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A fundamental problem of causation
Posted: 12 April 2011 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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A fundamental problem of causation (conceived as cause and effect) is presented in this paper HERE

From the abstract:

In this paper we discuss a cluster of problems with the cause-effect view. Combining some classical arguments lead us to the conclusion that we should give up thinking of causation in the traditional way. As a result some other persistent problems of causation seem to dissolve. The conclusions we draw are negative and we will not present a constructive alternative to the traditional theories. However, to see clearly what cannot be done provides a solid basis of future theoretical developments.

Is causation related to objects, events or facts?

But are objects the only relata of causation? If they are, there have to be a lot more of them than we first apprehend. A man falls because he stumbles. Which are the causally related objects? Understood as a relation, causation requires at least two objects. But here we only seem to have one - the man. Our stock of objects needs to be expanded with the man’s fall and his stumbling. These “objects” are events, not things.

Problem of event-causation:

The problem for the event-causation view obviously is that while “Don does not die because he does not fall” reports an instance of causation, it also seems to assert that the non-existence of one event is produced by the non-existence of another. Note that this argument is also effective against object-causation. In fact it can be used to throw out most types of particulars as the relata of causation.

The chronological problem:

Sometimes causes appear to be simultaneous with their effects. Recall Kant’s leaden ball which makes a hollow in the cushion. “The greater part of operating causes in nature are simultaneous with their effects,” he claims.

The branching problem:

When the barometer goes down, bad weather usually follows. Perhaps, when swallows soar, barometers tend to rise. There are plenty of regularities in the world, and in one form or other the idea of regularity is utilised in reductive accounts of the cause-effect relation. But not every regularity is a sign of a relation between cause and effect.

The selection problem:

Whether causation links facts, properties, events, or objects, each effect often has endlessly many causes. As Germund Hesslow has observed, there are at least three reasons for this: (a) the phenomenon occurs because of the (immediately) preceding occurrence of many different phenomena; (b) the causal chain can be traced backwards in time; and (c) it is often possible to
conceptualise the causes in infinitely many ways.

Summary:

Together these difficulties lead us to the conclusion that the fundamental problem of causation (understood as identifying the relata of causation) probably has no solution. This is a metaphysical conclusion about the inadequacy of the cause/effect view, but it should be equally important for theories of causal beliefs. To see clearly what causation is not is partly to understand what causal beliefs we have.

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Posted: 12 April 2011 10:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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And in the meantime, science followed its way, leaving a starving philosopher behind…

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Posted: 12 April 2011 10:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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O, just comes to my mind. There is a difference between being able to give an intelligible account of causation, and its daily use. But maybe I am saying the same as in my previous posting.

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Posted: 12 April 2011 11:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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GdB - 12 April 2011 10:57 PM

O, just comes to my mind. There is a difference between being able to give an intelligible account of causation, and its daily use. But maybe I am saying the same as in my previous posting.

What we are looking for is an intelligable account.

An intelligable account of making a difference.

Stephen

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Posted: 12 April 2011 11:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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GdB - 12 April 2011 10:55 PM

And in the meantime, science followed its way, leaving a starving philosopher behind…

It could be the case that science followed it’s way and fatalism is true.

Stephen

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Posted: 12 April 2011 11:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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StephenLawrence - 12 April 2011 11:23 PM
GdB - 12 April 2011 10:57 PM

O, just comes to my mind. There is a difference between being able to give an intelligible account of causation, and its daily use. But maybe I am saying the same as in my previous posting.

What we are looking for is an intelligable account.

An intelligable account of making a difference.

Stephen

But this difference does not necessarily have to be apparent. They could be so fundamental and subtle that the least disturbance may well have a “butterfly” like reverberation in the universe.  Are we not talking about quantum and gravity fluctuations. At the Planck scale a minute disturbance may be “causal” to a result which differs from what might have been expected.
Add all quantum events in the universe and I believe that even rare abberrations may have a discernable universal impact over a time period of some 15 billion years.

Perhaps an intelligible account may well be contained in “quantum suspension”, that “uncertain” aspect of quantum. Of course, this has nothing to do with daily use…. cheese

[ Edited: 12 April 2011 11:50 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 12 April 2011 11:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Write4U - 12 April 2011 11:47 PM

But this difference does not necessarily have to be apparent.

The question is what are we talking about when talking about making a difference?

The difference between what and what?

Oh and how do we know anything makes a difference at all?

Stephen

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Posted: 13 April 2011 12:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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StephenLawrence - 12 April 2011 11:51 PM
Write4U - 12 April 2011 11:47 PM

But this difference does not necessarily have to be apparent.

The question is what are we talking about when talking about making a difference?

The difference between what and what?

Oh and how do we know anything makes a difference at all?

Stephen

I agree, the point was that causation does not mean certainty and might well be a random fluctuation. Perhaps that may be called deterministic, but it would not be pre-deterministic.

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Posted: 13 April 2011 12:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Write4U - 13 April 2011 12:05 AM

I agree, the point was that causation does not mean certainty and might well be a random fluctuation. Perhaps that may be called deterministic, but it would not be pre-deterministic.

No, randomness is indeterminism.

Uncertainty is irrlevent.

Of course we are uncertain due to our limited knowledge.

edit: You are uncertain whether it is raining or not until you look outside, that says nothing at all about whether determinism is true.

Stephen

[ Edited: 13 April 2011 12:10 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 13 April 2011 12:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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StephenLawrence - 13 April 2011 12:08 AM
Write4U - 13 April 2011 12:05 AM

I agree, the point was that causation does not mean certainty and might well be a random fluctuation. Perhaps that may be called deterministic, but it would not be pre-deterministic.

No, randomness is indeterminism.

Uncertainty is irrlevent.

Of course we are uncertain due to our limited knowledge.

edit: You are uncertain whether it is raining or not until you look outside, that says nothing at all about whether determinism is true.

Stephen

Ok…I posited “not be pre-determinism”. If that also makes it “indeterminism”, so be it.

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Posted: 13 April 2011 01:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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kkwan - 12 April 2011 07:00 PM

Summary:

Together these difficulties lead us to the conclusion that the fundamental problem of causation (understood as identifying the relata of causation) probably has no solution. This is a metaphysical conclusion about the inadequacy of the cause/effect view, but it should be equally important for theories of causal beliefs. To see clearly what causation is not is partly to understand what causal beliefs we have.

To me, this looks like hogwash. Every single example given involves not a problem of causation, but simply an incomplete model. For example, the one of the man stumbling:

A man falls because he stumbles. Which are the causally related objects? Understood as a relation, causation requires at least two objects. But here we only seem to have one - the man. Our stock of objects needs to be expanded with the man’s fall and his stumbling. These “objects” are events, not things.

We do not seen to only have one object. We have two: the man and the planet.

Using bad models is not a good way to create philosophical problems.

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Posted: 13 April 2011 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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StephenLawrence - 12 April 2011 11:43 PM
GdB - 12 April 2011 10:55 PM

And in the meantime, science followed its way, leaving a starving philosopher behind…

It could be the case that science followed it’s way and fatalism is true.

Stephen

If science needs determinism and absolute causality, yes it could be that fatalism is taken to be true.

From the wiki on fatalism

Determinism, fatalism and predestination:

While the terms are often used interchangeably, fatalism, determinism, and predestination are discrete in emphasizing different aspects of the futility of human will or the foreordination of destiny. However, all these doctrines share common ground.

Determinists generally agree that human actions affect the future but, because the future is predetermined, human action is just part of the overall cause. Their view does not accentuate a “submission” to fate, whereas fatalists stress an acceptance of all events as inevitable. In other words, determinists believe the future is fixed because of absolute causality, whereas fatalists and many predestinarians think the future is inescapable despite causality.

Therefore, in determinism, if the past were different, the present and future would also differ. For fatalists, such a question is negligible, since no past could have happened other than the one that has happened.

Fatalism is a broader term than determinism. The presence of history indeterminisms/chances, i.e. events that could not be predicted by sole knowledge of other events, does not exclude fatalism. Necessity (such as a law of nature) will happen just as inevitably as a chance—both can be imagined as sovereign.

Science basically replaced God with the “laws of nature” as sovereign in the universe.

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Posted: 13 April 2011 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 13 April 2011 01:39 AM

To me, this looks like hogwash. Every single example given involves not a problem of causation, but simply an incomplete model. For example, the one of the man stumbling:

A man falls because he stumbles. Which are the causally related objects? Understood as a relation, causation requires at least two objects. But here we only seem to have one - the man. Our stock of objects needs to be expanded with the man’s fall and his stumbling. These “objects” are events, not things.

We do not seen to only have one object. We have two: the man and the planet.

Using bad models is not a good way to create philosophical problems.

Does a man stumbling (meaning to trip in walking or running), an event, involve the earth as well?

You are implying there is a causal relationship between the man and the earth when he stumbles.

That is absurd. Your model is a bad model.

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Posted: 13 April 2011 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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kkwan - 13 April 2011 08:59 AM

Does a man stumbling (meaning to trip in walking or running), an event, involve the earth as well?

You are implying there is a causal relationship between the man and the earth when he stumbles.

That is absurd. Your model is a bad model.

Well, it wouldn’t be possible to stumble if there was nothing to stumble against. No gravity, no ground, no planet, no stumbling.

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Posted: 13 April 2011 11:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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StephenLawrence - 13 April 2011 12:08 AM
Write4U - 13 April 2011 12:05 AM

I agree, the point was that causation does not mean certainty and might well be a random fluctuation. Perhaps that may be called deterministic, but it would not be pre-deterministic.

No, randomness is indeterminism.

Uncertainty is irrlevent.

Of course we are uncertain due to our limited knowledge.

edit: You are uncertain whether it is raining or not until you look outside, that says nothing at all about whether determinism is true.

Stephen

Yes, but whether it rains or not is not the only future event to consider.
How about the action of taking an umbrella? The alternate futures of an individual walking outside with or without an umbrella. Their choice is not determine by any certainty.

Say this individual for whatever reason can’t look out side. However considers the possibility that it might rain. Weighs the value of possibly getting wet, the dislike of having to carry around an umbrella and if it turns out to be raining, having to go back an get the umbrella.

This weighing of costs and benefits to ones actions is there room for choice between alternatives or even randomness?

When we talk about human decision this is a more complex process then the causality of rain. A physical process doesn’t weigh benefits and costs. Until the individual goes through this choosing process, his future action cannot be determined.

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Posted: 13 April 2011 07:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 13 April 2011 09:33 AM

Well, it wouldn’t be possible to stumble if there was nothing to stumble against. No gravity, no ground, no planet, no stumbling.

I quite expect you will invoke gravity, the ground, the earth etc. in order to stumble. smile

It is possible to stumble as a misstep.

The point is stumbling is an event, not an object.

So, there is a causal relationship between the man (an object) with his stumbling (an event).

The model is valid.

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