Re: [OPE-L] Re determinism in Derrida's ghosts

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Sat Nov 12 2005 - 19:07:01 EST

Rakesh wrote

Yes, and I was  worried that the work of those good observations would
be effaced if  non western cosmology dismissed as only astrology
though the development
of science was built on those observations. I am not altogether clear about how
Newtonian theory should be understood as causal.

Paul C
The sense in which Newtonian theory, or indeed all mechanics should
be considered causal is, I admit, not immediately obvious, because
in general philosophy operates under a pre-scientific semi-subjectivist
notion of causality.

In the everyday philosophical and also ideological notion of causality
there is the notion of temporal priority. Causes are considered as events
in the past which are responsible for what happens now or in the future.

Causality of this sort is not present in mechanics, which gives
you instead an isotropic determinism operating accross 4 dimensions.
In mechanics there are constrained permited trajectories, but the
constraints are time symetrical. So the state of a closed system at time
T defined in terms of the positions and momenta of its particles,
determines the positions and momenta of the particles at both times (T-1)
and time (T+1). Thus in mechanics there is no unambiguous notion of
cause preceeding effect, there is instead a consistent and ultimately
trans-temporal determinism.

This is not an inadequacy of mechanics from the standpoint of causality,
but an inadequacy of subjectivist notions of causality from the standpoint
of how the real world works.

The notion of cause preceeding effect arises from the nature of human
action. Seen from a subjective viewpoint it appears our actions 
cause subsequent events. Mechanics operates instead on the 'block world'
model in which there is a 'frozen' four dimensional continuum of 
determination. It is as valid to consider the future determining
the past as the past determining the future.
Paul originally wrote
>But to
>constitute a science you need an epistemological break from the prior
>ideological explanations of the domain.
>  A separation of the domain from
>its projected social determinants and its recognition as an autonomous
>material process.
To which Rakesh replied
But why should we allow science that self understanding? What happens
if it is not so separated and autonomous? 

Paul C elaborates
For a start it is not up to you, or anyone else to give philosophical
permission for science to carry out such epistemological breaks,
the claims of the Inquisition not-withstanding.

You seem to have misunderstood what I was saying about what characterises
the epistemological break. It is the process in which a new self acting
material process is discovered in an area that was once explained by
ideology. The Darwinian revolution reveals an autonomous material
process - evolution by natural selection - that causes the phenomena
that had previously been explained in terms of divine will, or the
great chain of being etc. The autonomy that I am talking about is
not an autonomy of the human agents involved in this discovery - they
are of course influenced the the ideologies that provide their neural
'software'. No, I am talking about the material process that the
science explores. Evolution goes on independently of human intentions,
and indeed independently of the existence of the human species.

Similarly, planetary and stellar motion goes on independently of
the existence of humanity and accords no special place in the universe
to the world on which we live, nor is it the result of the actions
of gods - an imaginary projection of monarchs into the skies.
In other words scientific astronomy replaces a notion of the 
skies as a reflection of human social roles with a recognition
of it as an impersonal process.

The class struggle and the supercession of modes of production took
place independently of human knowledge of it. In all these cases
what is autonomous is the material causal process. I am not
making claims about scientific practice being autonomous. 
Current obstacles to the practice of theoretical biology in the
USA are evidence enough for that.

>Paul Cockshott
>Dept Computing Science
>University of Glasgow
>0141 330 3125

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