Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sequence, Paradox, and Absurdity

If causality means regular sequence, then every unique event must be uncaused. An unexampled biological entity could not be thought to be a miracle, since miracles are supposed to be caused. It would have to be an explanation of chance.

Furthermore, no human action would ever spring from a self or from a motive. There's no intrinsic connection between volition and behaviour, character and conduct, motive and performance. Strictly speaking, no one murders anyone, though in some cases homicide has unhappily and quite inexplicably associated itself with certain elements of a person's constitution.

This association is more unfortunate because, And even though this association is completely irrational, it's also permanent. This view conflicts with our everyday judgments about practical action and accountability And even though all these judgments may be mistaken, the fact that the sequence view would require them to be mistaken is enough to impose a heavy burden of proof.

Note that we used the word 'require'. It was natural to use it, and those who hold the regularity view use it frequently. Yet, if they hold any belief that is said to be required by their theory, it's being required cannot have anything to do with them believing it.

And the sequence explanation of how we came to assume that causality involved more than association has some core issues. The usual explanation is that the regular repetition of and b together produced a habit of conjoining them in thought.

A habit or even a thought of uniform conjunction is clearly different from the thought of necessity. And what is meant by 'produced'? When one says that regular repetition produces a habit, it's not likely that one means only that there is a regular repetition of regular-repetition's-being-followed-by-a-habit.

Moreover, the statement

"We cannot perceive anything more than sequence in the connection of particular events."

Even though the way the body acts on the mind remains obscure, when we resolve to attend to something more closely and 'in consequence' succeed in doing so, we have a sense of 'enforcement' that does not leave us completely blank about the mode of connection. And in some cases of perception we are immediately aware of being causally acted on by some external agency.

Also, the position would guarantee a skepticism that may be unavoidable, but is not to be accepted until necessary.

Between the percept and its cause, there is no intrinsic connection. Since we have no access to nature except through impressions that are presumably produced in us causally, we must depend for knowledge on nature on an argument from the character of the impressions to the character of their source. This argument would be impossible by the kind of causation we are considering.

Also, the memory of our own experiences would be impossible by the above argument. When I recall something that happened yesterday, one of the factors that led to the remembrance was the occurrence of the past event itself. And when we say that this event 'conditioned' this recall, we don't mean that all similar events are followed by such recall, because we have in mind one event happening at a point in past time.

Finally, to say that causality involves nothing but regular sequence conflicts with common sense and science. The ordinary person has it fixed in their head that when they drive a nail with a blow of their hammer, there is an inner connection between these events which is not found in either of them and, say, a stom in the Antilles.

Their view is worthless.
Science from the beginning has had the same obsession. In some works, the uniformity view is insisted on, and some have even said that the name and notion of causality should be dropped by science (Russell, Mysticism and Logic, 180). But in this area scientific thought, even in physics (Stebbing, A Modern Introduction to Logic, 289) cannot succeed in getting rid of it, because behind the scientist's desire to discover the cause of things is their desire to understand, and their intuition that in mastering the cause of something they have to some extent understood it. We don't believe that the only reason why the scientific mind has rejected astrology is that the correlation between positions of the stars and the ups and down of human fortune has been imperfectly made out. We don't believe that when the connection was revealed between tuberculosis and bacilli, physicians would have admitted that it provided no further understanding of the disease, but only a new fact, concomitant though completely external.

The physical scientist finds their ideal in mathematics. And if they continue to refine and purify their statements of abstract connection, it's because in do so they feel themselves approaching not only the precision but also the necessity of mathematical relations. Of course their conviction may have been a delusion from the beginning. But whoever says that assumes the burden of proof. In their daily work and apart from philosophical controversy, no scientist will accept a bare given conjunction as ultimate truth. Thinkers and scientists looked for causes because they want to explain events, and if they had seriously held from the beginning the views of causation which many philosophers hold today, half the inspiration of the scientific search for causes would have been missing and induction would never have been trusted at all. (Bosanquet, The Distinction between Mind and its Objects, 59-60).


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