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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


I've finished another book that I started back in December: Roy Bhaskar's A REALIST THEORY OF SCIENCE, first mentioned here.  I'm not going to devote anything like the extensive coverage I gave to Edward Skidelsky's book, however.  Bhaskar's book started out well, but quickly became repetitious and devoted to Wittengenstein-like logic-chopping.  The most interesting section is this one:

Regularity determinism must be straightaway distinguished from two
other forms of determinism: which may be called 'ubiquity'
determinism and 'intelligibility" determinism. Ubiquity determinism
asserts that every event has *a* real *cause*; intelligibility
determinism that every event has *an* intelligible *cause*; regularity
determinism that the same (type of) event has the same (type of)
*cause*. The concepts of 'cause' involved in the three determinisms
are of course distinct. For the ubiquity determinist the *cause is
that thing, material or agent that is productive of an effect*; for
the intelligibility determinist it is simply that which renders an
event intelligible to men; for the regularity determinist
it is the total set of conditions that regularly proceeds or
accompanies an event.-- Bhaskar, ARTOS, p. 70.

It occurred to me that given how often I talk about "causality" with respect to the NUM formula, as I do in this essay, I might experiment by comparing Bhaskar's distinctions about the "concepts of cause" to the nature of causality in my Cassirer-indebted schema.

The most obvious disconnect is that I'm interested in a schema that takes in all of the "symbolic forms," while Bhaskar is interested only in a theory of science.  Further, as I noted here Bhaskar cites three philosophical approaches to science and allocates each of the "determinisms" above to one of the three.  But Bhaskar's three approaches are irrelevant to parallels to Cassirer's opposition of causality and efficacy, which I've also identified as the split between the *cognitive* and the *affective."

With such a comparison in mind, both "ubiquity determinism" and "regularity determinism" seem like two closely related statements about the nature of "real causes," which means that they could be subsumed under Aquinas' definition of the cognitive: "how we know the world." By contrast, "intelligibility determinism" makes a statement regarding humankind's perception of "real causes," which may be subsumed under Aquinas' definition of the affective: "how we understand the world." In so saying I assert that the conviction that all things should prove intelligible is an affective, not a cognitive, state of mind, which may well be at odds with Bhaskar's intention.

In this essay I attempted to reconfigure my older cognitive/affective schema with one more aligned to Cassirer's concepts:

NATURALISTIC-- cognitivity and affectivity are defined by the causal order; i.e. "one definite cause yields one definite effect"

UNCANNY-- cognitivity is defined by the causal order, but affectivity exceeds causal order and participates in the multicausal nature of "efficacy"

MARVELOUS-- both cognitivity and affectivity exceed the causal order and participate in the multicausal nature of "efficacy"

But as I said above, this configuration doesn't adequately define causality.

I hypothesize, then, that causality within the sphere of human art is reducible to two interrelated aspects: that of regularity (cognitive) and intelligibility (affective).  With that in mind, then:

In the NATURALISTIC category, all phenomena are both "regular" and "intelligible."

In the UNCANNY category, all phenomena are "regular" in that they do not exceed the cognitive//physical nature of causality, but some phenomena are not "intelligible" given that they may prove unintelligible by the standards of the NATURALISTIC.

In the MARVELOUS category, some phenomena may be neither "regular" nor "intelligible."

This breakdown would allow for both of the following definitions of fantasy to be true.  The first speaks primarily of causality's cognitive aspect:

“The fantastic is always a break in the acknowledged order, an irruption of the inadmissible within the changeless everyday reality.”—Roger Caillois, AU COEUR DU FANTASTIQUE.

While this one challenges causality's affective aspect:

“The fantastic in literature doesn’t exist as a challenge to what is probable, but only there where it can be increased to a challenge of reason itself: the fantastic in literature consists, when all has been said, essentially in showing the world as opaque, as inaccessible to reason on principle.”-- Lars Gustaffson, cited in Franz Rottensteiner's THE FANTASY BOOK.

I also note that Cassirer, in his comparison between the discursive mode of theoretical reason and the expressive mode of myth, essentially takes aim against the "regularity" aspect of causality:

Whereas empirical thinking is essentially directed toward establishing an unequivocal relation between specific "causes" and specific effects, mythical thinking, even where it raises the question of origins as such, has a free selection of causes at its disposal... Mythical "metamorphosis"... is always the record of an individual event-- a change from one individual and concrete material form to another. The cosmos is fished out of the depths of the sea or molded from a tortoise; the earth is shaped from the body of a great beast or from a lotus blossom floating on the water; the sun is made from a stone, men from rocks or trees."-- Cassirer, MYTHICAL THINKING, p. 46-47.
And, a couple of pages later, he contrasts them on the principle I call intelligibility:

Here again it is not the concept of causality as such but the specific form of causal explanation which underlies the difference and contrast between the two spiritual worlds [of theoretical reason and myth]... Science is content if it succeeds in apprehending the individual event in space and time as a special instance of a general law... The mythical consciousness, on the other hand, applies its "why" precisely to the particular and the unique.  It "explains" the individual event by postulating individual acts of the will."

It's worth noting, too, that a page later Cassirer emphasizes that for myth-consciousness "all the forces of nature are... nothing other than expressions of a demonic or divine will."

Thus, when I experience "strangeness" in either an uncanny or marvelous work of art, I am feeling myself divorced by its violation of either the "regularity" or "intelligibility" aspects of causal law.

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