Language in Life, and a Life in Language: Jacob Mey – A Festschrift Edited by Bruce Fraser and Ken Turner © 2009 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.
Now, as a simple fool, before you here I stand. Now, just as much as then, I seem to understand. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Bearing in mind Doctor Faustus’s confession (in Jacob Mey’s translation), we can now proceed with pragmatic business as usual and see what will come out of it. Thus, either our understanding of human intercourse will be ampliﬁ ed or it will not. Ladies and gentlemen, fellow pragmaticians, and whoever else is reading this and does not wish to be categorized: Pragmatics is causal, no less! I have been vaguely aware of such a possibility for some time now (cf. Kopytko, 2003) but only after rethinking that idea for this essay has the supposition been strengthened into belief and even conviction that human beings act for reasons/causes. They strive to achieve speciﬁ c goals rationally by using deﬁ nite strategies (such as means–ends) in different domains of human activity ranging from everyday social interaction to scholarly and artistic endeavors. Most importantly, however, our cognition, perception, action, and communication depend on the deeply rooted schema “cause–effect.” This schema facilitates our social communication and underlies the faculty of understanding, interpretation, reasoning, and others. These are some of the reasons why a holistic pragmatic theory (cf. Kopytko, 1995, 2001, 2003) cannot ignore the issue of causation and its consequences for human communication. Nota bene, the “good old pragmaticians” considered the question of the perlocutionary effect of an utterance, but the causes or reasons for that effect somehow failed to attract their attention. Identifying 248 Roman Kopytko
somebody’s causes or reasons for action or inaction is, on the one hand, a matter of our social practice or rather pragmability, and a matter of conjecture and refutation (in the Popperian sense), on the other. In holistic pragmatics, pragmability is viewed as a set of (1) cognitive, affective, and conative faculties, and (2) social practices and skills of social interaction that condition and facili- tate human communication. This short essay (1) focuses on some salient aspects of causality in pragmatic theory, (2) argues for a more relaxed concept of causation, and (3) offers an alternative to the sometimes handy but usually vague and not particularly illuminating idea of determination.
2. ASSUMPTIONS, CLAIMS, AND HERESIES
The reason why “heresies” are included in this section is not only because they are less boring than other assertions but also because in the course of time they may reach the status of indisput- able obviousness, so why not give them a chance? Thus, readers are invited to spot their favorite heresies in what follows. (a) Pragmatics is causal because it rests on causal relations between reasons/causes of actions and their results/consequences. Some thinkers, for instance Wittgenstein (1993), prefer to preserve the distinction between reasons and causes; others like Davidson (1963) view reasons as a form of causality. A radical (or strong version) of pragmatic causality may be formulated as follows: Human communication analyzed in terms of holistic pragma- tics is always causal because dynamic causal relations produce changes in the mind (e.g., understanding, misunderstanding, awareness, confusion, etc.) and inﬂ uence behavior of our interlocutors (instigate responses, interaction, involvement or lack of it, etc.). A less radical thesis about pragmatic causation may be expressed by the idea of potential causal- ity associated with verbal interaction. In brief, each speech act or utterance is potentially causal, that is, it may produce some either intended or unintended mental, social, interac- tional, or bodily consequences. (b) The claim that there is one universal approach or theory of causality (such as that associ- ated with a model of causation for physics) is blatantly wrong. Each discipline of science calls for a speciﬁ c approach to causality that is capable of accounting for causal relations within their domains (see also Cartwright, 2007). Pragmatics is a discipline sui generis which reveals causal relations, facts, and events at the mental, social, cultural, interac- tional, historical, and bodily level. (c) Pragmatics is a realm of contexts, circumstances, environments, and situations. All of them are either directly, indirectly, or potentially causal. Pragmatics is ﬁ rst of all a domain of singular (contextualized) causation rather than that of a universal or general- izing type.