Re: The Tipping Point

From: Robin Faichney (
Date: Sun Apr 29 2001 - 11:52:25 BST

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    Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2001 11:52:25 +0100
    Subject: Re: The Tipping Point
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    In-Reply-To: <3AE84A87.18403.387AC6@localhost>; from on Thu, Apr 26, 2001 at 04:19:19PM -0500
    From: Robin Faichney <>
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    On Thu, Apr 26, 2001 at 04:19:19PM -0500, wrote:
    > On 26 Apr 2001, at 10:15, Robin Faichney wrote:
    > > 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".
    > >
    > It can be useful, but its usefulness will of necessity be limited.

    Isn't it the case that focusing on the individual parts of a system,
    one at a time, as well as taking an overview, is *essential* for a
    complete picture?

    > > > 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!
    > >
    > There doesn't have to be. The establishment of the tipping point by
    > the prior grains does affect the disposition of the subsequent ones.

    That in no way contradicts anything I said but that jokey last sentence.
    To rephrase my main point: to see a chain of causation

    [grain properties+relationships -> tipping point -> grain disposition]

    violates the principle of Occam's Razor, when the causal chain

    [grain properties+relationships -> grain disposition]

    completely explains the phenomenon.

    > > 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.
    > >
    > The definition which I put forward is the philosophical definition of
    > the term, as opposed to the commonplace one.

    Even philosophical definitions should be of *some* use, however abstract.

    > Since entities
    > affect each other in their interrelations, and those effects perdure
    > past the instant of interrelation, both must be considered as both
    > causes and effects (of each other), or neither can be.

    Your confusion is due to viewing (or trying to view) entities as causes
    and effects. Where one billiard ball is stationary and another rolls
    towards it and hits it, of course it silly to view one ball as the cause
    and the other as the effect. In fact, the *situation* in which one
    ball is sent rolling towards the other is the cause, and the situation
    in which they are both rolling away from each other (assuming no other
    interactions) is the effect of the collision. This is perfectly clear
    and simple, isn't it?

    > > 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.
    > >
    > Not just as a sum of their parts, but including their interrelations,
    > and these involve the system as a whole. And a decision can
    > cause a spatiotemporally subsequent neural event.

    Actually, the neural event need only be temporally distinct. And the
    story is not complete unless we note that there's a transition, within
    that statement, between very different conceptual frameworks.

    The tipping point is, I now have to admit, a slightly better analogy than
    I'd previously considered it to be. Individual grains are affected by
    the collapse that's due to the critical angle having been reached in
    the same way that subsequent neural events are caused by a conscious
    decision, i.e. through diagonal causation, where both ordinary causation
    and conceptual framework translation are involved in the explanation.

    > BTW, did you get my reply to the other thread, or did its length
    > cause it to bounce?

    It would seem that it must have bounced. Will you resend a shorter
    version, or do we have to forget that thread?

    Perhaps you could just indicate whether you're now prepared to accept
    diagonal causation.

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

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