The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday 13 December 2023

That Explains It All, Then

Would you like to have it all explained to you in a single word?

Well, here it is – monocausotaxophilia. It’s a mouthful, isn’t it? What does it mean?

Mono – single, alone. Causo – cause, reason. Taxo – order, arrangement. Philia – love of, love for.

Monocausotaxophilia – the love of a single cause that explains everything.

It is a made-up word, which has recently begun to make a name for itself. The German psychologist and neuroscientist, Ernst Pöppel, coined the word as a joke. Some writers have since referred to the word, and some have misattributed it to the philosopher Karl Popper.

It is also a mix of Greek and Latin origin. The three terms mono, taxo, and philia are Greek. The odd one out, causo, is of Latin origin. If we were to be consistent and require all parts of the word to be Greek, then the word should perhaps be: monoaitiataxophilia. But with a word this long and of whimsical derivation, who cares about consistency?

Notwithstanding the above though, the word is worth considering.

Perhaps in his practice as a psychologist, Ernst Pöppel noticed a propensity for his patients to want to attribute a single cause to their problems and concerns. Without a term to describe his observation he invented this one.

The wish for a single cause that explains problems goes beyond the psychologist’s couch though. Collectively we seem to want to do the same. We want to find a single cause of our collective problems. Because, if we can do that, then we can firstly, attach blame, and secondly, we can attempt to solve the problem.

With few exceptions, much social and environmental action falls into the trap of monocausotaxophilia. A few examples may help.

The most obvious one is the climate. The biosphere is warming and that promotes climate disruption. Why? There are numerous single cause explanations. Some say it is capitalism. Some cite the Industrial Revolution. More specifically, many point the finger at oil companies. Or billionaires. Political leaders come in for a fair share of blame.

More nebulous terms such as consumerism, population, or technology are sometimes posited as the single reason for climate chaos.

All these reasons influence and contribute to climate chaos. No single one of them is the single reason. No single one is even the predominant one.

In reality, our planet is a highly inter-connected, mutually influencing, co-evolving, and co-emergent system. It is complex. It is dynamic. It is never the same. It is diverse. It is responsive. It just is!

Sadly, our monocausotaxophilia penchant has us desiring a single cause label. Once defined, that single cause can then be fixed. It can be solved. The cause can be isolated, removed, or expelled. At least we think (and hope) it can.

Yet, has anyone noticed that the more we try to fix a single cause the more problems we create? What was complex before we tried to fix it, becomes even more so after the fix (which generally is no fix at all.) All we end up doing is add further complexity to the system, thus creating more and more feedback loops. Doing so tends to destabilise a system. It becomes chaotic. And, isn’t that exactly what we are witnessing in the early part of the 21st century? A highly chaotic ecosphere, biosphere, and social world.

Furthermore, it may well be that our desire for a single cause that explains everything is an added factor contributing to the breakdown and collapse of our known world. A focus on a single cause blinds us to the side-effects that arise from fixing that single cause. More often than not a “solution” applied to a single cause can either; exacerbate the problem we are trying to fix, or damaging consequences will appear in another part of the system (frequently out of our sight, and therefore out of mind.)

Monocausotaxophilia makes us believe that there are problems that can be solved. The reality is a lot different. We are not living with problems, not even complex problems. We are living with and through a predicament.

A predicament does not lend itself to a single cause explaining it. A predicament does not lend itself to solutions. A predicament only has outcomes. The outcomes of a predicament are beyond the control of any of the players inside the predicament. The outcomes of a predicament are not even predictable. We simply do not know what will emerge on the other side of a predicament.

One thing we do know for sure though; monocausotaxophilia is unhelpful and of no use to us.

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