causation and control (was JCS: Of memes and witchcraft)

Robin Faichney (
Tue, 1 Jun 1999 09:22:16 +0100

Date: Tue, 1 Jun 1999 09:22:16 +0100
From: Robin Faichney <>
Subject: causation and control (was JCS: Of memes and witchcraft)
In-Reply-To: <>

In message <>, writes
>In a message dated 5/24/99 2:09:51 PM Central Daylight Time,
> writes:
><< Could you just outline the causation/control distinction again, please -
> - I missed your previous explanation. Sorry. But isn't control just
> continuous causation?
> --
> Robin Faichney
> >>
>I wouldn't think so. Control necessarily involves causation, but is not
>synonymous with it. I think it is also more than just continuous causation.
>First of all, it would involve phenomenon of mutual causation, or
>responsiveness such as a feedback loop. Second, control involves some degree
>of intentionality - a goal orientation. The sun continuously causes heat in
>the Earth's biosphere, but it doesn't meaningfully *control* the Earth's
>temperature. The sun is completely non-responsive to the Earth's
>temperature. In a minimal sense a thermostat does control the temperature in
>a house.

I guessed you would mention feedback as involved in control, and I agree
with that, but as you say yourself, feedback is just mutual causation.
Intentionality is a difficult issue, but if you admit that a thermostat
has it, in however minimal a sense, then it need not worry us here.
What we are talking about is, as you say, goal orientation -- which any
negative feedback loop demonstrates. (Positive feedback being perhaps
the paradigm case of "out of control".)

>Having intentionality, control necessarily involves practicalities such as
>proximate causes, and necessarily does not concern itself with
>impracticalities such as ultimate causes. Hence ultimate determinism is
>irrelevant to issues of free will, since those deal with issues of control
>and intentionality, and not causation.

Trying to bring this back on track: if control is just a matter of
negative feedback, and there's nothing mystical about it, I see no
reason why memes or memeplexes shouldn't be capable of it.

Robin Faichney

=============================================================== 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: