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The 5 Necessary and Sufficient Causes Model
This model helps us to move our thinking from the mere correlation of statistics to the causality of reality, experiential reality. This allows us to accurately predict results with real world individual phenomena. Our one experiential world is like a huge flywheel - it will continue going where it is going unless a sufficient Force is applied to change that direction. That Force must have BOTH an Amount significant enough to resist the power of the status quo (flywheel) AND a Direction to change to. Only real Individuals, not abstract ideas, can provide that Force.
There are only 2 simple ideas necessary to understand this model:
Necessary & Sufficient.
Necessary are those causes that are absolutely necessary for something to come into existence or continue to exist.
Sufficient, simply saves us a lot of work. Once we've figured out what's sufficient we can stop worring about all the extras we may have added on - they're not needed!
I'll start with Aristotle's model from 2,000 years ago which had 4 abstract causes.
I'll then show why a fifth cause is 'Necessary' for understanding the experiential world of Individuals, the 'Territory', or 'Nature-made' world. This 5th cause makes thinking very different between Ideas, or concepts, mental models, etc. and the experiential world of Individuals & events. Ideas do not rust or wear out, as things do in our experiential world. To move something physical requires a physical force, not just an idea. And when considering forces we need to be careful about both the amount of the force, AND the direction in which it is applied.
For Aristotle, the abstract idea was the prime objective, and individual realities were but poor copies of his ideal ideas. For me the exact opposite is true. I care about individuals. My friends and relatives are more important to me than his ideal ideas. Indeed I see ideas as simply tools to make individual lives better. In response, I observed and then formulated the 5th Necessary and Sufficient Cause - Context!
Since this distinction between 'Ideal' and 'Experiential' worlds is fundamental to almost all of my ideas, here's some extra pointers to it's explanation:
World Views blog entry and Personal and Experiential Worlds
Let's start with Aristotle's 4 Causes and use the example of a house, since most of us live in some type of house. In order for a house to come to exist, there are at least 4 necessary 'Causes'.
Now if you're building that house in your mind, which is where Aristotle mostly lived, that's all you need! But I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. There you need a building permit! Also a plumbing permit, and electrical permit, water & sewer permits, etc., etc., etc. When I built my first house in Downingtown, Pennsylvania I only needed a building permit and an electrical permit. In addition, I had to keep the water pump at least 100 feet from the sewerage system, which is also common sense.
All these special individual restrictions I call 'Contexts'. They limit, sometimes severely, what we can create at any one point in time. To create anything in our real, shared, experiential world we have to live within these many specific Contexts. Indeed time or timing can often make or break a project!
I first created this model while at St. John's University, around 1961. Over the last 50 years, I've used it in many very different applications. I noticed when applying it in different areas, we tend to use different words or vocabulary. Remember it's the meanings, not the words that count, but a good choice of words makes it easier to apply the basic idea. Specific words allow us to 'think' within a certain context.
My current Jargon Matrix:
|Language||Words, Ideas||Selecting, Combining||Syntax||Creating - Hiding Meaning||Many contexts|
|Knowledge||Distinctions & Connections||Learning, Thinking, Creating & Sharing||Understandings & Models||Find, Create Meaning||Experiential & Cognitive|
|Politics||Actions||Convincing||Promoting||Special Interests||World events|
A Note about my colors.
In a sense they are truly arbitrary, nothing profound.
I chose them mainly to make them easy to remember.
Potential vs Actual Power
Abilities (Resources + Skills + Models) only give us Potential power.
We still need the Will to pull the trigger AND the strength of motive to overcome any of the ever changing contextual resistences to be effective.
Individuals make these decisions.
The US can have the most powerful weapons in the world; but if our president is unwilling to pull the trigger, we might as well have a slingshot.
Let's take a simple fire in a campfire or a fireplace as an additional example.
Special note: Somehow, I don't know how he did it, my youngest son, while about 10 years old, started a campfire in the rain!
This applies the 5 Necessary and Sufficient Causes Model to defining what Knowledge is briefly:
The flip side, an extra benefit of using The 5 Necessary and Sufficient Causes Model.
Because ALL 5 causes are necessary for something to come into existence, they are also necessary for that something to continue to exist. This is not as easy to see but can be very useful. Back to the house example, if the lumber rots away or is eaten by termites, the house might fall. Likewise for lack of skillful maintenance and repairs, and conforming to changing zoning laws.
There are many thing we want to get rid of, such as diseases, crime, poverty, unnecessary violence, ignorance, flood damage, fire etc. Using this model opens up a whole new approach to these problems. Consider fire. It needs a supply of oxygen and material to burn. By cutting a wide trench around a fire, we deprive it of burnable materials. Or, by smothering it with foam we cut off the needed oxygen and the fire goes out!
Dangerous false application of this idea.
Instinctively, we all know this principle that if a necessary cause is NOT present, the result will not be present. But when applying it to real world examples we need to exercise caution. Parts (resources) & skills can be substituted.
When a murder is committed with a firearm, some politicians will erroneously reason: If the perpetrator did not have a gun, s/he would not have been able to commit the murder. Abstractly, this is true, but if the intent to kill was strong, the perpetrator could use a knife, poison, an explosive, a faked accident, etc.
A second, & greater abstract fallacy is the notion that simply passing a law makes things happen. It may in one's imagination, but it doesn't in the experiential world, since criminals don't follow the law. I'm not saying all laws are useless; many greatly reduce the number of violations, but rarely reduce that to Zero.
In our real, shared, experiential worlds there is a significant issue with this 5 Necessary and Sufficient Causes Model. In the abstract conceptual world things are quite black & white, they either exist or they don't; they fit into a category or they don't. But in our real, shared, experiential worlds there are always degrees of presence. Try to buy some 'pure' copper, or gold, or lead, or even water or oxygen, it's almost impossible. All things in our experiential world are 'impure'; a given sample has more or less of the substance we want. So a critical issue with these 5 Necessary & Sufficient Causes is - How much of each is 'necessary & sufficient' to say - Yes it's present! Or if we are trying to eliminate something, - Yes, it's absent! When looking at these sometimes small differences, the relevant question is:
When does the difference make a difference?To address this real, experiential world issue, and the additional complication that nothing in our experiential world is static; things either grow or shrink over time, I created yet another Model.
Applied to Personal behavior...
Currently, in Western societies, where only 2 causes are recognized for explaining personal behavior, Mind OR Body this model is particularly relevant.
More about this on: A Person Model.
A 5 NSC personal bar graph:
Where ALL 5 must ALWAYS be present.
|Social Contexts||Personal Intents||Mental Models||Skills||Beliefs|
Certified RFR - Rat Free Research:
All my studies have been conducted by Individual humans, with Individual humans, and for Individual humans. No rats have ever been harmed or even inconvenienced.
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