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

From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane (
Date: Mon Jul 03 2006 - 14:28:58 PDT

I see this issue in a different light. Instead of cause and effect --
which are directly connected to each other, I see a series of events
which may "prepare" the ground for the next one to happen or not. More
like opening possibilities, than a direct cause-effect kind of process.
Because human development is a mediated process, and not a direct causal
loop, I see development more like a maze or a network of events in which
you have many switches (nods) which could open or close the next step in
the development.Each switch (node) enables/or disables) more than one
possibility leaving a person open to more than one way to go forward.
Therefore when I talk about something "caused" something else, I might
really mean "enabled": in a sense it is a type of causation, but not a
uni-directional one.
I think that the concept of mediation by cultural artifacts,
interpersonal relationships and particular social and historical events
at the time, opens new ways to look at causation. From the point of view
of mediation, and what happens there, we should look into different
physical models more akin to the dynamic systems theory, than into the
physical models which are more mechanical.
What do you think? (question asked in the spirit of my good friend and
neighbor - E. Matusov)

Steve Gabosch wrote:
> 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
>> evolving.
>> 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.
>> mike
>> 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
>>> to
>>> >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"?
>>> Andy
>>> _______________________________________________
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Ana Marjanovic'-Shane,Ph.D.

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