Wednesday, December 08, 2004

More on Invariant Representation

The question arises: why would the brain build models of anything? It doesn't matter whether it is a memory and prediction machine or a sausage maker. Efficient causality is not formal causality. I can describe the factory process (the efficient cause) of production of a Ford perfectly but the formal cause--the organization that builds the cars is indispensible. The efficient cause of production would cease without the formal cause ascribed to the corporation. Describing what something does or its efficient causality of operation without tying it to some sort of formal causal identity or a mechanism that doesn't arise all by itself is reductionism. Hawkins describes the process of how it may do some of what it does but he himself admits that the origin of invariant representation (what Plato and Aristotle called Form) is the greatest unsolved question of them all. The goal of all reductionism, as a philosophy, is to show that complex things somehow just are--there is no cause--outside of a self generating web of efficient causes--and reductionists don't want there to be any causes because if there are causes, there are makers. They are all looking for the machine that makes itself--and there isn't any such animal. It is all really very funny. These people are all looking for a causeless cause found in the material world--something a little lower than the God of the philosophers and certainly not the God of Christianity.


Sean O'Reilly
Editor-at-Large
Travelers' Tales

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