several occasions, for different purposes, I have used Aristotle’s multiple
causality of action, with the efficient, final, material, formal, conditional
and exemplary causes. Does that apply also for social systems? For that, I have
widened the final cause to ‘the generative cause’: factors that affect the
final cause of people and groups, by motivation, enforcement or by feeding the
exemplary cause. I have also added the ’institutional cause’. That is close to
the conditional cause, but referring more specifically to the institutions that
enable and constrain actions, such as regulations, laws, customs, enactment of
laws, the judiciary and public works and amenities.
that suffice, for social systems? An omission that I can think of is that of a
‘relational cause’, that affects social relations. Part of that may already be
included in the material cause of communication systems, and in the
institutional cause of language. How is one affected by relations, and what
effects does one have on relations? How does one build ‘absorptive capacity’.
How does one build and betray trust? What makes people trustworthy?
big role here plays what I have called ‘cognitive distance’, the fact that
people see and interpret things differently, depending on what they are used to
and how they grew up. Cognitive distance is an obstacle to mutual
understanding, but also a source of variety, as a basis for innovation by
‘novel combinations’ An art of relations is to find ‘optimal cognitive
distance’: small enough for mutual understanding, and large enough to offer a
source of learning. In order to achieve a common purpose, organisations must to
some extent limit cognitive distance, by means of an ‘organisational focus’, as
discussed previously in this blog. Some of the rhetoric of economics is for a
firm to take over or fuse with another, so as to increase control and
efficiency. But that can reduce cognitive distance too much, by forcing partners
into a shared focus, and there are limits to advantages of large size. An
alternative way to profit from larger cognitive distance is to engage in an
alliance, where partners maintain more cognitive distance. However, that
requires the art of building and maintaining trust and trustworthiness.
causality includes the ability to understand each other and to make oneself
understood, perhaps by the use of metaphor, to give and take, patience,
self-control, and imagination of how others might feel and think in their
situation, in other words empathy.
all this to be seen as a separate cause, or as a feature of the formal cause,
of how, on what basis, people operate?