One of my classmates said this today, describing an experience she had during meditation (“sitting”) when she felt the two lobes of her brain widely separated by “the void” of the universe. Of course it sounds like a drug trip, illustrating the subsequent conversation we had about the academically-sanctioned search for causality – as if a knowledge of material causality is the only worthwhile epistemology.
Materialism rules. This seems to be true in much of the curriculum within the Communication department. Political economy, quantitative analysis, media effects…all are concerned with what can be empirically demonstrated. I haven’t delved into cultural studies yet (soon!), but what little exposure I’ve had leads me to it also leverages materialism in its arguments. I’m compelled by materialist arguments, however I’m not convinced of their exclusive claim to the constitution of knowledge.
Enoch mentioned four theories of causality which we’ll discuss in next week’s class, noting that only physical causality is widely accepted within anthropology. I came across this piece on cultural materialism, whose “theoretical principles” seem quite in line with traditional Marxist thinking (as if I know so much about that!), asserting: “there is a universal pattern of sociocultural systems which consists of three components: infrastructure, structure, and superstructure.” The author, James Lett, quotes Tim O’Meara’s critique of cultural materialism’s inability to ” explain people’s behavior in current circumstances or predict them in novel circumstances.”
This Wikipedia article on causalityprovides a great overview. I think I’m going to have to follow up more on David Hume (who came up in Briankle’s class last week), who “could see no more reason for hypothesizing a substantial soul or mind than for accepting a substantial material world.”
An alternative to the dominant paradigm of physical causality is that of replicate causality, posed by Gregory Bateson. This article, GREGORY BATESON, CYBERNETICS,
AND THE SOCIAL/BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES, “delineates the fundamental principles underlying the cybernetic paradigm as it was employed by Bateson.” I’ll have to come back to reading it later.
Then there is the Copenhagen School of quantum mechanics, which accepted the uncertainty principle as a complete theory limiting the range of deterministic knowledge. “They made no distinction between reality and our knowledge of reality.” Much more here to read later, too. 🙂
Finally, the fourth version of causality theory is formative causality, proposed by Rupert Sheldrake (interview describing morphic resonance!). His notion is distinguished from Aristotle’s emphasis on essential form which doesn’t consider the universe as dynamic and evolving. As summarized in the preceding link by James Arraj (note: this review of one of his books mentions critiques and cautions about meditation): “the forms of things would no longer be determined by eternal archetypes or universal laws, but by the actual form of previous similar organisms which effect the present forms by morphic resonance, which is a “non-energetic transfer of information.”
Fun blog entry on morphic resonance.
Perception and judgement of physical causality involve different brain structures “provides evidence for brain regions involved in a conscious level of inference about the presence of causality.”
Physical causality and brain theories dismisses quantum mechanics as a source for theorizing about the brain.