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Marshall McLuhan (1911 - 1980) was honoured for his achievemnets by institutions and governments across Europe and North America. His books have been published in more than a dozen languages and continue to sell throughout the world.
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The small size of this book belies its importance. The three introductory essays serve as background and overture for the scholarly essay on formal cause by Eric McLuhan. This book is about the background for McLuhan's development. And what a background! What shoulders the McLuhans stand on! Aristotle, Aquinas, Eliot, Maritain, Popper, Bunge to name only a few, all great ghosts to stand with, to be sure. Explicating Aristole's discussion of four causes, McLuhan teases out what Aristotle meant by his four causes, especially the most misunderstood, formal cause. He describes how formal cause relates to both the multi-dimensional pre-literate Greek LOGOS and the modern, narrow LOGOS of rational dialectic and science, the Classical and academic roots of McLuhan's much misunderstood contrast between percept and concept. This is not a book, however, for the Gosh-Gee-Whiz McLuhan fan; this is a book for the scholars and critics who are curious about the McLuhans, or may have dismissed them as insignificant and out-of-date thinkers. I hope the scholars and critics will be engaged to read it, and support or refute it; Media and Formal Cause is too important to be ignored.
This maybe Eric & Marshall's most profound book, in this age of science, the Mcluhan's make clear that the foundations of most science has been based on two forms of causation - efficient and material, what has been called the `physics worldview [...]. The domain of social sciences has tended to focus on `final cause' - the development of human purposes. But this book substantiates and precedes what Stuart Kauffman has recently elaborated in his ground breaking paper "No Entailing Law, But Enablement in the Evolution of the Biosphere" [...]. McLuhan makes Formal cause simple (as it can be made without becoming simplistic) - the effects precede the cause - the co-evolving nature of figure made possible by a ground - only `seeable' after visibility of the figure. For anyone interested in foresight, this book is a fundamental pre-requisite. We have been lulled into thinking that there is only a type of linear causality underlying the reality of our world. What McLuhan elaborate (and Kauffman hints at - especially in his NPR blog) is that the nature of an evolving `whole' can precede the emergence of a visible figure, that the whole can only become clear once we have defined and seen a figure - even if the figure precedes the visibility of its causal ground. Most highly recommended.