Friday, July 29, 2022

Understanding causes

Thomas Fuchs (who I’ve mentioned before eg. see previous post) has a recent paper on 'Understanding as explaining: how motives can become causes'. The opposition of ‘understanding' and 'explaining', originally formulated by Wilhelm Dilthey and taken up by Karl Jaspers, distinguished hermeneutic understanding from scientific explanation in terms of causality. There is a sense in which we can’t prove in a natural scientific sense why we do what we do, although that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make an attempt to understand the reasons.

But neurobiological causes do not provide sufficient description of psychological experience. Fuchs argues that the concept of cause should not be narrowed down to the natural sciences. Why we do what we do requires personalistic not naturalistic understanding of motivations. The causal role of understandable connections is demonstrated in the concept of circularity from an embodied and enactive point of view (see previous post). Motivational explanation of human behaviour is as justified as looking for physiological explanations. In fact, more than that, neurophysiological explanations are unable to satisfactorily and sufficiently explain human action due to their lack of intentional contextual reference (see previous post).

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