Cause and Effect: Mechanism and Explanation | stapelholm.info
Causal reasoning is the idea that any cause leads to a certain effect. This is an even more powerful causal relationship where a cause of increasing intensity. biological phenomena that a logician would undertake. We cannot discuss cause and effect in biology without first having . connection with the others it. This lesson explores the relationship between cause and effect and teaches you about the criteria for establishing a causal relationship, the.
This can be determined by statistical time series models, for instance, or with a statistical test based on the idea of Granger causalityor by direct experimental manipulation. The use of temporal data can permit statistical tests of a pre-existing theory of causal direction. For instance, our degree of confidence in the direction and nature of causality is much greater when supported by cross-correlationsARIMA models, or cross-spectral analysis using vector time series data than by cross-sectional data.
Derivation theories[ edit ] Nobel Prize laureate Herbert A. Simon and philosopher Nicholas Rescher  claim that the asymmetry of the causal relation is unrelated to the asymmetry of any mode of implication that contraposes. Rather, a causal relation is not a relation between values of variables, but a function of one variable the cause on to another the effect. So, given a system of equations, and a set of variables appearing in these equations, we can introduce an asymmetric relation among individual equations and variables that corresponds perfectly to our commonsense notion of a causal ordering.
The system of equations must have certain properties, most importantly, if some values are chosen arbitrarily, the remaining values will be determined uniquely through a path of serial discovery that is perfectly causal. They postulate the inherent serialization of such a system of equations may correctly capture causation in all empirical fields, including physics and economics. Manipulation theories[ edit ] Some theorists have equated causality with manipulability.
This coincides with commonsense notions of causations, since often we ask causal questions in order to change some feature of the world.
For instance, we are interested in knowing the causes of crime so that we might find ways of reducing it. These theories have been criticized on two primary grounds. First, theorists complain that these accounts are circular. Attempting to reduce causal claims to manipulation requires that manipulation is more basic than causal interaction. But describing manipulations in non-causal terms has provided a substantial difficulty.
The second criticism centers around concerns of anthropocentrism. It seems to many people that causality is some existing relationship in the world that we can harness for our desires. If causality is identified with our manipulation, then this intuition is lost. In this sense, it makes humans overly central to interactions in the world. Some attempts to defend manipulability theories are recent accounts that don't claim to reduce causality to manipulation. These accounts use manipulation as a sign or feature in causation without claiming that manipulation is more fundamental than causation.
As an example, a ball moving through the air a process is contrasted with the motion of a shadow a pseudo-process. The former is causal in nature while the latter is not. Salmon  claims that causal processes can be identified by their ability to transmit an alteration over space and time.
An alteration of the ball a mark by a pen, perhaps is carried with it as the ball goes through the air. On the other hand, an alteration of the shadow insofar as it is possible will not be transmitted by the shadow as it moves along. These theorists claim that the important concept for understanding causality is not causal relationships or causal interactions, but rather identifying causal processes.
The former notions can then be defined in terms of causal processes. Science[ edit ] For the scientific investigation of efficient causality, the cause and effect are each best conceived of as temporally transient processes.
Within the conceptual frame of the scientific methodan investigator sets up several distinct and contrasting temporally transient material processes that have the structure of experimentsand records candidate material responses, normally intending to determine causality in the physical world. The quantity of carrot intake is a process that is varied from occasion to occasion. The occurrence or non-occurrence of subsequent bubonic plague is recorded. To establish causality, the experiment must fulfill certain criteria, only one example of which is mentioned here.
For example, instances of the hypothesized cause must be set up to occur at a time when the hypothesized effect is relatively unlikely in the absence of the hypothesized cause; such unlikelihood is to be established by empirical evidence. A mere observation of a correlation is not nearly adequate to establish causality.
In nearly all cases, establishment of causality relies on repetition of experiments and probabilistic reasoning. Hardly ever is causality established more firmly than as more or less probable. It is often most convenient for establishment of causality if the contrasting material states of affairs are fully comparable, and differ through only one variable factor, perhaps measured by a real number.
The Principle of Causality
Otherwise, experiments are usually difficult or impossible to interpret. In some sciences, it is very difficult or nearly impossible to set up material states of affairs that closely test hypotheses of causality. Such sciences can in some sense be regarded as "softer". For example, a person gets badly hurt psychologically, but the damage does not take effect at once.
Several years may elapse and then in certain circumstances, among which the person's condition at the time has a certain significance, the effect begins to make itself felt in the symptoms of illness. When analysing causality we sometimes speak of a "minor" cause giving rise to major effects.
This so-called "minor cause of a major effect" is the cause not of the whole long and ramified chain of phenomena that produces the final result, but only the cause of the first link in the chain. Sometimes the "minor cause" is merely a factor that starts up quite different causal factors.
Causation and Explanation in Social Science
These are "triggering" factors, factors relating to the initial stage of avalanche processes and to a whole system's loss of labile equilibrium. Any phenomenon depends on a definite diversity of conditions to bring it into existence.
While it is only one of the circumstances conducive to a certain effect, the cause is the most active and effective element in this process, it is an interaction that converts necessary and sufficient conditions into a result. We sometimes treat the absence of something as a cause. For example, some illnesses are attributed to lack of resistance in an organism or a lack of vitamins.
Causation and Explanation in Social Science - Oxford Handbooks
However, absence should not be regarded as a cause but merely as a condition for disease. For a cause to actually take effect there must be certain conditions, that is to say, phenomena essential for the occurrence of the given event but not in themselves causing it. Conditions cannot in themselves give rise to the effect, but the cause is also powerless without them. No cause can give rise to illness if the organism is not susceptible to it.
We know that when a person's organism is infected with certain microbes he may fall ill or he may not. The way a cause takes effect and the nature of the consequence depend on the character of the conditions.
Sometimes there is only one direct and immediate cause of death or injury—a bullet. But more often the causes and conditions are intricately combined, some of them being only secondary circumstances. When discussing the relationship of cause and condition one must remember that the term "condition" is used in two senses, the narrow and the broad.
Apart from what we mean by condition in the narrow sense, conditions in the broad sense comprise such factors as "background" and "environment" and various factors of a causal nature. But there is no strict and consistent dividing line between the two basic senses of the term, just as there is no dividing line between condition and cause.
This fact often leads to an incorrect use of the two terms and to wrong definition of the various conditioning factors. Avoidance of incorrect usage is made all the more difficult by the overlapping of the accepted meanings of the two terms "cause" and "condition" and also the term "foundation". Science is gradually evolving special concepts relating to the categories of "foundation", "condition" and "cause", which, when used together with these categories, make it possible to define genetic links more exactly.
In various fields of knowledge the problem of the relationship between cause and condition is solved in different ways, depending mainly on the complexity of the relationships that are being studied, their uniformity or, on the contrary, the distinctness and comparative importance of separate factors.
But the degree of abstraction usually employed in the given science also affects the treatment of this question. So the meaning of the cause and condition categories in the system of concepts of various sciences may also differ considerably.
One could scarcely apply the relation of cause and condition that is revealed in studying, for example, physical phenomena, to physiological processes, or vice versa. Every phenomenon is related to other phenomena by connections of more than one value. It is the result both of certain conditions and certain basic factors that act as its cause. That is why the cause-effect connection has to be artificially isolated from the rest of conditions so that we can see this connection in its "pure form".
But this is achieved only by abstraction. In reality we cannot isolate this connection from the whole set of conditions. There is always a closely interwoven mass of extremely diverse secondary conditions, which leave their mark on the form in which the general connection emerges. This means that there can never be two exactly identical phenomena, even if they are generated by the same causes. They have always developed in empirically different conditions.
So there can be no absolute identity in the world. One and the same cause operating in similar conditions gives rise to similar effects.
When we change the conditions we may also change the way the cause operates and the character of the effect. But this principle becomes far more complex when it is applied to such unique events as those of geology and social science.Cause and Effect
While stressing the close connection between cause and condition, we should never confuse the two. The dividing line between them is mobile but significant. By creating new conditions we can even preclude the earlier possible causes of a certain event, that is, we can "veto" the manifestation of one cause and allow free play to another.
This explains the fact that by no means every cause unfailingly produces the expected effect. A distinction should be made between cause and occasion, that is to say, the external push or circumstance that sets in motion a train of underlying interconnections. For instance, a head cold may be the occasion for the onset of various diseases. One should never exaggerate the significance of occasions, they are not the cause of events.
Nor should one underestimate them because they are a kind of triggering mechanism. One way of discovering causal connections is to study functional connections. The causes of illness may be revealed by uncovering certain breakdowns in the functioning of the organism. A functional connection is a dependence of phenomena in which a change in one phenomenon is accompanied by a change in another.
Whereas, for example, a sociologist may be interested in population growth over a period of time and a physicist may be investigating changes in gas pressure in relation to changes of temperature, a mathematician sees here only a functional dependence of X on Y. The functional approach is particularly useful when we are studying processes whose intrinsic causal mechanism is unknown to us.
Establishing Cause and Effect
But when we wish to explain a phenomenon we have to ask what caused it. The concept of cause is identical not to the general concept of regularity but to the concept of causal regularity, which expresses the fact that a regular sequence of phenomena and conditions always takes the form of realisation of causal connections. In science the deterministic approach seeks to explain a process as being determined by certain causes and therefore predictable.
Thus determinism is not a mere synonym for causality. It involves the recognition of objective necessity, which in turn implies objective accidentality. Hence there is a close connection between the category of determinism and that of probability. The relationship between determinism and probability is one of the crucial philosophical problems of modern science.
In quantum mechanics it is associated with the indeterminacy relation, and in living nature with that of cause and aim. Determinism should not be contrasted to probability. There is no special "probabilistic causality". But there do exist probability, statistical laws, which are one of the forms of manifestation of determinism.
Determinism proceeds from recognition of the diversity of causal connections, depending on the character of the regularities operating in a given sphere. Every level of the structural organisation of being has its own specific form of interaction of things, including its specific causal relation ships. Higher forms of causal relationships should never be reduced to lower forms. From a methodological point of view it is essential to take into account the qualitative peculiarities and level of the structural organisation of being.
The dialectical approach is incompatible with mechanistic determinism, which interprets all the diversity of causes only as mechanical interaction, ignoring the unique qualities of the regularities of various forms of the motion of matter. Determinism was given its classical expression by Laplace, who formulated it as follows: Mechanistic determinism identifies cause with necessity and accident is completely ruled out. Such determinism leads to fatalism, to faith in an overruling destiny.
The development of science has gradually ousted mechanistic determinism from the study of social life, organic nature, and the sphere of physics. It is applicable only in certain engineering calculations involving machines, bridges and other structures. But this kind of determinism cannot explain biological phenomena, mental activity, or the life of society.
The character of causality is conditioned by the levels of the structural organisation of matter. In nature causality manifests itself in a different way from its manifestation in society. And in human behaviour causality emerges in the form of motivation. In nature determination acts in only one direction, from the present, which is a result of the past, to the future. Because of people's knowledge of the world, human activity is determined not only by present things but also by things, objects, events that are absent, not only by what surrounds man but also by that which may be far away from him in time and space, not only by the present and the past, but also by the future, which is viewed as an aim and becomes a motivation for men's activity.
Determination may thus have a two-way direction. Knowledge introduces the future into the determining principle of the present. The animal's active relationship with the environment is associated with a new type of determination: For example, birds build their nests in order to breed their young and protect them. The principle of determinism involves recognition of the objectivity, the universality of causal connections and has always played a vastly important methodological and heuristic role in scientific cognition.
The primary assumption for any scientific research has always been that all events of the natural and intellectual world obey a firm regular connection, known as the law of causality. Any field of knowledge would cease to be scientific if it abandoned the principle of causality. When observing the astonishing adaptation and "rational" organisation of plants and animals, or the "harmony" of the celestial spheres, people even in ancient times asked themselves where this harmonious organisation of all that exists had come from.
Thinkers have proceeded from various principles in trying to explain this phenomenon. The teleologists assume that there is an underlying purpose in everything, that at bottom nature has some intrinsic expectation and intention and is full of hidden meaning. The idea of teleology arises when a spontaneously operating cause comes to be regarded as a consciously acting cause, and even one that acts in a predetermined direction, that is to say, a goal-oriented cause.
This implies that the ultimate cause or aim is the future, which determines the process taking place in the present.
The doctrine that the universe as a whole is proceeding according to a certain plan cannot be proved empirically. The existence of an ultimate goal assumes that someone must have put it. Teleology therefore leads to theology. Instead of giving a causal explanation of why this or that phenomenon occurred in nature, teleology asks for what purpose it occurred. And to prove his case the teleologist usually refers to the purposeful structure of organisms in nature. One has only to observe the structure of the wing of a butterfly, the behaviour of an ant, a mole, a fish, in order to realise how purposefully everything is constructed.
The crudest form of teleology is the claim that nature provides some living creatures for the sake of others, for example, cats are provided in order to eat mice and mice are there to provide food for cats.
The goal of the whole process of evolution of the animal world is man and all the other animals were created to make things comfortable for man. Heinrich Heine tells the story of the contented bourgeois with a "foolishly knowing" face who tried to teach him the principles of such teleology. He drew my attention, says Heine, "to the purpose and usefulness of everything in nature. The trees were green because the green colour was good for the eyes.
I agreed with him and added that God had created cattle because beef tea was good for man's health, that He had created the donkey so that people could make comparisons, and that He had created man himself so that man could eat beef tea and not be a donkey.
My companion was delighted at finding a fellow thinker in me, he beamed with joy and was quite sorry to leave me.
Teleology feeds on the belief that everything revolves around us and has us in mind. Instead of giving a causal explanation why this or that natural phenomenon occurred, teleology offers conjectures about the purpose served by its appearance. But can one ask nature, as though it were a rational being, why it created such a strange world of forms and colours? Can one accuse it of malicious intent when it produces ugliness? Nature is indifferent, it does not care whether it creates a lion or a fly.
The relative perfection that allows its creatures to orient themselves in the environment, the adaptation to conditions and the adequacy of their reactions to external stimuli, which is found in all animals and plants, are real facts.
The structure, for example, of the stem of a plant can serve as a model for an architect who sets himself the task of designing the strongest possible structure with the smallest quantity of materials and the greatest economy in weight.