Developing Sanity in Human Affairs

By Susan Presby Kodish; Robert P. Holston | Go to book overview

5
The Most 'Consequential' Elementalism

Edward MacNeal

In the next fifteen minutes I expect to demonstrate to your satisfaction that the most consequential elementalism referred to in the title of this talk is that of separating actions from consequences.

But first I want to take ninety seconds to alert you to the seeming absolutism of the title, "The Most 'Consequential' Elementalism."

When Marjorie Zelner wrote last February that of the four papers I'd outlined, this one on "The Most Consequential Elementalism" was the conference committee's unanimous first choice, she then added, "with the caveat that there is some concern about the absolutistic quality of 'The Most' and a suggestion that 'An Important' might be preferable as a title." 1

The caveat took me back forty-six years to a graduate course at the University of Chicago where I'd had to report on "The Most Crucial Factor in the Missouri Valley." The absolutism of that title irked me, so--as befitted a recent participant in a Korzybski seminar--I subtitled my paper, "A Study in Non-Elementalism" and devoted several of its pages to the folly of trying to isolate a single most important factor. 2 Given my by now well-aged sensitivity to our committee's concerns, I've put quotation marks around the word 'consequential.' You can, therefore, take it as attempted humor, saying only that the elementalism involving consequences is the one that most involves consequences, hence the "most consequential."

However, I do also believe that it's the elementalism that has had and is now having the most serious consequences for the human race. I'm open to counterargument. I'm not absolutely sure I'm right. But I feel confident that the elementalistic split of "actions" from "consequences" has more serious effects than any other elementalism so far discovered; confident enough anyway to lay the argument out for you. And that's what the rest of this paper does.

-77-

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