File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9802, message 31

Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 03:24:36 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re:  BHA: Aristotle and all that

Tim's quote from RTS 195 brought me up short:  "what must society
be like if science (as a specific kind of social activity is to be
possible?  It must satisfy the desiderata of being a structure
irreducible to but present only in its effects.  Society can only
be known, not shown, to exist.  It exists only in virtue of the
intentional activity of men but is not the result (or the cause) of
their intentional activity." (RTS 195)
Now it would be fine if Bhaskar never referred to Aristotle's
analysis of cause, never used it or appealed to it.  Then I would
interpret the critical last sentence as meaning that society is not
(roughly) an efficient cause of the intentional activity of people. 
That's the way I would read it if I found it somewhere else.  But
how can it be that society is not a cause in the "material" sense
of cause or in the "final" sense of cause?  Marriage is a social
relation which is real because it causes the world to be different
than it would otherwise be.  It causes me to behave differently
than I would otherwise behave.  In what sense is it not a cause of
my actions?  I act to reproduce it by marrying; I act to reproduce
or transform the social relation of marriage by how I conduct
myself each day.  Or the social relation of student teacher. This
is not an efficient cause of what I do, but it is a social relation
which I act on in an efficiently causal sense.  Often I try to
transform the relation and fail.  Sometimes I succeed.  Just as the
builder builds a house out of brick and stone I contribute to the
construction of the social relations and forms within the framework
of which I act out of the social forms and relations available to
me.  And social phenomena, not the least of which is meaning,
provide the goals which inform my actions.  Social phenomena are
often the end, the that for the sake of which.  Wouldn't it be fair
to say that revolution was a final cause of say Lenin's intentional
So I don't get it.  And that bears on the point, also, Colin, on
the PON chapter 3 analysis.  You write:  "What i mean here is that
the reason causes the mental state and the being with the mental
state acts.  So the reason is never the sole cause of the act in
which it is implicated, but that doesn't mean it is not one of the
causes."  Bhaskar is usually generously inclusive in his references
to intentionality.  He refers to intentional mental states and
includes at least reasons and beliefs.  Presumably both cognitive
and affective states are included.  But has the distinction been
broken down?  Do we need a distinction between reasons (beliefs) as
goals or ends or purposes, the that for the sake of which, and
other mental or nervous system states of intentional action which
are efficiently agential?  Do we need an analysis of the will,
also?  Does the PON chapter cover this?
Now Tim raised the quote at 195 to reinforce his point that there
was a difference to be had between "an efficient cause of society"
and "the efficient activity of men."  The difference Tim draws --
please correct me if I misunderstand your point Tim! -- is between
the person speaking a statement who is an efficient cause of the
statement, but not then of the Language which is some sort of
composite result of everyone's statements.  So, the metaphor goes,
people act intentionally to do this or that intentional thing,
never intentionally meaning to make society, but, as some sort of
composite result of their action, Society is nonetheless the
Now I don't think Aristotle ever said everything had to have a
final cause, but he did say nature was full of final causes, so
that is a place where we have to take our distance on him.  The
phenomena of much of nature are the product of an intersection of
causes and the events generated are not purposed.  I take it that
means that things can be efficiently caused without being finally
caused.  So can society.  So can language.  In other words,
following Michael's analysis, language is a product of a whole
bunch of causally efficient actions which taken together add up to
the thing we speak.  We reproduce and transform it and we do so as
the efficient causal agents of it.  The fact that we find it ready
made and have no goals for its development doesn't change that.  
Finally I don't find the contradiction Louis identifies in
Michael's analysis.  Louis writes:  "If he meant rather that 'the
collective effect of their actions is  . . .'  then the statement
would seem to be a straightforward expression of methodlogical
individualism."  Now I take it you mean, Louis, everybody acts
individually and then their actions summed up into a collective
effect generate this or that social event.  But I don't see how
that's "a straightforward expression of methodological
individualism."  Methodological individualism is the reduction of
facts about society to facts about individuals.  To assert social
phenomena are efficiently caused by activities of individuals
doesn't make one a methodological individualist.  The
methodological individualist is one who denies the reality of
social phenomena, forms, structures and the like, reducing them --
in the strict sense that they have no independent existence -- to
what individuals do.  Nothing in what Michael wrote either
originally or as you rephrase it implies that.  When the
microeconomist shows how the mathematical conditions for general
equilibrium can be derived from the preference functions of
individuals or all gains from trade can be exhausted in the
Edgeworth box diagram, in these instances everything is reduced to
the choices of individuals.  The social outcome is completely
derivative.  There is no aspect of the social not reducible to such
choices or preferences.  But on Bhaskar's analysis, a society is a
structure only present in, but not reducible to, its effects.  So
we can speak, for example, of social rules like theft reproducing
themselves in a society based on private property without reducing
them to the intentions or preferences of individuals.  Because we
recognize a social structure with its own tendential laws the
analysis is not methodologically individualist; because we
recognize that it exists only through the efficient causal
activities of individuals the analysis is not reified.
     "What is there just now you lack"  Hakuin
Howard Engelskirchen

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