Saturday, May 28, 2011

Korzybski on 'Cause and Effect'

The following quotes (mixed with some commentary in red) come from pages 216-218 (Chapter XV) of Science and Sanity by Alfred Korzybski (I have also highlighted information I personally wanted to put emphasis on and bracketed commentary within the text).  It is not in the order it was written:

"The clearing up of the problems of 'cause' and 'effect' is of serious importance, because powerful semantic reactions are connected with it.  To begin with, we must differentiate between the terms 'cause' and 'effect', which, linked together, imply a two-term relation nowhere to be found in this world, and thus represent a language and a two-valued 'logic' of a structure not similar to the structure of the world, and the general (infinite)-valued notion of causality.  This last notion is the psycho-logical foundation of all explanations leading toward infinite valued determinism, and is an exclusive test for structure; and so of extreme semantic importance."

This is the first time I have been conscious of the fact that cause and effect belong to the dual-throng vocabulary.  Without cause there can be no effect and thus is not similar to the structure of the world as Korzybski says.  Obviously concessions must be made when we are still identified with objectivity or our consciousness has not risen to the 'higher' dimensions.  I know personally, I based a lot of my studies on what I learned about cause and effect, so I believe it is essential to gaining better understanding.  But it seems that we should be aware that we are using Aristotelian language even when we speak of cause and effect. 

"The old absolute and objectified semantic attitude toward 'cause-effect' was and often is a serious hindrance in observing impartially the sequence of events (order) and relations.  Preconceived notions and old semantic reactions played havoc, for it is well known that we usually find what we want to find.  If we approach a problem with definite unconcious 'emotional'  wants, and cannot satisfy these semantic reactions, we become bewildered, down-hearted, and perhaps utter some such non-sense as the 'finite mind', or the like.  Under such semantic pressure, our power of observation and analysis is reduced by a kind of 'emotional stupor'.  Such an occurrence is harmful in science and in life.  'Human knowledge' depends on human ingenuity, power of observation, power of abstraction, etc.  It is an activity of the human nervous system inside of our skin and can never be the events themselves."

 "Four our purpose, the most fundamental semantic application of what has been said above is in the vast field embraced by the old structural notions of 'cause' and 'effect'.  These terms are of great antiquity, of a distinctly pre-scientific one-, two-valued semantic epoch.  They originated in the rough experience of our race, and are firmly rooted in the habits of 'thought' and the structure of our old two-valued 'logic' and language, and because of that are even now unduly baffling.  These terms, in the two-valued sense, were and are the structural assumptions of our 'private' and 'official' 'philosophies' [This sounds like what Vitvan refers to as one's 'private world'].  The unenlightened use of these terms has done much to prevent the formulation of a science of man and to build up vicious anti-scientific metaphysics of various sorts involving pathological semantic reactions.  With the new quantum mechanics [1933], a better understanding of these notions, based on the infinite-valued semantics of probability, becomes a paramount issue for all science.  In daily life, the indiscriminate use of two-valued 'cause' and 'effect' leads structurally to a great deal of absolutism, dogmatism, and other harmful semantic disturbances, which I call confusion of orders of abstraction.

We usually follow the 'philosophers' and ascribe-or, rather feel, as conscious ascribing would not stand criticism-some mysterious structural continuity, some mysterious overlapping of 'cause' and effect'.  We 'feel', and try to 'think', about 'cause and effect' as contiguous in 'time'.  But 'contiguous in time' involves the impossible 'infinitesimal' of some unit of 'time'. But, since we have seen that there is no such thing, we must accept that the interval between 'cause' and 'effect' is finite.  This structural fact changes the whole situation.  If the interval between 'cause' and 'effect' is finite, then always something might happen between, no matter how small the interval may be.  The 'same cause' would not produce the 'same effect'.  The expected result would not follow.  This means only that in this world, to be sure of some expected effect, requires that there must be nothing in the environment which can interfere with the process of passing from the conditions labeled 'cause' to the conditions labeled 'effect.  In this world, with the structure which it has, we can never suppose that a 'cause', as we know it, is alone sufficient to produce the supposed 'effect'.  When we consider the ever-changing environment, the number of possibilities increases enormously.  If it were possible to take into account the whole of the environment, the probability that some event would be repeated, in all details, thus exhibiting the assumed two-valued relations of 'cause' and 'effect', which we took for granted in the old days, would practically be nil.  The principle of non-elementalism, as we see, requires an infinite-valued semantics of probability."

Vitvan in his teachings has provided the perfect example to get Korzybski's point across.  When we stand at a certain point on a circle we can look back and we can look forward.  Just as we do in our day to day lives, we find ourselves in one moment and can "view" moments from the past and "look" toward moments in the future that we hope will happen.  Or we work in this moment to create a moment in the future.

Now what happens when one steps off of that circle?  What is the past and what is the future?  Where is the cause and where is the effect?  It just is. One cannot distinguish any event from another.  And so Vitvan says where one sees clearly or finds his dharma, he comes in line with Will, there is no free-will. Look at the cycle which we call birth/death.  In our current state, we say that when we are conceived by our objective mother that we are "born" and when we exit this world, we "die".  We don't know what happens when we die as long as we see only this half.  Now imagine you have full awareness of the complete cycle.  Now which one is birth and which one is death?  They are interchanging one into the other.  You cannot out-rightly say that one is birth and one is death.  A lot of spiritualists will say that to die is to enter the "material" world and to be born is to leave the 'material body'.  That takes a negative connotation, yet all is purposeful.  That was a little parenthetical, but I think one can say that when one is outside of a sphere or WHOLLY 'within' it that there is no past/future, good/bad, that each point must be given the same value or weight.

Korzybski used his model which he called the Structural Differential (see right).  This model details the orders of abstractions, and also accounts for frequencies or factors that we do not register.  The event is represented by E at the top and you can see the strands labeled B2.  These represent those frequencies we do not register as we abstract.  So we crystallize the event into an object, but along the way we must account for the factors not known to us 'consciously'.  When we use the subject-predicate language structure we put stress on the nervous system because we are not representing the configuration (thing) as it is in life facts.  So when you say something like, "my mom ruined my life", you are leaving out many factors and completely go against the structure of the world, i.e. the value you give is what reacts upon you.  Instead you could say, "Because my mom indulged in alcohol and neglected me, I BELIEVE she has impacted my life negatively."  By saying that something seems to be or that you personally believe something, you are leaving extensions, acknowledging that you could be wrong or that there could be other factors that you are not currently aware.  When we leave those extensions, we do not have those emotional outbursts because we did not get what we expected as Korzybski notes in one of the paragraphs above.  We left the door open, acknowledging that a situation could turn out 'negative' or 'positive' but we have the ability to react unemotionally towards it and deal with it objectively.  If we remain open minded then we can expand the awareness of the situation.  If we become dogmatic and identify labels as the object, we cannot grow. If I can parenthetically say, I think we shy so much away from pain that we often cannot experience true love and fulfillment.  I think there is a semantic blockage that we have developed toward pain and I want to go into this more in the future for sure.

So we if we are open minded, we can look at many factors.  Instead of simply giving in because something happened in our past, we can find the quality within us and alter the quality, not holding on, identifying with an event that happened a long time ago.  A seemingly negative experience might get us to look within and change certain qualities that eventuated and when we are able to alter those qualities, we gain strength, confidence, etc.  Without those events we would float through life and never lose anything but never gain anything more than they brought with them, and some do.  And some will look at certain patterns that run in their families, identify them as hereditary, i.e. an 'effect' abstracted from a so called 'cause' (family disease or disorder) and so they believe they are helpless.  Instead of looking at the semantic pattern that has been passed down, the physiological organism is all that is observed.  "My doctor told me I have high cholesterol, it runs in my family, I'll get on medicine."  So as has been said again and again, it's not the events that affect you, but the value you give to them.  It's easier to look at the world as chaotic, then we don't have to take responsibility.  "When I do good, nothing comes of it anyway" one might say.  The problem usually is that one is conditioned to objectivity.  What he wants are 'things'.  Most of the time people are willing to go deep within, we only want to change the outside, make outside of the pretty and proper.  But when we go inside and are willing to fight, great outcomes can happen.

We often hear about those who are stricken with cancer who do not undergo the standard treatments like chemotherapy yet their cancer "miraculously" disappears.  What happens?  Between the 'cause' and the 'effect' that person changed the state of their consciousness that initially created the cancer.  If one changes the environment that cultivated the cancer through changing their consciousness then the cancer can no longer thrive in the environment.  And that is the same concept as raising one's forces to the "higher levels".  One's "house" might have been a great nesting spot for imps, devils, elementals, etc. but when that one rose his respective forces on up above the root and solar centers to the heart center and above, the elemental could not stand the light radiating out from those centers and scurries away like a cockroach.

So there is always the interval between the so called 'cause' and the 'effect'.  Otherwise there would be no order and we would all be automatons.  We left the Father's House for a reason, we are on the circle in our current state of consciousness.  But when when we step off the circle, stop giving value, stop letting environmental factors lead us astray from our path, then we re-enter the Father's House.  When the Logos becomes flesh then that interval would seemingly be gone  or at least we could see both the ebb and flow.  Whatever the Will desired to create would be done.  Thy Will be done, not mine.

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