Edwina Taborsky


This issue consists of three papers and a dialogue-paper. All papers deal with the concept of causal interactions; that is, how does one entity affect and interact with another entity?

The first paper is by Menno Hulswit on causality and causation. It explores links between nominally independent events, understanding these links as ‘causal’, and outlining and critiquing several explanatory paradigms of cause. Hulswit then categorizes causal explanations within the Aristotelian and the Scientific Conceptions and defines the two as ‘mutually incompatible’. Aristotle’s well-known Four Causes focuses specifically, according to Hulswit, on the Formal Cause, downplaying the Efficient Cause. The Scientific Conception, on the other hand, focused on the Efficient Cause as “instances of general laws, which in turn were general, mathematical principles”. These two perspectives are understood as ‘the received view’ and Hulswit then goes on to discuss the inadequacy of this view.

In contrast to this received view, which understands causation as “an external relationship between discrete events”, Hulswit introduces the ‘process approach’. This understands that causation “involves the production of an event and that the cause is in some sense immanent to its effect”.This is an analysis of causation that focuses on mutual dependencies and the coevolution of those interdependencies as examined by such analysts as Whitehead and Peirce, particularly the latter’s triadic modal categories of Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness.

Continuing with this exploration of the dynamics of interaction, we move to the two papers by Ron Cottam, Willy Ransom and Roger Vounckx.

      The first paper, on the structure of ecosystemic dependence and autonomy, analyzes the structure of relations within biological systems. The structure is hierarchical, but, the links operate in a manner similar to Hulswit’s ‘process causality’, in that the relations operate within a ‘negotiation of dependence and autonomy’. Again, rather than considering discrete systems interacting with each other via an ‘external causality’, the focus is on “a group of (partially) autonomous entities” that function as a ‘unified system’. In order to do so, they must interact, they must communicate. A large system will set up hierarchical levels of interaction. We end up with events that are local, and events that have global contexts; and we end up with both direct and indirect relations. That is, reality sets up interdependencies, in this case, of triadic hierarchies, and insists on both autonomous closures of levels, and inter-level dependency. This has similarities, albeit never examined, to the Peircean three modal categories. We can see this in the reference to the ‘co-evolution of ‘logic’ and ‘emotion’ and…their interdependent usefulness’, which also reminds us of the Peircean co-evolution of the logic of Thirdness and the emotion of Firstness. The importance of ‘co-ecosystemic evolution’ is emphasized in this paper, and is a strong reminder of Hulswit’s emphasis on the interdependency of causality.

      The second paper by Cottam, Ranson and Vounckx is on ‘self-organization, emergence and level-changing’. This paper is focusing on the dynamics of interaction within that structural hierarchy. An analysis of ‘structure’ and ‘process’ complements Hulswit’s analysis of these two themes in his paper.

The final paper in this issue of SEED is a dialogue between Ron Cottam and Edwina Taborsky. Edwina is referring to her paper in Volume 2/Issue 2 of SEED and Ron is referring to his two papers in this issue. Essentially, what we are debating is the nature of Modeling – understanding the model as a necessary component to enable ‘process’ and dynamic evolution. We dispute the nature of the model (Platonic versus Aristotelian) and we discuss other options. This is not a debate with a firm conclusion; we are instead ‘questioning’. This type of dialogue has a specific purpose – to expose us to ‘curious questions’. That’s as far as it should go. We hope you enjoy our ramblings.



Edwina Taborsky

Toronto 2004