Unreal Nature

February 7, 2015

Same Kind

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… a closer approximation to facts has taken us further away from causality.

This is from Causality and Modern Science: Third Revised Edition by Mario Bunge (1959; 1979):

… The following sentences are sometimes regarded as correct formulations of the causal principle:

C, therefore E, (1)


E because C. (1′)

These forms are not, however, adequate to pour causation into. First, they have the forms of explanatory statements: the terms ‘therefore’ and ‘because’ in them may suggest that a reason rather than an “agent” is involved in the causal bond.

… an adequate statement of the causal principle should not involve the assumption that C actually exists but should instead say that, if C is the case, then E will also be the case; in short, the statement must be a conditional. The emphasis should be on the relation rather than on the relata — as Russell has untiringly insisted — and on the conditions for the occurrence of facts of a certain class, rather than on the facts themselves.

… the statement If C, then E always is shown, upon analysis, to contain three notions that are usually associated with causality: the conditionalness peculiar to lawfulness, the existential priority of the cause over the effect, and lack of exception. But are these traits enough to describe causation unambiguously?

… Ever since Leibniz, in a Heraclitean mood, formulated his celebrated maxim that no two things in the material world are identical (that is, the principle of the identity of indiscernibles), both philosophers of change and thoughtful scientists have become more and more convinced that, as Maxwell put it, “it is manifest that no event ever happens more than once, so that the causes and effects cannot be the same in all respects.”

… ” … what is found to be repeated is always the relation of cause and effect, not the cause itself; all that is necessary as regards the cause is that it should be of the same kind (in the relevant aspect) as earlier causes whose effects have been observed.” [Russell] The same holds for all law statements, and their lack of reference to specific events is just what lends them a universal extension.

… the following statement may be preferred to the preceding ones:

If similar causes happen under similar conditions, then similar effects are produced by them in most cases. (8)

Who doubts that this principle fits facts more closely than the preceding ones? But what a far cry from the candid and superficial if-then always relation! Actually, (8) belongs to the domain of statistical determinacy: in fact, the qualification ‘in most cases’ designates maximum frequency of occurrence, that is, a value around which all values tend to pack. Thus, a closer approximation to facts has taken us further away from causality.

… This [necessary (constant unique) production] does not mean, however, that the statement If C happens, then (and only then) E is always produced by it, or any other single proposition, can be regarded as covering the whole richness of causation or all the implications of the doctrine (causalism) holding the coincidence of determinacy and causality: except in formal matters, adequacy does not entail completeness.

My previous post from Bunge’s book is here.




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