Monday, October 27, 2014

"Overdetermined": A strange concept

"Latin American institutions are overdetermined: that is, there authoritarian and illiberal character has multiple sources and does not simply lie in the material conditions found by the colonialists." -- Fukuyama, p. 242

Outside of the world of controlled laboratory experiments, doesn't almost everything that happens in the world have "multiple sources"? Collingwood notes this in a discussion of causation: we can say "the high winds caused the tree to topple," but so did its weak roots. And the weak roots were caused by the poor soil in the area. And the poor soil was caused by overfarming in past centuries. And the overfarming was caused by…



3 comments:

  1. To my mind, "A caused B" means "A happened before B and if A had not happened, B would not have happened." So to say that C has multiple causes A and B means that if A hadn't happened, C would not have happened, and if B hadn't happened, C would not have happened.

    But to me "overdetermined" means something slightly different: it means that if A hadn't happened, C would have happened anyway as long as B happened, and if B hadn't happened, C would have happened anyway as long as A happened.

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    Replies
    1. That is a valid sense of "overdetermined." I didn't pick up from Fukuyama that that was what he meant, however.

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    2. My take is exactly the same as Keshav's.

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