Effects before causes

Marchand, The Medium and the Messenger:

There were times when McLuhan felt proud that he had been an intellectual pioneer, almost the first person in the West since Plato, as he sometimes put it, to study effects rather than to talk about causes. (278)

McLuhan was overstating the case, of course.  Gilson and Muller-Tyme had taught him how important this method was to Augustine and to Christian philosophy generally. But the claim gives good measure of the importance within McLuhan’s work of this sort of investigation.  In the sciences it is comparable to a chemist recommending close attention to the workings of particular material reactions in order to illuminate the table of elements. Or to a physicist attempting to define a law through concrete observations of, say, the path of a planet. But in the humanities, far more consequentially, it is the one way around nihilism.