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Friday, April 21, 2017

OVERDETERMINATION

Buried in the flood of comments posted recently on this blog have been several allusions to the term “overdetermined” as used by Louis Althusser and some of those influenced by him.  I have been under a good deal of stress lately, and since I find it relaxing to sort out complicated concepts, I thought I would spend a few restful moments explaining the notion of overdetermination.

The term has its origin in Linear Algebra, where a system of linear equations is said to be underdetermined if it has fewer equations than unknowns.  “Underdetermined” here means that the equations cannot be solved for the values of the unknowns because the equations do not provide sufficient information.  A system of two linearly independent equations in three unknowns can only be reduced to the point at which the values of the remaining two variables lie somewhere along a straight line.  A system of two equations in four unknowns reduces to a plane of equally correct solution points, and so forth. 

By contrast, if the system has more equations than unknowns, it is said to be overdetermined.  There is, so to speak, too much information, and if the equations are all linearly independent of one another, there will be no consistent set of values of the variables that satisfy the equations [if there is a set of values that satisfy the equations, then the equations are not independent, which means their number can be reduced by the number of degrees of overdetermination.]

Freud borrowed the term “overdetermined” to describe a curious phenomenon that he encountered on occasion when analyzing the dreams of his patients.  A patient would recount a dream and then would be led to associate freely to each element of the dream [not to the dream as a whole], continuing until the train of associations ran out.  Usually in a case of successful dream analysis the associations would lead to the repressed wishes or fantasies lying beneath each element of the dream.  The dream would then be completely analyzed.  But sometimes, even after each element had been fully explained, associations would continue and an entirely different set of repressed wishes and fantasies would surface.  Dream elements that led in this way to two completely different repressed wishes, each by itself sufficient to explain the dream element, were said by Freud to be overdetermined.  The mind, in effect economizing, found a way to give expression to two different repressed wishes by means of the same dream element.  This was, Freud concluded, one of the many ways in which the laws regulating the unconscious differ from the laws governing conscious thought.

In the period following the publication of Das Kapital, an enormous, complex, many-sided debate sprang up among Marx’s legions of followers concerning the precise role of economic institutions and developments in the determination of social, political, legal, and other institutions and practices in society.  Marx’s most dramatic claim, setting him against almost everyone writing before and during his lifetime, was that contrary to what everyone else thought, it was not the religion or the politics or the law or the philosophy of a society that determined its fundamental character and its historical development, but instead its system of the social relations of material production.  His vivid and memorable teaching of the base and superstructure of a society captured this claim in an unforgettable image.  The post-Marx debates focused on many aspects of his theories, none more contentiously than on this image of base and superstructure.  Some of his followers argued that according to Marx the economic base was the sole determinant of the institutional and ideological superstructure.  Others argued that this unidirectional causality held true only in the end or in the long run or in the last instance or fundamentally.   And some said that there were a number of factors that determined the organization and direction of development of a society, of which the economic was only one, albeit the most important.

As I understand him, Althusser, confronting a debate in the French intellectual world between “orthodox” Marxists who offered a simplified base/superstructure analysis and anti-Marxists who rejected Marx’s insights, opted for the view that the evolution of a society has multiple determinants, of which the economic is the most important, but by no means the only, factor.  So far so good.  He then royally confused matters by referring to this as “overdetermination,” which was just the wrong term to use.

Well, that was good for me.  I hope it was good for you.



24 comments:

Jon Culp said...

Thank you! You've mentioned this before in different contexts, but this explanation makes things very clear. So one could say, in short, that you are looking at "overdetermination" when more than one independent explanans is sufficient to provide a causal account of the explanandum, whereas you are looking at "multiple determination" (which is what Althusser was getting at) when you need more than one explanans to account causally for the explanandum?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

exactly

Chris said...

Caveat, I wrote my undergrad honors thesis trashing Althusser, and up until a few years ago considered him anathema to 'real Marxist' scholarship. Over the past 2 years I've changed my tune.

Althusser is arguing that the base superstructure model is correct. However, in past societies, different elements of the model had more force or influence than others. So in monastic feudal societies, where the Church controlled the state and the minds of the masses, the Church was the primary determining factor, but of course philosophy, the state and the economy played a role too.

In capitalist society, the primary engine for thought and development is the economic base, as you rightly point out comprised of the social relations around the means of production. But take any political analysis, e.g., raising the minimum wage or going to war, of course in the Marxian model (which I take to be correct) the primary factor here is the economic base, but the state, church, philosophy, ideology ALSO play a role, and these things cannot be separated in a unidirectional way as a Stalinist hack or teleologist would attempt to do (e.g., the base CAUSES the thoughts of congressman X, which causes war Y). All of these elements at any one time operate as a conjunction on actors, often in the class struggle, and those actors material practices/performances are over-determined by this relationship. So our battles about wages, wars, health care systems, etc, are a unique conjunction of the base-superstructure relationship, which means our views and practices are over determined by a particular conjunction. At least I think that's the theory.

Now this all sounds abstruse and unhelpful, but the attraction to the view is that Althusser thinks this over determination schematic is what separated Marxist history from Hegelian history. For Hegel history is ultimately progressive, a form of spiritual unfolding moving in some overall healthy direction and fruitful direction, albeit there are bumps along the road. But an over-determined society with unique historical conjunctions is by no means progressive, but nor is it always regressive. The engine of Marxian history is thus divorced from teleology in this theory.

Chris said...

Jon and Professor Wolff, I think that's true for Freud and Math, I don't know about Althusser though. Every event needs its particular conjunction analyzed, broken down, and explained, to give a proper Marxian historical account.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Wolff,

Excellent explanation, as usual when you broach this kind of subjects. It's thoughtful, well-informed, explained in English (a language Marxists often need to learn), and to the point.

It's my understanding that the interest Marxists show on determination, whether over- of multi-, comes from the endless allegations by Marx's critics that Marx was a determinist.

I have three questions that have been bugging me for a while and I wonder if you could help me out. It should go without saying that you are not obliged to respond.

First question. What's your opinion about said allegations of determinism?

Second question. When Marx's critics write about determinism, the impression I get is that they do not think so much in your terms of information, but in terms of free will vs predetermination. There is, at least in my opinion, a whiff of theology in their arguments, but I might be entirely mistaken. Have you noticed something like that?

Third question. Marx and Engels never left a clear, definitive, categorical, exposition of their ideas on this. At least, I don't believe they did. Instead, they left scattered comments here and there. Why that omission?

Anonymous_1.

Chris said...

I'm not Professor Wolff,
But my answer to 1 would be no, 2 also no, and three, yes they did.

The theses on Feurbach, and Marx's prefaces and intro to Capital make it clear that he is not a determinist. Also his section of the base superstructure model in Capital Bol III is EXPLICITLY anti-determinist, as backed up by Alex Callinicos and Raymond Williams. Here's the excerpt:

"The specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of direct producers, determines the relationship of rulers and ruled, as it grows directly out of production itself and, in turn, reacts upon it as a determining element. Upon this, however, is founded the entire formation of the economic community which grows up out of the production relations themselves, thereby simultaneously its specific political form. It is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the direct producers — a relation always naturally corresponding to a definite stage in the development of the methods of labour and thereby its social productivity — which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure and with it the political form of the relation of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the corresponding specific form of the state. This does not prevent the same economic basis — the same from the standpoint of its main conditions — due to innumerable different empirical circumstances, natural environment, racial relations, external historical influences, etc. from showing infinite variations and gradations in appearance, which can be ascertained only by analysis of the empirically given circumstances." (Marx, 940, 1993; Vol III)


As Raymond Williams points out, there are two competing conceptions of determinism which few thinkers are articulating clearly when scrutinizing the base-superstructure theory. The first is the strong version, whereby determinism is congruent with “the notion of an external cause which totally predicts or prefigures, indeed totally controls a subsequent activity.” The second understanding of determinism is that the determinant factor “is setting limits, exerting pressures”, Marx seems to be supporting the latter.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Chris.

I'm afraid I don't quite understand all your answers.

This was my first question

First question. What's your opinion about said allegations of determinism?

This seems to be your answer: But my answer to 1 would be no.

This was my second question

Second question. When Marx's critics write about determinism, the impression I get is that they do not think so much in your terms of information, but in terms of free will vs predetermination. There is, at least in my opinion, a whiff of theology in their arguments, but I might be entirely mistaken. Have you noticed something like that?

This seems to be your answer: 2 also no. What's your meaning, exactly? (A) No, you haven't noticed something like that, or (B) No, there's no whiff of theology?

My third question was

Third question. Marx and Engels never left a clear, definitive, categorical, exposition of their ideas on this. At least, I don't believe they did. Instead, they left scattered comments here and there. Why that omission?

This was your answer

yes they did.
The theses on Feurbach, and Marx's prefaces and intro to Capital make it clear that he is not a determinist. Also his section of the base superstructure model in Capital Bol III is EXPLICITLY anti-determinist (...)


I admit, I'm not familiar with the Theses. Still, when anti-Marxist critics want to point to Marx's alleged determinism, they also cite textual evidence. Often, they quote the Preface to the "Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy". Are there inconsistencies?

(...) as backed up by Alex Callinicos and Raymond Williams.

Yes, I'm aware that several authors, Marxist and non-Marxist, also dispute that allegation. Roy Bhaskar, the founder of critical realism, among them. William Baumol, the mathematical economist, has also disputed the Iron Law of Wages allegation, closely related.

Anonymous_1

Chris said...

So glad you mentioned Bhaskar! He's my secret love, but no one knows who he is! I was so sad when he died a few years ago, and it went entirely unnoticed in academia! Andrew Collier is to my mind perhaps the best Marxist and maybe one of the best philosophers period. His book Marx for beginners is imply the best book ever written on Marx for a general audience, and he has great essays on determinism and freedom in Marx. Alas no one knows who he is either and he died shortly after Bhaskar (they were friends and comrades).

I was being curt and I'm sorry for that. What I was essentially arguing is that Marx is not a determinist in the anti free will, the universe is one big domino effect, traditional metaphysical sense. The oft repeat tale of physics begets chemistry, begets biology, begets human life, and since physics is causally determined so is everything else. When Marx uses words like determine and determinism (as shown in Vol III) he means heavily conditioned.* E.g., if you're poor you're 'determined' not to attend Harvard, or become a member of the 1%. Of course 3-4% of the population DOES do this, so it's not determinism in the scientific-metaphysical sense, it just means, there are social-economic forces with overt conditioning power.

*Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. -KM

Chris said...

So, pre-determinism, in response to your second question, is not something Marx supports (Althusser seems to though, sort of). Just heavily conditioned.

Chris said...

If you read the preface as using the same vocabulary (which it does) as Vol III, and you understand the passage in Vol III, then the pre-determinism goes away, and there are no inconsistencies. Alex Callinicos argues something similar in 'Making History'.

Anonymous said...

@Chris,

Again, thanks for the answers and I'm glad you enjoyed my reference to Bhaskar.

Still, my first and second question remain.

What do you think of the determinism allegation? Beyond quotes and interpretations, where do the critics miss the boat, in your opinion? Do you find fault in their reasoning?

I think I find echoes of theological debates in their argument. For those critics the issue seems to be free will versus predetermination, not so much a matter of the information one has. Predetermination is a theological term, related to fate.

Or am I mistaken in my reading of the critics?

Chris said...

I think you're right that the critics believe in some kind of pre-determination, and many do cite Marx as a messianic theological thinker influenced by his judeo-christian upbringing. The MISTAKE they make is the one Williams identified, which is that determined can mean one of two things:

"The first is the strong version, whereby determinism is congruent with “the notion of an external cause which totally predicts or prefigures, indeed totally controls a subsequent activity.” The second understanding of determinism is that the determinant factor “is setting limits, exerting pressures”, Marx seems to be supporting the latter."

Often I suspect his critics read him this way to avoid the more charitable and correct reading so that they can discount Marx.

A very affable, sincere, and Rawlsian progressive gave a presentation once on our campus regarding dignity and distributive justice. After the presentation we all went to a house party and started chatting. I let him know I focused my research on Marx and was a Marxist and, without any hostility in his voice, he sincerely asked "but why? Marx was a determinist, and socialist hasn't happened yet, so why still believe his theory?". A friend and I explained that Marx focused on economic social relations as determinations in the heavily influential sense, and he seemed totally shocked, recognized that that made more sense, and asked why he had been taught Marx so incorrectly and why he was just hearing this information now.

I don't have solid answers to those sorts of questions besides appeals to state propaganda and a cold war mentality influencing a long history of socialist education.

Here's the Williams essay BTW:
https://newleftreview.org/I/82/raymond-williams-base-and-superstructure-in-marxist-cultural-theory

s. wallerstein said...

Chris,

Then, what you're saying (I know I simplify) is that economics is a very important force in history, but that it's not the only one and you have to look at each specific history situation to see exactly what role economics plays in that specific historical. However, when you want to understand a historical situation, it's a good bet that economics plays some sort of role there, so check out the economic factors before reaching any conclusions about history.

I guess most of us could agree on that.

Chris said...

I'm saying that's what Althusser said, yes, and I tend to agree with him. As far as 'some kind of role', make the claim stronger. A more influential role than the other factors. Althusser points out (correctly, and critical realist like Bhaskar and Collier make the same point) that the economic base is the NECESSARY condition for the super structure. Something many Marx commentators miss. Is there a unidirectional relationship of causality between economic base and superstructure happenings? Dubious. Stalinist might say so, but it's absurd. However, can you have a state, religion, philosophy, ideology, etc IF no one is engaged in productive labor*? No, of course not. So if the economic system is the necessary condition for the other systems, then the economic system is going to overly condition and influence the other systems of life in a way that those super structural systems cannot do to the base.


*(bracketing out future automation utopias)

Chris said...

By the way, my own view regarding Marx (not Althusser) and the base-superstructure model is that it's NOT a theory of history, with some teleological goal for ascertaining how we got where we are, and where are inevitably going. I think it's fairly clear the theory is a theory for conducting an immanent critique. An immanent critique is when you take your opponents philosophy for granted and it exposed it internal inconsistencies from within.

David Harvey summarizes it as:

"Critical theory at its most abstract and general level ... begins as a formal 'negativity.' As a dissenting motif, it selects some tradition, ideological premise, or institutionalized orthodoxy for analysis. As immanent critique, it then 'enters its object,' so to speak, 'boring from within.' Provisionally accepting the methodological presuppositions, substantive premises, and truth-claims of orthodoxy as its own, immanent critique tests the postulates of orthodoxy by the latter's own standards of proof and accuracy. Upon 'entering' the theory, orthodoxy's premises and assertions are registered and certain strategic contradictions located. These contradictions are then developed according to their own logic, and at some point in this process of internal expansion, the one-sided proclamations of orthodoxy collapse as material instances and their contradictions are allowed to develop 'naturally.'"

----------------


So I think what Marx is doing in Capital (as shown at the end of Chapter 6, followed by Chapter 7 part 2) is saying okay Liberal-Capitalists, I'll take your philosophy for granted. Liberty, Equality, Property, and Bentham (aka Smith's invisible hand), are your guiding principles for a just society. Now let's see what happens when we juxtapose your principles (superstructure) to your life practice (economic base). We reach a serious contradiction: exploitation, alienation, and taking advantage of people in a precarious (unfree) position. This leaves the reader of Marx with a choice: either 1) Say screw those principles, I support exploitation and alienation to secure capitalism, or 2) try to realize those values by changing your economic base. Thus, it's a very efficient immanent critique.

My $.02.

Sorry to hog Wolff's blog with MY Marx theories :(

LFC said...

@Chris
So glad you mentioned Bhaskar! He's my secret love, but no one knows who he is!

Exaggeration much? Plenty of people know who he is.
One example: A search with 'Amazon Look Inside' of P.T. Jackson, The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations yields 14 references to Bhaskar.

Chris said...

One author citing a guy is not plenty...

Leiter didnt mention his death in his yearly philosopher death report.

Daniel Langlois said...

I am tempted to go 'back to Hegel', here. Because, we are talking about Althusser, we are talking about Marx, and we are talking about overdetermination, which ultimately means talking about *contradiction and overdetermination*. And because, according to Althusser, a Hegelian contradiction is never really overdetermined, even though it frequently has all the appearances of being so.

I think Hegel is kind of a poetic soul, rather unlike (what I think of) Kant. But I have a 'notion' haha, that if you understand Hegel as somebody whose Logic may be approached from a number of angles, like many other things, then you can go to the head of the class without even having to read him.

Nevertheless, I'll ignore that sagacious advice and try to label his 'overall triad'. Is it Being - Essence - Notion?

Being -- The world first appears in thought as 'one damn thing after another'. The world 'in-itself'.

Notion -- Human practice and individual consciousness may be said to "reconstruct" the world in the form of the mental images we have of it. These "mental images". This "reconstruction" of the world has the form of *concepts*. This conceptual image of the world. We could call it a theoretical version of reality.

Well, what is 'Essence', then?

Put it this way: We are only capable of recognising things that we *already know* from the past. The past is never more than the internal essence (in-itself) of the future it encloses. And because of this, this presence of the past is the presence to consciousness of consciousness itself, and no true external determination. A circle of circles, consciousness has only one centre, which solely determines it. There is some Louis Althusser phraseology in here. I'll add that maybe I like poetry, but I also like the thought that we can distinguish it from science, so I want to touch base about what we think we are doing here..let's proceed..

I think I get the idea, that a new concept of something cannot spring right out of immediate perception, it must be mediated through a whole process through things we already know about..according to Hegel, if you change your mind ever, it's a contradiction. It's illogical for you to grow in your views at all, ever. So, logically, you are obligated to never learn that you had decided something arbitrarily. There is no overdetermination in logic. Anything changing, such as if it stops raining, already has Spock saying 'that is illogical'. Hegel lays a lot of pipe with his jargon, and is very abstract and informal, and is perhaps poetry. But this is pretty straightfoward (maybe also deserves some bandwidth):

'The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.'

concluding note: Is it Aristotelian metaphysics, if I say, for example, that 'contradiction is the essence of anger'. Can we tolerate this pedagogically useful figure of speech? Now, formal logic denies that contradictions exist in reality..

levinebar said...

Biologists speak of "multifactorial etiology" of e.g. cancer, which seems better (although perhaps less euphonious?) than "overdetermined.

I. M. Flaud said...

I'm a day short and a dollar late to this party... Speaking of Roy Bhaskar and Marx, recently I stumbled upon an original annotated translation of Capital by Hans G. Ehrbar. Hans Ehrbar writes that his annotations are informed by Bhaskar's Critical Realism. Approaching another long work of Marxian hermeneutics is almost daunting--but at least Ehrbar points out that Marx rejects methodological individualism.*

*The relation between macro social phenomena and local, individual behavior has been stumbling block for me when it comes to my own putative role in perpetrating or abetting systemic evil as a member of this or that group. But it's not fashionable and even controversial to point out philosophical difficulties arising from the passage from local to global--questions that bear on over- versus under-determination..

Anonymous said...

@Chris,

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. We are in full agreement and the Williams quote is precisely what I was looking for (I'll give the article a thorough read before commenting).

To illustrate your point here:

Often I suspect his critics read him this way to avoid the more charitable and correct reading so that they can discount Marx.

I put forward the quote below. Believe it or not, this is a real quote, coming from a real anti-Marxist critic representing himself as knowledgeable before the public:

From the viewpoint of Marx and Engels, the individual was a negligible thing in the eyes of the nation. Marx and Engels denied that the individual played a role in historical evolution. According to them, history goes its own way. The material productive forces go their own way, developing independently of the wills of individuals. And historical events come with the inevitability of a law of nature.

Anonymous_1

Daniel Langlois said...

@Chris
So glad you mentioned Bhaskar! He's my secret love, but no one knows who he is!

Critical realists know. I know there is a philosophy of social science here , but also I know that the phrase 'transcendental realism' is bandied about in these circles, where 'transcendental realism' is as developed by Bhaskar. I call myself a 'Kantian', and so I blanche at this jargon. But I recall more jargon: the real, the actual and the empirical. I'll mention in passing that it has often been claimed that Marx, when writing Capital, followed critical realist principles before critical realism even existed, and one issue here that may overlap is the idea that critical realism knows that certain things are more
basic than others. Now, I mentioned the actual and etc. The actual is the events that actually occur, regardless of whether or not people are aware of them. The empirical contains the events that people have actually experienced. I gather that critical realism does not have the concept of ‘simplicity,’ and perhaps lacks the concepts of, or, shall we say, has not thematized, the concept of abstraction.

Personally I like to toy with a notion that all science and all philosophy deals with abstraction, and then I like to toy with drawing a distinction within 'abstraction', between science and philosophy. To me it feels terribly fundamental, hugely important, to twiddle the dials on the concept of 'abstraction'. This is an obsession. What is 'abstraction'? There is a temperamental difference where some people love abstraction and some don't, perhaps. People say things like 'the quality of dealing with ideas rather than events'..what is abstraction?

Take the idea, for example, that the evidence for the independence of exchange-value from use-value is..well, is whatever it is. Some evidence seems to support independence: water is cheaper than diamonds, although it is more useful than diamonds. Yet the more desirable things often have higher prices, and prices rise if demand exceeds supply. Can I simply announce, here, that exchange-value is independent of use-value. Let's ask a Marxist. The answer perhaps is 'not technically, but you need to be patient -- we'll eventually explain the conflicting evidence.' And maybe something like this is added: 'Only one side of
the contradictory evidence allows the researcher to understand the underlying mechanisms'.

So okay, how do we learn which evidence is relevant and which evidence leads
to dead ends? I don't try to give the last word on Marxism here, but only to convey that I find abstraction fascinating..in computer science, we say that abstraction is a technique for arranging complexity of computer systems. It works by establishing a level of complexity on which a person interacts with the system, suppressing the more complex details below the current level..

There's something very odd about trying to talk about the concept of 'abstraction'..it seems like we'd be past that..but I find it fascinating.

Daniel Langlois said...

Consider the idea that the 'subject', by means of a process of observation and abstraction, comes to know what an 'object' really and truly is, according to its 'essence'. This is a theory of knowledge. Can it be ascribed to Marx? One might call it a definition of empiricism. It might well include traditions as varied as British Empiricism, German Idealism, Positivism, and Pragmatism. And again, it might well include philosophers as diverse as Locke, Kant, and Hegel.

Now, suppose that this 'object' is the economy. And suppose, that it is the reality that underlies, causes, and can explain all historical structures and transformations. Again I'll emphasize here a sort of what we might call the empiricist model of knowledge production. There is true or scientific knowledge. This is something that is distinguished from ideology or opinion, shall we say. But how, exactly? And the answer is, by dint of an historical subject having abstracted the essence of an object from its appearance. Something like that.

I take Althusser to be against this view, though that would put him seemingly against orthodox Marxism-Leninism, and such.

Daniel Langlois said...

ultimately this is for the sake of appreciating Althusser, I suppose, but I'll stop short of trying to expound Althusser and just try to juxtapose 'multiple determination' and 'overdetermination', to decide if I understand two distinct ideas here or not. I see this:

@Jon Culp
'this explanation makes things very clear. So one could say, in short, that you are looking at "overdetermination" when more than one independent explanans is sufficient to provide a causal account of the explanandum, whereas you are looking at "multiple determination" (which is what Althusser was getting at) when you need more than one explanans to account causally for the explanandum?'

And the reply:
@Robert Paul Wolff

'exactly'

I am quite unhappy with the part about '"multiple determination" (which is what Althusser was getting at)', because I do not think we are appreciating what Althusser is getting at. But again, I'll stop shy of bringing Althusser into it directly..

First, 'multiple determination':
Consider the use of multiple means of determination to "triangulate" on the existence
and character of a common phenomenon, object, or result. Primary qualities-such as shape, figure, and size-are detectable in more than one sensory modality, right?

Maybe we call this 'multiple determination'. Our concept of an object is of something that exemplifies a multiplicity of properties within its boundaries, many of which change as we
move across its boundary. Be it a gene, a neuron, a neural tract, an individual. The primary object of analysis.

Second: 'overdetermination':
But on the other hand, what if I consider 'anatomy, physiology, and genetics'. Or, again, what if we think about views chosen by architects, engineers, and anatomists. These are views that are individually recognized as incomplete. They can cross-cut one another in various ways, and at various angles. Can they be be ordered, compositionally, relative to one another? Are anatomical features composed of physiological processes or conversely? I'm suggesting that the question doesn't make sense. And if compositional ordering relations break down, as it were, so that you can't say what is composed of what, then you may get a sort of situation of disorder and boundary ambiguities.

Consider, as an example, that viewing a thicket or shrub from different sides will reveal a shape to its bushy confusion. And is this a useful analogy to the neurophysiological, psychological, and social realms? Picture lots of conceptual issues, methodological arguments, and boundary disputes. Say that 'this phenomenon is predicatable'. Why? So many things are up for grabs. What will come from looking at the form of complexity such systems take? Is there such a thing, here, as, maybe, the natural tendencies of most theorists toward expansionist territorial claims? Maybe also, there is such a thing as the natural tendencies of all of us to understand the merits of our own positions better than those of our opponents. Do frequent disagreements seem inevitable where there are boundary ambiguitie?

I figure this for 'overdetermination', and maybe a question remains, whether this appear to therefore be a kind of wastebasket category..

Well, but what actually are the rare cases? What is the norm? Is it sort of an ontological
primal slime? Of course not, if you have assumptions of simplicity and order in the universe. Then you would even say that this is, by definition, an absurd view. Maybe so, but if you say that there is an exceptionless static order-crystalline without flaw, that we find, in our universe, then okay, this is *not* an absurd view..

My take on 'overdetermination' is that there are some things that are just too multiply-connected to fit exhaustively into etc. As to what shall seem a lot closer to the truth, well, you tell me, -- I'm just describing 'overdetermination' as I understand it.