Thursday, January 10, 2013

Causing Actual and Possible Effects

Below is a musing while I was finishing an essay.

I propose to reconceive the traditional distinction between cause and effect (efficient causation) given the assumption of two-way asymmetric causation. Rather than conceive them as two kinds of things, the latter being dependent on the former, we may distinguish them be saying that an efficient cause is an extreme asymmetry. For instance, if the existence of a distant car is the “cause” of the effect of my seeing a car, then it would be absurd to say that my perception materially altered the car. This is a case of extreme asymmetry. However, my experience of that car may lead me to seek it out and in fact materially alter it, because my friend really needed a snowball on the windshield … that happened to shatter the glass …. My point is that we need to stop thinking of causation solely in terms of efficient or material causation, but also in terms of the establishing of possibilities that may be realized in the future. Hence, causation is not just about creating actual effects, but about creating real possibilities. Experience alters the real possibilities for action, i.e., an alteration in real relations, that correlates with but is not reducible to a single physical change.

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