Re: [xmca] Kevin's paper for discussion: causality

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Mon Jul 03 2006 - 12:31:52 PDT

A recent series of classes in "root cause analysis" at my aerospace
company has gotten me thinking about how CHAT views causality, and
what tools it uses to analyze it. It is possible that CHAT could use
a leap forward in this area. Does it have a conscious methodology
regarding causality? The complex questions Mike raises about the
sociocultural, the phylogenetic and the ontogenetic is a very good
example. How does one understand how they interact and transform one
another? How does CHAT understand these processes in a broader
picture of causes and effects? In the case Mike describes, what
"caused" or what were the "causes" for a bright and willing graduate
student in mathematical psychology in the late 1950's to have
"trouble" with the deep math? His community of practice? His prior
training? His neurology? His inner romantic scientist? :-)) We ask
these kinds of questions again and again of every human every
day. CHAT, following Vygotsky, Luria, Leontiev et al has made
strides explaining essential elements and relationships in
*development*. But what has it discovered about *causality*?

- Steve

At 08:32 PM 7/1/2006 -0700, you wrote:
>How about both-and? If a kid has downs syndrome or spina bifida or a
>perinatal stroke it is a difference that is very difficult to avoid having
>be a difference
>that makes a difference. Not impossible to incorporate into human society in
>a human
>way, but not easy either.
>Being short at the wrong age?
>"Too thin" for sociocultural norms?
>"Wrong" color hair?
>All differences that can be turned into serious deficits and often are, with
>long term
>negative consequences for those so interpreted.
>None of this negates the fact (if I may be allowed to use that word) that
>failure has been constituitive
>of formal schooling since at least 4000BC, on the record. But it does
>complicate theories that assume
>that humans have "broken free" from phylogenetic constraints. That was wrong
>in 1920 and it is wrong
>today. Humans are evolving. Evolving in a cultural medium, to be sure, but
>I do not think this was Kevin's main target of inquiry and do not want to
>derail the conversation. I was
>marking time and voicing a long time concern, not direcrected specifically
>to his article but to some
>too-frequent implications derivable/derived from theoretical ideas that were
>imbricated in his article.
>On 7/1/06, Andy Blunden <> wrote:
>>At 10:43 AM 1/07/2006 -0400, you wrote:
>> >.... What I was trying to foreground is this: Failure, incompetence,
>> >inability, etc., happen all the time. There are differences, though, in
>> >how consequences of these get organized in different systems of social
>> >relations. Some systems are benign, and even if certain displayed
>> >inabilities might preclude particular life courses, they don't get used
>> >close off the possibility or likelihood of a desirable and valued future
>> >in general. Other systems are not benign, and displayed incompetence,
>> >inability, or failure do get used to greatly reduce the likelihood of a
>> >valued future. I think it's very important to pay attention to how
>> >systems of social relations organize these consequences - ...
>>So it's not so much the source or cause of difference, but how difference
>>is "interpreted"?
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