Causes and purposes

Wednesday, 18 February, Year 7 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

This is the English version of an older - and important - Romanian article : Cauze si scopuri.

    "You're fat."
    "How could you say that to me! Are you trying to make me feel bad about myself ?!"
    "I don't want anything, it's a factual observation."

This exchange - whether imaginary or not matters little - exposes rather clearly a very significant difference. I have noticed, from my own experience, that any action results either from a certain cause, or towards some sort of purpose. These two are the two sources of any action, and there isn't a third.

Every time they confront a given action, people tend reflexively to seek to understand "to what purpose" it occurs. What is the hidden intent, wherefore is the agent aiming. What do you mean by this, why me, and especially "who set you up to this", like the Romanian politician would say.i

I however am firmly persuaded that acting towards a purpose is at the very least morally suspect (that much I can show, but I'm almost willing to say it's outright rotten) and technically inefficient. Let as look into the matter.

All causes being necessarily in the past, their collection is necessarily finite, and explicitly given. Acting from a cause you can of course err, either through not knowing the cause exactly in all its details, and thus acting inadequately, or through not knowing elements outside of the cause, context as it were, which one way or another fundamentally alter the response adequate to the situation. By example :

John gives Mary 20 dollars, because Mary lent him 20 dollars last Thursday. Inasmuch as John is not mistaken about either the cause or the context, his action is perfectly adequate.

If in fact it wasn't Mary, but her twin sister Mara that lent him the 20 dollars, or if the 20 dollars were not in fact being lent to John, but merely a repayment of an even older loan John had made to Mary, then the action is inadequate, through not having correctly understood the cause. The remedy is directly obvious and necessarily accessible : Mary could point out to him that she's not owed anything for whatever reason, and if that reason gives further cause for action (such as, redirecting the 20 dollars to Mara) that's that. If on the other hand Jane, John's wife, meeting Mary earlier had rendered her the 20 dollars herself, instead of John, John's later repayment is also inadequate, through not correctly understanding the context. Remedy, again, is equally obvious and equally accessible.

If on the other hand John spends 20 dollars to buy bonbons, in order to gift them to Mary in order to get her to pisi stai o tura, his action will be perfectly inadequate for a vast array of possible reasons John can not possibly ever know. For instance, Mary might be alergic to chocolate, inclined towards women, sworn to chastity or simply of the opinion that receiving sweets has absolutely nothing to do with getting laid.

In other words, the vastness of possible purposes, and of the many and varied contexts in which they could find themselves is lost in the darkness of the future, and as such they're not only infinite and uncountable, but even undefined! And necessarily undefined no less, as rightly established by the science of Physics. Both these unhappy considerations make activity with a view to a purpose, whatever it may be, sheer folly, or, if you prefer, windhunting.

So : don't go to school for the purpose of certification. Go, if you go, because you're interested in whatever they study there, and this on a daily basis. If you're not interested, don't go! No matter who gets upset. If it's not a good thing to steal a chicken, don't steal a chicken, no matter what noble purpose stealing the chicken may or might serve in the future. Don't lie, not as a function of what purpose the lie may or may not serve, but by virtue of the simple fact that it's not true. Examples could be had ad libitum, but... to what purpose ?

If you were to start today on the simple doctrine of acting absolutely, strictly and only for a cause, and never towards a purpose, no matter what that purpose may be or who might be proposing it you would gain some absolutely incredible advantages. Among them : no action or inaction further requires laborious evaluations. It's rather simple, and rather quick to come to a determination as to whether there's cause for any proposed action. It is comparatively impossible to establish if there's any purpose, or what kind of purpose would it likely be. The approaches to evaluating purposes are necessarily gross approximations, and through this perfectly open to mendacity and manipulation. Foregoing any purpose, you free yourself from the unwelcome influence of the little rape, which only exists to empty your pockets and keep you working in exchange for nothing in an appealing presentation.

Obviously acting towards poorly defined, barely verbalized and mostly unexamined purposes has the apparent advantage of allowing the stupid man the illusion of control over the future. The simple fact of the matter is that no entity has control over its own future, outside of the regular application of some simple rules that allow for its preservation and perpetuation.

These simple rules are exactly one, which goes like this : act from a cause, and never towards a purpose.

This is the policy that ensures the permanence of the Universe, the eternity of the stars, the apparition of lifeii, the evolution of mankind. How willing are you to go against the whole Universe, on the strength of the verbiage of some "guru" that nobody heard of a second ago, and nobody will hear of in another second ?

  1. Romanian public culture is rather primitive and unrefined (sort-of like the US is becoming these days). Politicians however are exactly the reptiles they're everywhere. The intersection of these results in particular fixations, such as this one. []
  2. That's right : life didn't appear on Earth for a purpose, it appeared because reasons. The difference between the thinking man and the unthinking man is this fundamental. []
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53 Responses

  1. Peter Lambert`s avatar
    Peter Lambert 
    Wednesday, 18 February 2015

    "Why are we here?" The philosopher asks.

    The religious man answers "God must have a purpose, perhaps we can gaze into eternity and find what that purpose is."

    The reasonable man answers "Because our parents came together."

  2. One would be a fool not to examine the potential consequences of actions, its not purpose but it is forward thinking and required for survival.

    If that fat person at the start of this article had a violent nature and was armed truth might be a very bad idea (or perhaps a unique way to try and commit suicide).

  3. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 18 February 2015

    @Peter Lambert Something like that.

    @chett I defy you to construct a scenario in which one is actually served by "examining the potential consequences" as you say.

    If the person was armed, and violent, one had no cause to talk to them. Armed violent people you either hunt down or ignore. See ?

  4. I am waiting to cross a street, there is a bus coming. If I step out into that street now the potential consequence is I will get hit, if I wait for the bus to pass the potential consequence is I will not get hit by the bus.

    Of course either thing can happen no matter what I do, or don't do but I like the odds of waiting a bit better.

  5. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 18 February 2015

    You only cross when it's proper to cross and at no other time. If the bus comes and breaches that, you sue, because you have a cause of action.

    I think you see my point about the illusion of control.

  6. Seems to me you made a judgement to potential consequences when you choose to ignore the angry armed fat man.
    Its a subtle difference between purpose and forward thinking consquences but we can't toss cause and effect out of life altogether.

    How do you decide when its 'proper' to cross? (no I am not going to trust the authority of some stupid light, can't sue em when you are dead)

  7. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 18 February 2015

    If you aren't going to trust the authority of some light (in general : if you're not willing to look at the situation AS IT IS) then you can't cross.

    Put the pressure on fixing broken shit, rather than trying to go over the gaps with "forward thinking".

  8. Better to be alive to make that pressure, dead bodies can't do much.
    The situation, AS IT IS, is that the damned bus is ignoring the light and death ain't worth proving the point.
    Light or no light stepping in front of a speeding bus is not a good idea, cause things do happen.

  9. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Thursday, 19 February 2015

    On the other hand, give me liberty or give me death.

  10. Mitchell`s avatar
    Friday, 15 May 2015

    It took a bit for this to sink in - but glad it did. Purpose gives an infinite mess of thought, cause gives clarity (and some rape protection). Thank you!

  11. Obama
    Obama's Vagina 
    Friday, 15 May 2015

    This philosophy leads to short-sighted decisions and ultimately a lack of any great progress. It does have the benefit of freeing up time and brainpower, but that's like saying we should stop taking our cars to checkups because they cost money.
    You attempt to belittle the opposition by saying people are idiots that can't handle unknown factors, but the truth is that plans DO go right. Military campaigns are not a series of reactions but large, dynamic schemes. I could go on for hours about plans that worked.
    Further, your naturalistic argument is easily proven wrong: GMOs are much stronger than their natural counterparts to the point where superweeds are a thing. Selectively bred organisms bear the traits their breeders planned. Aboriginies did everything because and nothing for and look how that ended. Natural selection works, but unnatural selection works better.
    The moral isn't don't plan: It is take unknown factors into your plan. Keep it broad and dynamic instead of overcomplicating it like an autist.

  12. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 15 May 2015

    @Mitchell Cheers.

    @Obama's Vagina I was going to say something dismissive, as I rightfully should, given that who the fuck are you to have an opinion, let alone offer it as if it were a thing. But then I got to military campaigns and fell over laughing.

    Really, military campaigns ? Go suck a loli, this words thing is not for you.

  13. Obama
    Obama's Vagina 
    Friday, 15 May 2015

    Great counter-argument, m8. Glad to see I'm speaking with somebody with some degree of intelligence rather than some cherry-picking sperglord having a cry about things not going his way. Enjoy being bitch to successful people that actually do have the wit to control their fate!
    Oh, and who the fuck am I to have an opinion? You're the pseudo-intellectual fag advertising his soapbox on 8chan. Hang yourself.

  14. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 15 May 2015

    Military campaigns!

  15. He's somebody whose opinion matters because you advertised on a site he reads. Very logic muy muy.

  16. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 15 May 2015

    Well, at least I received feedback in the shape of a vague but unrelated regurgitation of superficially absorbed cvasiconsensus. And military campaigns.

  17. Somehow Napoleon at Auerstadt comes to mind, forgetting to send orders to half his corps and so on. Memelitary campaigns!

  18. Obama
    Obama's Vagina 
    Friday, 15 May 2015

    I really don't get why you're so worked up over the "military campaigns" thing. It was an example of something that requires planning and acting towards an end rather than simply doing the first thing that comes to mind and letting the pieces fall where they may. Sure about 50% end in failure, but that's the nature of competition.
    Would other examples be more fitting? Investors getting huge returns? Architects seeing the creation of a beautiful and functional city? NASA sending shit into space? The gradual degredation of muh freedoms at the illuminati's hand? All done towards an end. Not just because. That's the point: Act towards an end because plans DO succeed.
    Yeah and long words don't make you smart. They just make you look like a narcisist. Especially when you use them wrong, like calling someone a parrot when no rhetoric was repeated.

  19. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 15 May 2015

    It's the canonical example for situations where your notion of "planning" fails spectacularly. The fact that you'd offer that example crowns the pile of vague, never examined nonsense you sprout, transforming it into high, if unintentional, comedy.

    I get it, you've spent your life so far hanging out with a massive shannonizer called "the US Educational System". Nevertheless, words-in/words-out is not how the world works. Trying to act irl as if you were in the US mass hallucination will never work. On the positive side, it will sometimes be very, very amusing.

  20. Fart Garfunkel`s avatar
    Fart Garfunkel 
    Saturday, 16 May 2015

    Can't any action simply be rephrased to accommodate acting from a cause or towards a purpose?

    I eat because I am hungry (acting from a cause).

    I eat so that I do not go hungry (acting towards a purpose).

    Or in your example:

    John gives Mary 20 dollars because Mary lent him 20 dollars last Thursday (acting from a cause).

    John gives Mary 20 dollars to repay her for lending him 20 Dollars last Thursday (acting towards a purpose).

  21. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 16 May 2015

    This transformation only works if both alternatives are in the past, rendering the distinction meaningless.

    It also explains how the error of misrepresenting action as arising from a consideration of the future came to be. In school, that bedrock of all human stupidity, a lazy teacher is confronted with explaining why a chemical reaction occurs, or why a certain military engagement took place, or why atoms move or whatever else. It being relatively difficult to explain to the children the actual causes, lazy teacher resorts to discussing what the substances/generals/atoms wanted. As if. This creates the ridiculous but also very dangerous and generally harmful habit of misthinking in terms of "plans".

    The lazy imbecility of teachers aside, metallic sodium does not react with water because it "wants to" make lye, nor did Caesar move to Galia because he "wanted to" etc etc. After the fact, it may seem the two statements are equivalent. Before the fact however, they most certainly are not : the causes will necessarily remain present. The future projections, however, maybe not.

  22. Obama
    Obama's Vagina 
    Sunday, 17 May 2015

    Just because something is high risk doesn't mean it shouldn't be attempted. War is something that is sometimes necessary and winning it hinges entirely on a combination of effective planning and luck. Would you rather plan a campaign or beg the universe to bend in your favour?
    Barbarossa was a massive failure, but Germany NEEDED to invade Russia. They couldn't not invade Russia. The risk was worth the reward. Same with (most) other campaigns, from viking raids to Napoleon's empire. If you were hungry and freezing, the danger of getting stabbed by Ivan or Brother Callaghan would be far less scary than watching your wife and newborn child die. And although you will ask Odin's help, it will really just be to psych yourself and the effectiveness of your raid wil rely more on (simple as they are) tactics.

    And cvasiconsensus. And muh US educational system: OBEN YUOR EYES SHEEBLE :DDDDDDD

  23. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 17 May 2015

    Just because you think that doesn't mean you should be insulated from the consequences of your attempts. And especially not by others.

  24. Obama
    Obama's Vagina 
    Monday, 18 May 2015

    I am not offended though.

  25. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Monday, 18 May 2015

    Good for you.

  26. Michelle
    Michelle's Foreskin 
    Wednesday, 20 May 2015

    "It being relatively difficult to explain to the children the actual causes, lazy teacher resorts to discussing what the substances/generals/atoms wanted."

    It's indeed true that many minds falsely ascribe agency where it doesn't exist. Whether primitive minds thinking lightning is the attack of an angry god, or children who understand lightning as electrons 'wanting' to find the shortest path to the ground.

    But the answer isn't to ascribe agency *nowhere*! Atoms and generals are different things. Generals have minds, atoms do not, minds are able to understand the state of the world and formulate desired future states.

  27. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 20 May 2015

    Sadly the theory that generals have minds, as tempting as it may be theoretically, is so very often contradicted in practice....

  1. [...] what you have done so far to deserve sitting at the discussion table. It's basically just acting from causes, not towards purposes. In other words, Greenspan proposes the Web of Trust as a form of [...]

  2. [...] false: there was never any planning or "purpose" in sight. At each and every step there was only cause and necessity at work, shaping the outcome rather without any choice really. So do me a favour and don't ever [...]

  3. [...] A tree can be taken and depending on the tree it can be made into a wide variety of things. The old causes and purposes, whether the action is motivated by a case or conducted towards fulfilling a purpose reigns in the [...]

  4. [...] hands them just enough of a recipe through Hollywood and then the locals execute it misguidely for the purpose of becoming more Hollywood [...]

  5. [...] Article reference link [...]

  6. [...] Article reference: [...]

  7. [...] Article reference [...]

  8. [...] do believe (and have experienced) that following a doctrine aligned absolutely to a cause provides advantages. However, this also introduces its own brand of complications. For eg, [...]

  9. [...] what you have done so far to deserve sitting at the discussion table. It's basically just acting from causes, not towards purposes. In other words, Greenspan proposes the Web of Trust as a form of [...]

  10. [...] for sticking to a gym program on its own --it's a byproduct, and a great one, but it's not a cause. Gyms are also reasonable venues for building local WoTs in new places, especially since the vast [...]

  11. [...] hop three times and touch my nose with my wrist or else THE WORLD FUCKING ENDS". [↩]Causes and purposes makes for excellent companion reading here. [↩]I carefully avoided "sluggish" in there. Could [...]

  12. [...] is no difference between these two. Their only meaning is simply : act always from cause ; and never towards imagined purpose. This because the future is not merely unknown but altogether uncertain, and this uncertainity can [...]

  13. [...] only problem with this being that the effects can not be checked with reason. Which is why - causes, not purposes. 14. In accord with Nature's Laws, nothing is more right than the preservation of ones own [...]

  14. [...] as for instance e=0). No matter what you do - there will be trouble. What this means is that acting towards purpose rather than from cause is shown in practice to be just as untenable as it is in theory ; and that if there exists a large [...]

  15. [...] crowding in the stalls to keep right on crowding in the stalls, the Emperor must make no promise. Causes, not purposes, you [...]

  16. [...] a sort of anatomy of pathology if you will). Teleology does not interest us in this article ; or generally. [↩]Strictly male. While sexual organs in humans are related, and thereby vaguely similar, [...]

  17. [...] that sorry initial state, because supported by sound ideology, America expanded at an incrediblev rate over a century, which is to [...]

  18. [...] suspect this is the earliest statement of "causes ; not purposes" in Naggum's work. Certainly the earliest I so far found. in natural languages, we are used to [...]

  19. [...] all ; the other, hidden meaning of "causes and purposes" is that we're the only ones that can actually have causes, plurious, distinct, distinguishable. [...]

  20. [...] [↩]This cult of the self-improvement is counterproductive. How about you know, just do things from cause and correctly, and nevermind all the fret ? Hm [...]

  21. [...] has to draw the metaphysics into the monetary base somehow (no matter how!), because a confusion of causes with purposes results in the direct and strict impossibility of balancing the books. [↩]For "doctors", [...]

  22. [...] in writing than in speech --especially as complexity and length grow2. But a possibly unforeseen cause for this very worthy work is the guidance of people in general, both in its contemporary context [...]

  23. [...] causes. [I don’t yet fully grok this distinction, despite having read the alluded-to Trilema piece several times. My current understanding is the difference lies in that whereas causes are concrete, [...]

  24. [...] Why? I don't know, it just seemed like a "cool idea" (talk about towards purpose over from causes). [↩]The blogging platform of choice for many republican members, based off of a trimmed down [...]

  25. [...] you then guess that these conditions were towards the purpose of "optimization" - by which we mean "cheapening" ? You know, just like the DRAM chips, and the [...]

  26. [...] "the rich gets richer," visualize wealth and put yourselves in the picture. The rich get richer, cause they work from rich. The poor get poorer, cause their minds can't switch from the ghetto, let go, [...]

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