: Robin Faichney <>
    Precedence: bulk

    On Sun, Apr 22, 2001 at 10:36:45PM -0500, wrote:
    > On 21 Apr 2001, at 17:28, Robin Faichney wrote:
    > > 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.

    We can't gain "all the knowledge" at once, can we? Surely we have to
    focus on the individual parts of a system, one at a time, as well as
    taking an overview, if we really want "all the knowledge".

    > 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.

    Ah, but the disposition of the grains does not depend upon the tipping
    point coefficient. It depends upon the properties and relationships of
    the grains. They, in turn, are what determine the tpc. I said way,
    way back in the tipping point argument that we must not be mislead by
    the consistent precision of the critical angle of the slope, but you
    obviously have been mislead in exactly that way. That angle emerges from
    the properties and relationships of the grains (with gravity), and to see
    a chain of causation from grain properties+relationships -> tipping point
    -> grain disposition is, umm, can't think of the word -- well, just wrong.
    Grain disposition is directly due to grain properties and relationships,
    and the tipping point is just the pattern that activity happens to make.
    There is no homunculus measuring the angle, Joe!
    > > > 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
    > take.

    To say that an argument is "mere semantics" is to imply that, though
    it claims to be about matters of substance, in fact it is only about the
    meanings of words. Discussion of definitions and such is perfectly valid,
    except when it's confused with discussion about the actual referents.
    You can say that a cause is only really that for the durationless instant
    that it is, actually, causing -- but that's only about how we use the
    word "cause". It's an attempt to get away from the normal usage, whereby
    that same state of affairs has the word applied to it before the event,
    and the state of affairs that constitutes the effect is still called
    "the effect" after the event. You are trying to redefine causation to
    suit your own purposes, and that's an absolutely hopeless task, due to
    the usefulness of the normal concept and the uselessness of yours.

    > > > > 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".
    > >
    > Cut and paste time.
    > only separate entities can affect
    > > > > each other.

    I can't believe that by "separate" you really thought I meant
    "unconnected". Well, actually, I can, assuming that you are reading not
    to understand, but to disagree. But you imagined that I see unrelated
    things as having effects on each other!? Sheesh! What I meant was
    "individual", "distinct". And on that, see below.

    > > 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.

    Atoms are not distinct from the particular elements that constitute them.
    Throw in an extra element and of course they change. But here again
    we have perhaps a degree of confusion between entities and events.
    The latter aspect is, I think, more important, or at least easier to get
    clear, and what it means is that any one event cannot be considered to be
    caused by what is actually a part of it, a "sub-event", nor vice versa.
    A decision is not caused by any neural event that is simultaneous with
    it, nor does it cause any simultaneous neural event. The tipping point
    phenomenon is neither caused by, nor causes, the activity of any one
    grain of sand, because it *is* many such activities, aggregated.

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

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Apr 26 2001 - 10:35:59 BST