Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuscon and the Bountifulness of Confusion

The commentariat has become a cornucopia of speculation about why Jared  Loughner committed mass murder in Tucson. All this  (and more) is being repeated since Newtown.

Two types of theory can be enumerated: (1) monocausal and (2) polycausal.

The monocausal theories come in two extremes: (a) individualistic and  (b) social. Some monocausalists claim that it was the act of a solitary individual with a deranged mind. Explanation is to be sought  solely in the psychology, life-history, and proclivities of the killer.

Other monocausalists look for social sources. His outrage was the product of the sick political climate of our time. The individualistic theories come mainly from the right side of the political spectrum, the social theories primarily from the left.

No particular individual commentator is likely to fit perfectly into one of these categories as sharply defined, but they do help to locate the vicinity in which he or she  can be located.

I have long been fond of polarities and ideal types. But, alas, they are more useful for  analysis and than for discovery of truth. But perhaps a beginning can be made.

I am a polycausalist -- along with many others.

To say that there is  not a  simple, direct causal connection between current social factors or his individual psychology and the the murderous deed is not to say that there is no connection at all. In the last analysis it was the finger of Jared Loughner that pulled the trigger. The fact that he may be schizophrenic, e. g.,  is not predictive of his outrageous behavior (most mentally ill people do not commit murder), but it may be part of the total  ensemble of operative dynamics  in his specific case.

The fact that current political rhetoric is excessive and vitriolic does not necessarily imply that it caused him to do what he did, but his mental derangement may be part of the total configuration of factors involved. Causality may be too strong a term from the outset. Perhaps it is better to think of a complex network of dynamic interacting influences with many levels and dimensions  become concrete over time in this particular person as a self-determining  center of activity expressive of his formed character.

We are dealing with the mysteries and complexities and perhaps contradictions and shifting tendencies that form this individual person as an agent of action. That we do not and perhaps cannot fully understand with the resources available to us. What we can do is remember two of Alfred North Whitehead's dicta:

"Seek simplicity--and distrust it."
"Philosophy may not ignore the multifariousness of the world--the fairies dance, and Christ is nailed to a cross."