Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reflexivity, Reciprocity & Causality

One of the big differences between Apollonian and Dionysian intellectual patterns is the emphasis each gives to certain types of relationships between variables.

Apollonians, due to their need for simplicity and linear constructs, focus on causality, the time relationship that states “A causes B”.  In the twentieth century Modernists considered cause and effect to be the most important thing in the world.  All other types of relations were ignored as much as possible.  In Modernist science, studying anything other than cause and effect relations was taboo.

The phrase “correlation is not causation” was widely used after 1960 as the early new Romanticism began creeping into various research agendas.   The Romantics began by pointing out relationships that were not causative (i.e. reciprocal and/or reflexive) but were certainly interesting enough to be studied.  The Modernist backlash against such a radical view was to say “correlation is not causation” and thus attempting to shut down expanding intellectual thought.  The certainty that A causes B was sacred to most Modernists.

Dionysian new Romantics understand causality but it just isn’t interesting.  Thus, Romantic (aka Post Modernist) science emphasizes reflexive and reciprocal relations, or a combination of all three.  Dionysian thought is always more holistic than Apollonian.

Reciprocity is the synchronic relation that A and B are related, and that, diachronically, A and B change each other.   A married couple can grow closer together, or apart.  The relationship can be between equals, between dominant and subservient, between primary and secondary, etc.   Also, over time, these patterns can change.   If the husband kills the wife then to an Apollonian that event is a simple case of cause and effect.  One can further ask what was the motive, and maybe some other recent event is viewed as a triggering event (she cheated on him).  The Dionysian wants to know the whole marital history because the killing event is viewed as the conclusion of long reflexive and reciprocal processes.  And, the story is not over for many more years as the husband and both extended families resolve the emotions of the event.  The recent cable series on the Hatfield and McCoy feud showed this very well.  It is always important to tell the audience what happened to the people later in life.

Reflexive thought is self aware and sometimes critical.  A evaluates A, and change may occur due to the evaluation (if they can do it then I/we can do it).  Additionally, reflexive knowledge usually needs to be aggregated to come up with bigger answers.  You all know the old story about ten blindfolded people touching and describing a portion of an elephant.  Each observation is different but the object of study is the same for each.  This tells us that by aggregating unique observations we can get a more complete story.  It also points out that reflexivity, A evaluates A, is a social cultural matrix and not some autonomous relation in a vacuum.

Reflexivity is the glue that keeps causality and reciprocity together.   All science and history should create research projects that address these three perspectives.  Causality is the least important of the three.  

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