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Causality For Someone who Doesn't Get it!

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I am trying to understand ...

The idea of asteroids acting like billiard balls under collisions is the "efficient cause" conception of causation, and Objectivism has a better approach. 

It seems the approach is the answer to the question "why" in a restricted way. The ball is rolling.  

Let us say Billard Ball A was moving and collided with Ball B.

A change in some of the balls' attributes, its position and particular changes in its appearance as it is changing its location.

Are the two billiard balls considered an entity?

Is the system, the who billiards table the entity?
Is an action colliding?
Is an action being hit?

I am trying to find out how to explain, using Objectivist terminology, why did ball B move when it was hit by ball A?
Was ball A, the cause of the motion of ball B?

Is the connection seen between ball A's motion and ball B's motion purely inductive? That ball A's motion did not cause ball B's motion?

Another example ...

My car is not running, the mechanic might say that the wearing out of a part caused it to die. Here is a an action causing an action "wearing out" and "dying". Most people would understand that explanation. We can object and say what was the entity that wore out and he will say the alternator. And we can correct him by saying that we have to change the attributes in the alternator to fix the car. Is that correct?

He will say we will cause the car to run by fixing it. So fixing it will be the cause of the car running. Two actions "fixing" and "running".

I am just trying to learn, how would you show causality in the objectivist way?

 


 

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

My car is not running, the mechanic might say that the wearing out of a part caused it to die. Here is a an action causing an action "wearing out" and "dying". Most people would understand that explanation. We can object ...

Why would one object to that explanation?

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Thanks softwareNerd

An action causing an action "wearing out" and "dying". I thought that is not how it goes, you have to only have an entity action combination. Am I wrong?

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From Dreamweaver

With two billiard balls, the nature of the first billiard ball interacts with the nature of the second billiard ball. Substituting a soap bubble or an egg (did he mean raw, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, et, al) for one of the billiard balls, the nature of the resulting action would be caused and determined by the nature of the entities that are acting.

Ok, Ball A is a billiard ball, Ball B is a soap bubble. They collide. The only deductive cause and effect that I see is the soap bubble "bursts". That is the resulting action. But ... the cause is the soap bubble. Why because that is what soap bubbles do under certain conditions.

Now if I explain what the conditions were, I may say that when it is "collided with" by a hard object, it will burst. That is part of its nature. And in this case, it was "collided with" the billiard ball A. Now does that mean that the action "collided with" was the cause, or does that mean that billiard ball A was the cause or does it mean the soap bubble was the cause ... of the burst.

The other question it brings up is: is "collided with", an attribute of the soap bubble, in other words, there are soap bubbles that are not "collided with" and there are those that are "collided with". They act differently. because that is what the nature of the soap bubble dictates. So can an action "collided with" be an attribute?


 

 

 

 

 

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You have the act of the billiard ball and the act of the soap bubble. The "collision" would better be identified as an interaction.

Sorry about that first post. I lost it when I tried to edit it. Here's the clue to part of your question again, from page 16 of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand

[T]he motion of one billiard ball striking a second is commonly said to be the cause of the motion of the second, the implication being that we can dispense with the balls; motions by themselves become the cause of other motions. This idea is senseless. Motions do not act, they are actions. It is entities which act—and cause. Speaking literally, it is not the motion of a billiard ball which produces effects; it is the billiard ball, the entity, which does so by a certain means. If one doubts this, one need merely substitute an egg or soap bubble with the same velocity for the billiard ball; the effects will be quite different.

and from earlier on that same page:

"The law of causality," Ayn Rand sums up, "is the law of identity applied to action. All actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature."

 

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8 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

:

"The law of causality," Ayn Rand sums up, "is the law of identity applied to action. All actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature."

 

 

Let me go with that ... That means there is an absolute connection between an entity and its action. There is a one to one correspondence. It is based on deduction.

So there is a connection between 

"dog" and "barked" in - the dog barked. The cat jumped when he heard the dog bark, my understanding is that there is a direct connection between The cat and Jumping.

The cat Jumps when hearing a sudden noise, it cannot bark.

But If I say the barking caused the cat to jump up, that is using event causation. Bypassing entities. Fixing that and saying that the dog barking caused the cat to jump implies Humes induction, further more it is not an entity and its own action. Hume will object I have seen this a hundred times and I expect it to go this way. So where is the deductive explanation using cause and effect?

Using Objectivist terminology I don't know how to connect what the dog did and what the cat did. I don't know how to connect taking into account the "interaction" because the interaction is going to be shot down by Hume saying that it is induction. 

In other words, the law of identity can be applied to "dog" and "bark".

It can be applied to "cat" and "jump"

Maybe it can be applied to "cat and dog" and "interacted". That implies the law of identity applied to entities and their interaction. That certain entities can only interact a certain way.

I have taken her rule literally with the word entity (singular). Is that my mistake?

 

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

the interaction is going to be shot down by Hume saying that it is induction

If you believe this then there is nothing for you to try to understand... Hume departs substantially from Objectivism in many ways.

Is your difficulty with the way things are and how they behave or with how you think about and express your understanding of (or confusion about) the way things are and how they behave?

Can you be more succinct with your difficulty?

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1 minute ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Is your difficulty with the way things are and how they behave or with how you think about and express your understanding of (or confusion about) the way things are and how they behave?

Can you be more succinct with your difficulty?

 

It is: with how I think about and expresses my understanding of (or confusion about).

I see Objectivists around me use event causation without realizing it. But I have had a hard time correcting them. I think at this point the best way is to get as many concrete examples as possible and I can abstract an understanding out of it.

The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act

When people bring up an example, I have trouble determining what the action was. Entities fill my description of actions.

Like: I pressed the switch and turned the light on.

I caused the light to go on.

Is that correct, or the switch caused it, that is what switches do base on their nature.

If people can respond by saying it is correct or not, it will allow some learning to be done by me.

 

 

 

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22 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

Like: I pressed the switch and turned the light on.

I caused the light to go on.

Is that correct, or the switch caused it, that is what switches do base on their nature.

Why does one have to choose between those two? To my mind, they are both true. There's a whole sequence of events and if you start with yourself,. you're an entity taking some action (on the switch rather than the light) and if you start describing it from the switch, then the action of the switch does something (indeed, even that does not turn on the light as such, there's a sequence of events).

I'm not sure what the issue is here in the first place? They're all just fine ways of describing what's going on. Which one I describe depends on my purpose... whether I'm telling my wife I turned the light on, or whether I'm talking to a physics class and telling them that the magnet on the base unit of the light turned the switch on, because of the Wifi signal from the switch which the human pressed... and one can break that down way more if needed.

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In your example there is a chain of causation which you can describe in a multitude of ways. 

You and the switch are not monolithic singularities, you and the switch are complex systems, and together you can be epistemologically seen as a system also.

Your brain causes impulses which case muscles in your arm to contract which cause your arm to move in relation to your torso and your finger to move in relation... etc... causing the tip of your finger to rotate a switch about its pivot causing one contact to touch another contact allowing a current to flow through a wire to a light causing the filament to get hot and produce light...

You can slice and dice the systems umpteen ways and break down the complex chain of causation in umpteen ways.  i.e. describe this in many different ways.  What happened, happened it is  what it is regardless of how you analyze it... and always going back to what it was can be helpful.

So yes, you (broadly speaking)  did cause the light to go on.  But the light had to be there, it had to be operational (not broken), the power had to be on and ready to be connected by the light switch, the switch had to work, etc. all of these are conditions for the light actually going on. 

The light switch, and its presence, did not cause you to turn it on... although arguably its presence was a condition precedent to your deciding to do so.

In the subquote of Rand "The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act" it's best that you not focus on the word "caused" but the word "determined", especially of you take it out of context of the rest of the explanation.  Entities act, those actions are caused by entities, how they act is determined by the nature of the entities. 

Causation is not "caused", it is a part of reality. Actions are caused by entities.

Also think about what you take to be an action.  An action as opposed to a property or a attribute implies some change, a difference of some state of something over time.  A thing simply being, i.e. having mass or filling space is not an action.  As such simple being does not require a cause, a thing simply is, existence is identity.

Why do we have a require a concept of causation?  Only because of change, something being different from what it was.  Change only presupposes causes.  The law of causation simply links the nature and specific types of changes to the nature of the entities which bring them about.  The changes are determined by the nature of the things acting.

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1 minute ago, softwareNerd said:

They're all just fine ways of describing what's going on. Which one I describe depends on my purpose... whether I'm telling my wife I turned the light on, or whether I'm talking to a physics class and telling them that the magnet on the base unit of the light turned the switch on, because of the Wifi signal from the switch which the human pressed... and one can break that down way more if needed.

1

Yes, I agree, depends on who the audience is/the purpose. To look at it in an objectivist way has a purpose and is a particular perspective. Most people are okay with action causing an action, it is practical and used all the time.

But when it comes to proving that existence does not require a cause, the objectivist way of formulating cause and effect is a major help. Event causation, for instance, requires a first mover.

The problem is being able to explain to the layperson that cause and effect, looked at in terms "the law of identity applied to action". 

I have seen objectivists say that to lay people and I can see that it is not understood. So then you have to give examples and there are no good ones. I am looking for good, explanatory, educational examples!

 

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38 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

In your example there is a chain of causation which you can describe in a multitude of ways. 

1

Agreed. And I would love to be able to give examples using what you call "broadly speaking" entities. I want to talk to people who don't know about electronics, or physics etc. I want to keep it at the perceptual level as much as I can. My communication and my proofs would be much easier.

In fact, I invite you to give examples that would show causality using the entity-action model that I could use.

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44 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

So yes, you (broadly speaking)  did cause the light to go on.  But the light had to be there, it had to be operational (not broken), the power had to be on and ready to be connected by the light switch, the switch had to work, etc. all of these are conditions for the light actually going on. 

The light switch, and its presence, did not cause you to turn it on... although arguably its presence was a condition precedent to your deciding to do so.

2

Thinking about it more, I think that the lamp turned on. That is the connection between the entity, its nature and the action in the most basic form. One can PROVE logically that the lamp caused the lighting on. LIghting on CANNOT happen without the lamp. To consider lighting to happen without the lamp causing it, we have a contradiction.

But "lighting on" cannot happen with out a Lamp that is powered. "Powered" is an attribute, right? I ask this because in some circles it is an action.

Also, "lighting on" cannot happen with out a Lamp that is functional. "Functional" is an attribute. I think we all agree with that.

If this were a chain of causation, then there have to be multiple causal connections.

I pressed the switch -- I (entity) pressed (action)   I don't know where button fits in, it has no deductive causal connection to "I". The button is not part of my nature.

The button (entity) closed (action) the connection.

The lamp (entity) turned on (action) "turned" seems to be the action, "on" seems to be an attribute

Here my explanation falls apart. I don't know how to create the chain. I only know how to connect the action with the entities. It seems like actions cause changes in attributes of entities.

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Also think about what you take to be an action.  An action as opposed to a property or a attribute implies some change, a difference of some state of something over time.  A thing simply being, i.e. having mass or filling space is not an action.  As such simple being does not require a cause, a thing simply is, existence is identity.

Why do we have a require a concept of causation?  Only because of change, something being different from what it was.  Change only presupposes causes.  The law of causation simply links the nature and specific types of changes to the nature of the entities which bring them about.  The changes are determined by the nature of the things acting.

But what about, chairs, tables, roads, floors. They just are, but they seem to do something. A road (don't know the proper word) "holds, carries, supports" cars. A table "holds, carries, supports" cups and spoons and glasses just by being. It in a sense "allows them to me". Is allowing an action?

Or maybe this comes across as action, epistemologically speaking, meaning that we consider it doing something when it is not metaphysically changing at all.
 

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6 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

Why though?

Also, found this from Grames:

The point of emphasizing that entities are causal primaries is to prevent or rebut the error that causality means actions cause actions.  Attributes and relationships are not actions.  

This is informative for me using this formulation we are saying that causation has a definition, and it does not contain the idea that an event causes another event. That an event is the "why" of another event.

This is where non Objectivists have a very difficult time. They see even objectivists say this action caused that action or this attribute cause that entity or even this entity caused this other entity.

He goes on to say:

The "only entities are causal primaries" principle does not work against attributes and relationships because the attributes and relationships are the identities of the entities involved in any particular scenario.  

So the hotness of the sand is the sand.

The "being functional" of the light bulb is what the lightbulb is.

But I don't know how this can show how to incorporate "a chain of causation" to explain something.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

The problem is being able to explain to the layperson that cause and effect, looked at in terms "the law of identity applied to action". 

I have seen objectivists say that to lay people and I can see that it is not understood.

Okay, fair enough... though, I'm both an Objectivist and a lay person and I'm surprised lay people like me are interested in this question.

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2 minutes ago, softwareNerd said:

Okay, fair enough... though, I'm both an Objectivist and a lay person and I'm surprised lay people like me are interested in this question.

Sorry, I meant Objectivist and non Objectivist. Like when you go into a philosophy discussion group and most have never heard of Ayn Rand. Most everyone is interested in causation. They want to know what will happen in the future. Causal connections are the key, non-Objectivists believe that too. Knowing causal connections allows you to be able to plan, to survive. It is a practical and important issue to people. Most people think of a cause being something that HAS TO proceed something else. This is very different from Ayn Rand's "meaning".

 

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16 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

Sorry, I meant Objectivist and non Objectivist. Like when you go into a philosophy discussion group and most have never heard of Ayn Rand. Most everyone is interested in causation. They want to know what will happen in the future. Causal connections are the key, non-Objectivists believe that too. Knowing causal connections allows you to be able to plan, to survive. It is a practical and important issue to people. Most people think of a cause being something that HAS TO proceed something else. This is very different from Ayn Rand's "meaning".

 

Gotcha!

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It may help to break your examples down.

This is not specifically your example. Galileo used ramps to observe acceleration of a ball rolling down them with frets spaced out to make sounds 1 second apart measuring the decreased distance between them to derive his result. Newton built on this and other observations to identify the laws of motion.

Before trying to untangle the whole system, get clear on what you directly perceive rolling, and what is causing the rolling motion you are perceiving . . . i.e., keep your eye on the ball.

A ball rolls. That is one action that a ball has the potential to perform.

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16 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

It may help to break your examples down.

This is not specifically your example. Galileo used ramps to observe acceleration of a ball rolling down them with frets spaced out to make sounds 1 second apart measuring the decreased distance between them to derive his result. Newton built on this and other observations to identify the laws of motion.

Before trying to untangle the whole system, get clear on what you directly perceive rolling, and what is causing the rolling motion you are perceiving . . . i.e., keep your eye on the ball.

A ball rolls. That is one action that a ball has the potential to perform.

I absolutely agree that the ball (entity) rolls (act). That the rolling is caused by the ball, that it is based on what the ball is.

Now, this ball rolls and collides with a dog.

When it hits the dog, the dog yelps.

My understanding is that the dog (entity) causes yelps (action). It bothers me that I am limited to saying that.

You can connect the rolling of the ball with the yelping of the dog using event causation. How do you do it using Entity-Action. Based on my current understanding, "chain of causation" is not applicable to the Objectivist definition of causation. Otherwise, I don't see any examples I have seen are simply something does something. That's it, no more. I need more to be able to prove my point to non-objectivists.

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20 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

The other question it brings up is: is "collided with", an attribute of the soap bubble, in other words, there are soap bubbles that are not "collided with" and there are those that are "collided with". They act differently. because that is what the nature of the soap bubble dictates. So can an action "collided with" be an attribute?

You are making it more complicated than it is. Start off with the idea that all actions are embodied by some entity. Sometimes, two or more entities interact which leads to all of them producing an action as a group. So BOTH the bubbles act, they BOTH do something. However, their relationship to one another is not identical. The important point is that there is not -only- a one way relationship, and that there is no such thing as a "pure" action. 

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I pressed the switch -- I (entity) pressed (action)   I don't know where button fits in, it has no deductive causal connection to "I". The button is not part of my nature.

The button (entity) closed (action) the connection.

The lamp (entity) turned on (action) "turned" seems to be the action, "on" seems to be an attribute

Here my explanation falls apart. I don't know how to create the chain. I only know how to connect the action with the entities. It seems like actions cause changes in attributes of entities.

It is common knowledge that entities act on one another.  An entity can act in isolation (I can wave my hand in outer space) but they act on each other as well.  I can grab a stick and push it. Without resorting to Newton or physics (mass, momentum etc) a consequence of the action is the effect on the stick.

Entities act in accordance with their nature.  Actions of entities affect, i.e. interact with other entities.

An apple's stem rots and the apple falls according to its nature (also in interaction with the Earth via gravitation) to hit an ant and thereby crush it.  The action of the apple did not crush the ant, the apple crushed the ant.

 

Consider the following:

Man1: I saw walking in the park today.

Man2: You saw what?

Man1: Walking.

Man2: What do you mean you saw walking... what are you talking about?

Man1: I saw walking... in the park, today.

Man2: You saw WHAT walking?

Man1: What? What walking? What do you mean what walking?

Man2: I man .. you cant just see walking.. you need to see something walking... something must be doing the walking...

Man1:  No... just walking...

Man2:  Sheer walking?  Nothing doing the walking, just the sheer action of walking with nothing actually doing it?  That's fantastical and preposterous...

 

(Leonard Peikoff does this bit about the abstraction "number"... someone says "I saw 9 running in the lobby")

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13 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

I absolutely agree that the ball (entity) rolls (act). That the rolling is caused by the ball, that it is based on what the ball is.

Now, this ball rolls and collides with a dog.

When it hits the dog, the dog yelps.

My understanding is that the dog (entity) causes yelps (action). It bothers me that I am limited to saying that.

You can connect the rolling of the ball with the yelping of the dog using event causation. How do you do it using Entity-Action. Based on my current understanding, "chain of causation" is not applicable to the Objectivist definition of causation. Otherwise, I don't see any examples I have seen are simply something does something. That's it, no more. I need more to be able to prove my point to non-objectivists.

I think I know what your problem is.

 

The law of causation is not a definition of causation.  It is a limitation or a condition for it.

Entities ACT in accordance with their nature.

This means that in the context of an entity reacting in an interaction with some thing acting on it, the action (reaction) it takes is not arbitrary, is not self-contradictory, it is in accordance with its nature.  Meaning, it is of a nature such that when some thing else acts on it in a specific way it reacts in accordance with its nature.

Rand's law of causation does not in any way imply entities do not react or act when acted upon by other entities ... they obviously do, and Rand knew this.

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