Re: [OPE-L] Anita's Chocolate Cake

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri Nov 18 2005 - 09:27:21 EST

Hi Howard:

Replying to Steve, you wrote:

> Steve, the idea of constitutive causality is right on target, but 
> without taking on board the levels of organization we find in 
> nature it's a non-starter.  You say, for example, that causality is 
> a matter of qualitative difference and thus to say that something is 
> more or less causally important is a category mistake.  But I don't 
> really know what you mean by 'qualitative difference''; the concept 
is vague.  Do you mean just 'more or less'?  

'More or less' is expressive of a _quantitative_ difference, isn't it?

I suppose we could say that people are 'more or less' similar to apes.
While that statement could be _specified_, can it be _quantified_?  
Unless it is quantified, then it is difficult to assign _rankings_ to 
the  factors which constitute similarities and differences between 
people and apes.

As far as the (direct) ingredients for Anita's chocolate cake are concerned,
I think Steve is quite right to say that sugar, flour, milk, eggs, and
chocolate are all constitutive elements of the cake and it would
be folly to say that, for instance, flour is any more or less important
than chocolate for the coming-into-being of the cake.

> Biology is full of relevant examples.  Think of DNA.  

Well, from that perspective I think it would be _fair_ to say that both
the in-grain toenail and heart disease are equally constitutive of 
Anita's  health _to the extent that_ both are a consequence of  Anita's 
genes!  Of course,  the heart disease -- unlike the in-grown toenail --
might not be caused by DNA but rather by cultural factors, e.g. diet,
lack of exercise, etc.    Other factors -- e.g. overweight -- may be due
to a combination of  genetics _and_ culture _or_ one or the other.

Marx used the analogy of the "economic cell-form".  Yet,  the cell 
assumes for its existence DNA (unknown at the time of Marx). And,
tracing it further back, DNA assumes for its existence atoms and 
sub-atomic particles, etc.  Then, there is a chicken-and-egg problem:
which came first,  human DNA or human reproductive activity?
But, scientists -- who obviously recognize these issues -- don't throw
up their hands, shout "We can never know!" and give up.  Instead, they 
proceed with the acquisition of knowledge through theorization 
(including deduction), research, and testing anyway.  

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Nov 19 2005 - 00:00:02 EST