It is Friday morning, and I’m writing this blog post at work. 51 pensioners are currently traipsing through my gallery, in a flurry of anoraks and purple rinse. It is amidst this madness that I will make my mark on the blogging community.*
I started looking into overdetermination, which I mentioned last week, but Theodore Sider’s article entitled “What’s So Bad about Overdetermination?” has thoroughly fried my brain (“In many cases it is natural to speak of an effect E as being caused by each of two intimately related entities: Cause X Cause Y A physical property A mental (biological, social, economic) property A physical event A mental (biological, social, economic) event Some micro-objects1 A macro-object composed of those objects Some micro-events A macro-event composed of those events An object An event involving that object An object A fact involving that object A fact A corresponding event The intimate relationship between X and Y consists in the existence of (metaphysically) necessary truths correlating their occurrences/existences/instantiations. E would be in some sense “overdetermined” if caused by both X and Y. 2 Some philosophers say this would be bad, that this cannot or does not happen, that we should construct theories ruling it out, at least in certain cases.3 But why? Given the necessary truths correlating objects and their parts, objects and events concerning those objects, physical and supervenient mental properties, and so on, X and Y do both seem to be causes of E. Should we say that a…”). So I’m going to have to Wikipedia this one. Please don’t judge.
Wikipedia, thankfully, explains that “[o]verdetermination occurs when a single-observed effect is determined by multiple causes, any one of which alone would be sufficient to account for (“determine”) the effect. That is, there are more causes present than are necessary to cause the effect. In the philosophy of science, this means that more evidence is available than is necessary to justify a conclusion. Overdetermination is in contrast to underdetermination, when the number or strength of causes is insufficient… A much used example [of overdetermination] is that of firing squads, the members of which simultaneously firing at and ‘killing’ their targets. Apparently, no one member can be said to have caused the victims’ deaths, since he or she would have been killed anyway.”
Overdetermination is a type of indeterminacy, which suggests the impossibility of stabilising the meaning of the text – an achievement that is credited to the invention of the printing press. If the printing press was unable to have an impact on indeterminacy, then, was its invention really that revolutionary?
Dr. Stephen Kelly argues no. Rachel Ireland argues yes. There’s only one way to find out:
It’s sort of difficult to read both sides of the argument, since a google search only really brings up articles about how revolutionary the printing press was. So I’m going to make a ‘wee’ chart, because charts are the best way of working things out.
|What makes something revolutionary?||Does this apply to the Printing Press?|
|actively participates in, or advocates change|
|major, sudden impact on society|
In case it isn’t clear from my chart, I’m coming to the conclusion that the printing revolution was not so much a revolution as a reform – there was a change, but it was very, very gradual. Sorry Rachel.
*video to be released*
* I pause to direct a gentleman to the Development and Alumni Relationships office across the hall.