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Environmental Determinism, etc.
by Luke Rondinaro
01 October 2002 14:55 UTC
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Apologies for the long post (and the parts of it that aren’t relevant to [pertinent] questions I’m asking of specific parties within it).


On an H-World post, John Landon wrote:

<The question depends on what context we are referring to. In fact, all Our theories tend to be simplistic, not just environmental determinism. The question of what 'causes' the rise of the modern is one of those. My approach is to place the problem in a greater context.Environmental influences, if not determinism, are legion, of course.

There is certainly something to be said for the geographical advantages of Europe, at particular time, viz. the staging of the modern. But let me note that Europe was very close to the source areas of civilization, e.g. Egypt, Mesopotamia, and received many influences via diffusion, yet it never took off until very late in world history. There is a clearly different account needed. The continent of Africa, by the way, remained very difficult to explore until the discovery of quinine. The accounts even as late as the nineteenth century shows very good examples indeed of environmental influences! Also, consider the simple fact that England was an island on its history.

I think that a real account of a 'universal history' will suggest a Process that moves both with and beyond environment. There is a directional factor, and this lies beyond the issue of environment.>

This is very good.  Our theories (all of them) do tend to be simplistic; it’s not just a problem of/for environmental determinism.  Historic, scientific, or humanities-based (philosophical/literary), all are models of “reality”; & they are just that, models (intellectual frameworks that reflect the analytical limitations of the human mind to understand our world and universe).

Yet when we speak of history, when we speak of where physical environment comes into play, where the Macro-historical has its impact, and where the human mind shapes our social life and communitarian experiences, we enter into a very strange, sketchy domain.

What is “Evolution” and “History” apart from discussions of the physical environment and biology upon the human condition?  What is world history, however, without a view to “cosmic” teleological mechanisms that shape environments and more particularly our human social experience? And, what exactly is happening with regard to the human psyche (w/ its impact on the social order) in relation to larger physical/environmental and universal historic processes?

Maybe the only good answer to these questions is “we don’t know.”  Maybe these questions are too broad to be answerable. Still, it seems to me there must be a middle ground, an interactive domain among: PH’s effect on the social order, the Macro-historic (ala the Eonic Effect and World Systems), and the effects of physical environment.

Supposing there is a Macro-historic dynamic in human events (aka, Eonic Effect and Big History)and that the human mind, ala PH, does have an impact on the human social order [as well as there being “environmental” influence upon human experience via our physical surroundings on the earth and in the cosmos], there must be an interzone (complete w/ its own phenomena) where all these factors come into play.

My question for the Psycho-historians:  would memes and GF phenomena fill this role of being middle ground phenomena between the macrohistoric, the physical environment, and psychohistorical patterns (emanating from the mental states of people in human events)? 

For the world historians:  what do we really mean when we speak of “universal history”/macrohistoric processes (like the Eonic Effect)acting upon human experience over time? [Are we saying that “nature” ala teleology and a universal control mechanism on the cosmic, galactic, ... planetary level acts in such a way as to (lightly) guide human action in history along? & if so, then how then might we distinguish between the )“physical”/effect of the physical-environmental) from such a cosmic clock working in and upon human events?  Where and how does it differentiate from physical forces acting in and upon our world as we’ve made it socially and as it exists naturally (biologically, chemically, etc.)? 

For John Landon in particular; if we do distinguish between “stream” and “sequence(s)”, might such a difference (and the other dynamics that arise from it) help also to explain what’s going on w/ a difference between physical forces at work in nature and the natural dynamic at play in human history th/ you’ve termed the “Eonic Effect?” ... If it does, then perhaps natural systems operating [both] in a developmental temporal context and in a structural-spatial context have a synergetic organizational principle built in them; it would act both like an antenna & receiver [for larger scale forces and & bigger physical systems in the universe] and as a central processor/regulator clock for smaller-scale systems and entities on our planet [i.e., for us, our technology, social orders; for other organisms on the earth; & in terms of non-living physical things th/ exist here on our planet]  This is just speculation; but somehow, it seems to me, there has to be way to explain: (1) Eonics in terms of a longer, broader space-time scale which accounts f/ physical factors in the universe as well as the historic/evolutionary clock that we see at play in world hist. (2) How the Eonic Effect specifically acts on living and non-living entities within world history & by what instrumentalities  (3) Particularly, how organismic adaptations may themselves be tied into a larger-scale evolutionary force acting in history from the rise of the first life on earth, to the rise of our first apelike ancestors, to our sociocultural rise in world history [whenever that may have been – either in the Paleolithic, the Neolithic, or with the rise of writing/Civilization in Mesopotamia].

For the world systems theorists: have you noticed any peculiarities in WS history when it comes to trade/communications networks, long cycles, or world economies in Afro-Eurasia? ; (peculiar insofar as such structures/processes would seem to transcend the normal analytic tools used to understand economic behavior in history; cyclic patterns via longwave analysis & period specific datasets (appl. to historic periods, say from 1200 to 1500 CE) th/ don’t seem to fit how we know {or think we know} that business cycles should work in economic/financial settings on an ordinary basis).  In other words, I’m asking about irregularities in the world system; are there any that you can identify? 

And, if so, based on the empiric examples you might give, I’d be interested in seeing whether these might be indicative of a (1)  Macro-historic process (like the Eonic Effect), (2) a mid-range set of systemic processes driving the circulation of trade and communications exch. on either a regional level or global level around the world {{that is, I’m asking you about the dynamic triggers of such economic/communicative social interaction }} – have you noticed any of the following patterns in connection with such causal mechanisms?:

A. that they exhibit signs of replicating phenomena & seem to be self-organizing, self-propelling ‘structures’ (i.e., they seem to be driven, not by politics or military stratagems or notions of financial gain in human events, but by th/ own unique principles as systematic socioeconomic dynamisms.

B.  that they show signs of being related to a contemporary, psychologically-based mood in a given society at a particular point in history.

If they have, then it’s good chance, I believe, that these dynamic triggers of trade/communications exchange in the World System are based in psychohistoric group fantasy phenomena as well as memetic patterns of idea replication/proliferation in human intellectual history & the history of culture.  These “irregularities” in world systems evidence would not be “exceptions to the rules” at all but rather indications of the Eonic Effect and Psycho-historical principles touching in upon the domain of world systems thought. 

These are my questions/ideas on this matter.  Any insights on the answers or interconnection of answers.  Looking forward to your replies.

Luke R.  


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