Objectivism Online Forum

# Causality For Someone who Doesn't Get it!

Rate this topic

## Recommended Posts

24 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

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.

Then what is the definition of causation?

• Replies 121
• Created

#### Popular Days

37 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

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.

Ok, so change happens.

The law of causation is what prevents really weird things from happening.

Without the concept of cause and effect, things would happen/change in ways that are not imaginable. A cat turns into a dog into a
table that burns and becomes a flower. This would be the world that does not limit change by some laws.

So causality implies that things don't happen arbitrarily, without any reason.

But it does not tell you what "cause" means!
So, to find the reason for something happening, you have look at the changes and identify the entities involved?

That is not how I do it intuitively.
I look at the change and through experimentation find the one factor that without it, the change does not occur.
That problem is at first glance, and maybe final glance, the one factor can be an attribute or an action.

"pressing" causes the "shining" in the light - if I don't press the light does not come on
"throwing" the ball caused the dog to "yelp" - if I don't throw, the dog does not yelp

I think that is how most people identify cause intuitively. If "the factor that is necessary" is the definition of cause, It is hard for me to make a case that the action is not the cause. Mainly because from a practical standpoint people don't need to identify the entity behind it. It is only when you need to prove that there is no necessity for a "first mover" and highly philosophical arguments that this precision is necessary.

I suppose I could make the case that the way that you (event causation believer) see it would not explain why the world is orderly and not arbitrary. There is no connection between an event and another except saying there is probability or likelihood that the sun will come up unless you look at entities and their identities and limitations on their actions.

I expect them to retort by saying: Without telescopes and science, as primitives in the jungle, what should someone say? "I am not sure why the sun comes up?" or based on the experience of having seen it before, there is the likelihood of seeing it again.

I think I am getting closer, the conversation has helped.

##### Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

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.

Then I could take the billiard table as a group of balls (plural) and everything that happened on the table is the action (singular).

I have to go through this tedious drilling down to come up with a simple example. This is in order to get every step of the way right.

So, it is not that an entity causes an action but also that entities (plural) cause an action(singular).

Edited by Easy Truth
##### Share on other sites

5 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. So then you have to give examples and there are no good ones. I am looking for good, explanatory, educational examples!

There are no disembodied actions.  Actions are verbs enacted by things which are nouns.  "Jumping" cannot exist without the thing which jumps.  Why would this be hard to explain or understand?

##### Share on other sites

1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

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.

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

Eiuol said

The important point is that there is not -only- a one way relationship and that there is no such thing as a "pure" action.

So you can't wave your arm in a vacuum. Granted, but we are speaking abstractly here, how else can we get to the bottom of this.

I would agree that entities act on each other and that it is common knowledge. But, I think the point that the objectivism wants to make is that entities don't cause other entities, philosophically speaking.

Is the argument against it that If that if entities could cause other entities, then something could cause the existence of something that did not exist, out of nothing?

My understanding is that the absolute necessary factor which is required is for an action to be "determined" by an entity, the entity's state at that moment. By state I mean is qualities, properties, attributes, basically its identity.

##### Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

I would agree that entities act on each other and that it is common knowledge. But, I think the point that the objectivism wants to make is that entities don't cause other entities, philosophically speaking.

More from page 16 of OPAR:

An entity may be said to have a cause only if it is the kind of entity that is noneternal; and then what one actually explains causally is a process, the fact of its coming into being or another thing's passing away. Action is the crux of the law of cause and effect: it is action that is caused—by entities.

What is your source of the point(s) that Objectivism is making as you are trying to summarize?

##### Share on other sites

34 minutes ago, Grames said:

There are no disembodied actions.  Actions are verbs enacted by things which are nouns.  "Jumping" cannot exist without the thing which jumps.  Why would this be hard to explain or understand?

Because it is far too abstract and the context has to be carefully explained first. If I say, it the way you said it, I could see people say "Why are you wasting my time with something that obvious?".

For instance, I have seen objectivists say "The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action." in midst of one of those meetings and the people's eyes glaze over. It is meaningless in a conversation.

I have to bring it to life, make it educational, make it simple.

In the context of explaining why the universe has a rhyme or reason and is not all chaos, being the way it is, the Objectivist explanation of causality is great. But when it comes to explaining what caused something in a person's daily life, either it is not applicable or the application is hard.

It is like being given a field theory and trying to explain a particular interaction. Like knowing the laws of economics and expecting to determine if the stock market will go up or down the next day. I am starting to think that I have to preface my explanation with the fact that it is not as applicable as thinking that events cause events but that it is what is real and it explains why entities don't have to come from non existence.

##### Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Ok, so change happens.

The law of causation is what prevents really weird things from happening.

Without the concept of cause and effect, things would happen/change in ways that are not imaginable. A cat turns into a dog into a
table that burns and becomes a flower. This would be the world that does not limit change by some laws.

So causality implies that things don't happen arbitrarily, without any reason.

But it does not tell you what "cause" means!
So, to find the reason for something happening, you have look at the changes and identify the entities involved?

That is not how I do it intuitively.
I look at the change and through experimentation find the one factor that without it, the change does not occur.
That problem is at first glance, and maybe final glance, the one factor can be an attribute or an action.

"pressing" causes the "shining" in the light - if I don't press the light does not come on
"throwing" the ball caused the dog to "yelp" - if I don't throw, the dog does not yelp

I think that is how most people identify cause intuitively. If "the factor that is necessary" is the definition of cause, It is hard for me to make a case that the action is not the cause. Mainly because from a practical standpoint people don't need to identify the entity behind it. It is only when you need to prove that there is no necessity for a "first mover" and highly philosophical arguments that this precision is necessary.

I suppose I could make the case that the way that you (event causation believer) see it would not explain why the world is orderly and not arbitrary. There is no connection between an event and another except saying there is probability or likelihood that the sun will come up unless you look at entities and their identities and limitations on their actions.

I expect them to retort by saying: Without telescopes and science, as primitives in the jungle, what should someone say? "I am not sure why the sun comes up?" or based on the experience of having seen it before, there is the likelihood of seeing it again.

I think I am getting closer, the conversation has helped.

Take some time to keep chewing on these ideas ... also remember Ocam's razor and Rand's razor.  Some philosophers thrive on inventing distinctions, subtleties, explananda, and floating concepts where none exist and none are needed.  When you see Objectivism dispensing entirely with some concept there's a good reason for it: complete absence for the need of the concept on the basis of a complete absence of evidence of the senses to the contrary.

##### Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

More from page 16 of OPAR:

An entity may be said to have a cause only if it is the kind of entity that is noneternal; and then what one actually explains causally is a process, the fact of its coming into being or another thing's passing away. Action is the crux of the law of cause and effect: it is action that is caused—by entities.

What is your source of the point(s) that Objectivism is making as you are trying to summarize?

2

Ah, so  "some" entities can cause other entities. That is a huge misunderstanding on my part. Let me go through that then.

I thought that since there is a causal link between entity and action, there was none between entity and entity. It turns out that the universe is a special case, eternal don't have a cause.

Sources are the standard ones, the books, the lexicon and Peikoff's course on the history of philosophy.

I also saw the formal proof that is used to prove the direct linkage between entity and action, Kelly brought that up. I did not see a proof regarding entities and other entities.

Okay, I have to go back and reformulate.

##### Share on other sites

10 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

I also saw the formal proof that is used to prove the direct linkage between entity and action

Formal proof, or validation? Peikoff classified causality as a corollary of identity, where [a] "corollary"

is a self-evident implication of already established knowledge. A corollary of an axiom is not itself an axiom; it is not self-evident apart from the principle(s) at its root (an axiom, by contrast, does not depend on an antecedent context). Nor is a corollary a theorem; it does not permit or require a process of proof; like an axiom, it is self-evident (once its context has been grasped).

(. . . . still more from page 16 of OPAR)

When you identify "sources" as "the books", do you consider Leonard Peikoff's "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" one of them?

##### Share on other sites

18 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

When you identify "sources" as "the books", do you consider Leonard Peikoff's "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" one of them?

Yes I do.

##### Share on other sites

20 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Formal proof, or validation? Peikoff classified causality as a corollary of identity, where [a] "corollary"

is a self-evident implication of already established knowledge. A corollary of an axiom is not itself an axiom; it is not self-evident apart from the principle(s) at its root (an axiom, by contrast, does not depend on an antecedent context). Nor is a corollary a theorem; it does not permit or require a process of proof; like an axiom, it is self-evident (once its context has been grasped).

(. . . . still more from page 16 of OPAR)

The proof that David Kelly mentioned in his talk about Causality is this .. It links entity with action of the entity ...

If a thing a under conditions c produces a change x in subject s_the way
in which it acts must be regarded as a partial expression of what it is. It could
only act differently, if it were different. As long therefore as it is a, and stands
related under conditions c to a subject that is s, no other effect than x can be
produced; and to say that the same thing acting on the same thing may yet
produce a different effect, is to say that a thing need not be what it is. But this
is in flat contradiction to the Law of Identity. A thing, to be at all, must be
something, and can only be what it is. To assert a causal connexion between
a and x implies that a acts as it does because of what it is: because, in fact, it
is a. So long therefore as it is a, it must act thus; and to assert that it may act
otherwise on a subsequent occasion is to assert that what is a is something
else than the a which it is declared to be.

It is from a book "An Introduction to Logic" by someone name Joseph

##### Share on other sites

An Introduction to Logic by Horace William Brindley Joseph. It is in the public domain and available freely via http://books.google.com/.

While it is on my Kindle, it is what I've considered a dry, tough read. For an introduction to logic, I found Peikoff's Introduction to Logic helpful.

While reading OPAR this afternoon, I noticed that a point correlating the concepts of validation and volition share an etymological root was mentioned. Page 69 of OPAR:

The concept of "volition" is one of the roots of the concept of "validation" (and of its subdivisions, such as "proof"). A validation of ideas is necessary and possible only because man's consciousness is volitional. This applies to any idea, including the advocacy of free will: to ask for its proof is to presuppose the reality of free will.

Causality in conscious beings differs from causality in inanimate objects, a distinction that is eloquently captured in Miss Rand's identification of the need to distinguish between the metaphysical and the man-made.

Even in actions predicated by dogs and/or cats, adding the attribute of consciousness (not conceptual) adds a distinction between actions of conscious entities and inanimate entities. (How far down the animate/inanimate chain this goes is an investigation in, and of itself.)

##### Share on other sites

In the passage you quote (p 70 in my copy), Peikoff says that volition and validation are hierarchically connected but not that they are etymologically connected. "Volition" comes from a verb for willing or wishing, and "validation" from an adjective for strength or power.

##### Share on other sites

I saw the term roots, and just thought it was etymological. And yes, it is page 70. Depending on which side of page 70 it appears, sometimes I need to subtract 1, as I erroneously did when I typed that.

##### Share on other sites

I have a question about the concept action ...

Is "Existing" an action?

Because actions are aspects of the entities that act, the actions are part
of the identity of the entity

That implies that not all entities act.

But if "being" or "existing" is an action, that would imply that ALL entities act.

##### Share on other sites

Easy Truth, welcome to Objectivism Online.

I liked Aristotle’s bit about truth being in one way hard and in another way easy, “like the proverbial door one cannot avoid bumping into.”

Your insight that if existing were itself an action, it would imply that all entities act is right, provided we keep constant the sort of action we are talking about throughout that if-then statement. That kind of action would be something more inert than when, in science or in everyday experience, we say that such-and-such thing acted in such-and-such way. Nevertheless, for those who love not only easy truth, but hard truth, the question of whether existing is itself an action, or activity, is a good one. Aristotle, Leibniz, and Lotze affirmed. Russell denied, arguing against Lotze. The case that Aristotle is an affirmer on this question is made out by Aryeh Kosman in his book The Activity of Being (2013).

I’m a denier on the conception of existing as necessarily being a sort of acting. I affirm that all concrete existence is temporal, but for that, it suffices that some concrete part in the whole of concrete existence is acting in our ordinary and scientific types of acting. To be clear, I’m talking about any sort of acting that has been connected in a necessary way with existence per se in the history of philosophic reflection or is thusly connected by us in our philosophic reflection today. What we know from science (e.g. that mass is convertible to energy, that mass-energy has some dynamical relations with spacetime, and that the vacuum has energy) concerns other sorts of activity than the one that has been claimed by philosophers for existence per se, and these activities we learn in the physical sciences were conceived and discovered by means necessarily beyond philosophic reflection.

##### Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Is "Existing" an action?

No. If 'existing' was a type of action, actions would hold metaphysical primacy. In other words, first there would be the platonic form of action, from which its numerous manifestations (including 'existing') would spring.

But actions can't have metaphysical primacy. Let's say for a moment that existing is a type of action. But what is the most fundamental thing you can say about action? That it exists

Entities that exist, act. Entities that do not exist, do not act.

##### Share on other sites

6 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

But if "being" or "existing" is an action, that would imply that ALL entities act.

Your logic is correct when you state that if being is an action then all entities act.

But your conclusion, that what Rand says "implies that not all entities act", is not entirely correct.  What is correctly drawn from Rand, is that it would be false to conclude that simply by virtue of every entity existing, every entity is always acting.

It may be a fact of existence, that no entity may be 100% isolated from every other entity in existence and hence, it is always interacting with something else, i.e. it is actually acting.  But this does not mean it is its being as such which IS the action.  Its being makes the actions possible.  Gravitational attraction would be an example kind of action an entity would perform which might not be capable of isolation.

That said, if one were to try to consider an entity which literally never acted, the entity necessarily never would have interacted (a kind of action) with anything else in the universe, the entity  could not directly or indirectly affect our sensory apparatus or anything else in universe for that matter which could form evidence of the senses from which we could build knowledge of it.  Such a thing is a ghost of no consequence whatever... wandering through a universe (if one could even intelligibly say this) with which it has no connection and being utterly unknowable.  In fact, such a thing, which here I hypothesized in absence of evidence (which evidence by definition could not exist in any case) is simply a bald assertion of the arbitrary.  An empty insanity dreamt up on a whim.

All entities that exist, act in the sense that they  participate with other entities and are ultimately open to our direct or indirect perception.

Edited by StrictlyLogical
##### Share on other sites

5 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

No. If 'existing' was a type of action, actions would hold metaphysical primacy. In other words, first there would be the platonic form of action, from which its numerous manifestations (including 'existing') would spring.

But actions can't have metaphysical primacy. Let's say for a moment that existing is a type of action. But what is the most fundamental thing you can say about action? That it exists

Entities that exist, act. Entities that do not exist, do not act.

So a table is not "acting" when it is "preventing" a glass from hitting the floor. After all, the table is just being. But it has an effect on things around it. It has this stopping power that it is exerting. It seems to be interacting with the things on it.

##### Share on other sites

2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

That said, if one were to try to consider an entity which literally never acted, the entity necessarily never would have interacted (a kind of action) with anything else in the universe, the entity  could not directly or indirectly affect our sensory apparatus or anything else in universe for that matter which could form evidence of the senses from which we could build knowledge of it.  Such a thing is a ghost of no consequence whatever... wandering through a universe (if one could even intelligibly say this) with which it has no connection and being utterly unknowable.  In fact, such a thing, which here I hypothesized in absence of evidence (which evidence by definition could not exist in any case) is simply a bald assertion of the arbitrary.  An empty insanity dreamt up on a whim.

All entities that exist, act in the sense that they  participate with other entities and are ultimately open to our direct or indirect perception.

1

I have several questions based on your post but I will start by one. It seems the proper thing to say is that "all entities can act", they have that potential. There is no entity that is missing that potential.

I am leaning toward thinking that the action is not the best word, that I should use the word "interact" instead of "act". Because actions don't happen in a vacuum in a sense.

An entity causes the action and the action seems to have a linkage to a "subject of the action".

The dog eats (eats what?)

##### Share on other sites

To exist at all is to act, "act" in the ordinary active sense not a contrived passive sense.  A table which holds up a glass is acting in accord with Newton's Third Law of Motion (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) as applied to static entities.   Analyzing the same table-and-glass with the latest state-of-the-art physics does not change the conclusion that there are multiple entities acting and interacting as their attributes dictate..

A passive sense of action attributed to merely existing is an empty concept because it cannot refer to anything which is solely inherent to existing.  Any possible candidate referent of such a concept would have to be an attribute that necessarily interacted with other entities before we could become aware of it.  To return to Rand's short style phrases, "Existence is Identity" strictly contradicts "Existence has Identity".

##### Share on other sites

10 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

if one were to try to consider an entity which literally never acted, the entity necessarily never would have interacted (a kind of action) with anything else in the universe, the entity  could not directly or indirectly affect our sensory apparatus or anything else in universe for that matter which could form evidence of the senses from which we could build knowledge of it.  Such a thing is a ghost of no consequence whatever... wandering through a universe (if one could even intelligibly say this) with which it has no connection and being utterly unknowable.  In fact, such a thing, which here I hypothesized in absence of evidence (which evidence by definition could not exist in any case) is simply a bald assertion of the arbitrary.  An empty insanity dreamt up on a whim.

All entities that exist, act in the sense that they  participate with other entities and are ultimately open to our direct or indirect perception.

1

If all entities act, and all actions are interactions, then all entities interact.
Is this right?

and the next one

If existing is an action, then action is not always a change and all changes are actions but not all actions are changes.
If existing is not an action, then action is change.

Is this right?

##### Share on other sites

12 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

No. If 'existing' was a type of action, actions would hold metaphysical primacy. In other words, first there would be the platonic form of action, from which its numerous manifestations (including 'existing') would spring.

But actions can't have metaphysical primacy. Let's say for a moment that existing is a type of action. But what is the most fundamental thing you can say about action? That it exists

Entities that exist, act. Entities that do not exist, do not act.

1

I tried to understand what "metaphysical primacy" means, I still don't get it.

##### Share on other sites

In the case where a rock is thrown at a window ...
Shattering is something the window does when it is struck by a rock. The glass (entity / cause) is shattering (action / effect).

Can I say

The glass (entity / cause) with attribute (collision by rock) shatters (action / effect).

Is there a causal connection with the person throwing the rock? If so, how does the person put that into words? It seems it is not correct to say the person caused the shattering. And why not?

It seems as if the person throwing the rock is changing an attribute of the glass window. The person is changing the attribute (free from collisions) to (collision by rock). And of course, based on the rule above, a glass with that attribute will act/shatter.

I can't seem to say the throwing caused a collision that changed the attribute. That would be action to action causation.

## Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

• ### Recently Browsing   0 members

• No registered users viewing this page.

• ### Topics

• 73
• 377
• 12
• 1
• 0
• 278
• 11
• 0
• 0
• 22
×
• Create New...