By Andrew P. Vayda
During this collection of essays from the earlier 20 years, Vayda makes a speciality of study and rationalization excited about factors of concrete occasions, particularly human activities and the environmental adjustments caused through them.
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Additional info for Explaining Human Actions and Environmental Changes
Not taking lightly the by-product possibility means making serious efforts to obtain such evidence (cf. note 51, below). Even in the absence of more direct evidence of causal histories, so-called design analysis may sometimes be used to infer that a beneficial consequence of some behavior is not just a by-product or an effect of chance but rather a result of a different kind of causal history. This is what I intended to illustrate with the New Guinea mound-building example cited by Driscoll and Stich (see my chaps.
The tyranny of sunk costs,” referring to persistence in some costly but unrewarding activity because of previous costly investments in it) or else, with greater scientific cachet, are designated as models or theories, the very fact that they are named and known is, as Schelling (1978: 90–91) has noted, likely to give us head starts in developing causal explanations of cases at hand. The commons model, one of Schelling’s illustrations of this (idem, chap. 3), is discussed below. Regardless of whether the generalizations we draw on are encapsulated as models, theories, or sayings, or else are perhaps not encapsulated at all, it is still the case that they need not be, actually or potentially, exceptionless laws of nature or strict statements of invariant causal sequences.
38 Indeed, distinguishing fields or subfields on the basis of whatever theories or programmatic statements are thought to be magic bullets for knowing the world and acting on it is a wellestablished practice, resulting every decade or two in the ascendance of a new field to deal with factors neglected by previous ones. ” In so reacting, they, like champions of other new fields, fell into what the sociologist 38 Although I have not made it the subject of any explicit, extended discussion here, my rejection of the theory-deploying view is implied throughout this chapter.