• Gnomon
    3.5k
    Quoted from the A first cause is logically necessary thread :


    Is there no end to dialogs about First Cause? Can these threads become infinite? — Gnomon

    Ha ha! Its good to have a sense of humor about this. Always appreciate your contributions Gnomon. — Philosophim

    Ho, ho, ho! Apparently, the final answer to my rhetorical endless-dialog weary-query is "42?". Some philosophical questions, once borne into being, just won't go away. I just found a new thread*1, on the same old timeless subject --- the beginning of beginnings --- asserting that the emergence of cause-effect-space-time from Nothing (i.e. no space, no time) is logically impossible. But others take issue with that inductive*2 assumption, which Hume destructed. Some seem to postulate that the idea of "eternity-infinity" is thinkable, therefore logically plausible. So, brandishing our ironic swords, back to the cyclical-beginning we go again, once more, encore!

    Since the assumption of incessant causation is of interest to posters on this forum, why not do like the astronomers in the 1950s did : from repeated observations of expanding space, they traced the evidence back to a point of no-further-evidence, leaving the Original Cause of expansion as an open question for feckless philosophers to waste spare-time on. So "once more unto the breach!", let's work backwards from the current observation of expanding-natural-sentience-into-artificial-intelligence, keeping our rational eyes peeled for evidence of the elusive space-time origin of thinking beings, from whatever source. Who wants to go first? :grin:

    PS___I'm proposing a new thread with similar implications but different presumptions : a First Cause implies a Final Cause, produced by the operations of an Efficient Cause, working in the medium of a Material Cause. What could we call it? The First Concept? The god-who-shall-not-be-named inquiry? Oooops, I did it begin.!

    *1. Creation from nothing is not possible :
    This means that {in space-time} time is required for the act of creation. There is no time in nothing therefore the creation from nothing is impossible. {my bracket}
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/14998/creation-from-nothing-is-not-possible

    *2. Induction :
    "assumes that the future will resemble the past"
    Philosophy Magazine, Feb-Mar 2024
  • Lionino
    1.4k
    a First Cause implies a Final Cause, produced by the operations of an Efficient Cause, working in the medium of a Material CauseGnomon

    ?
  • Gnomon
    3.5k
    a First Cause implies a Final Cause, produced by the operations of an Efficient Cause, working in the medium of a Material Cause — Gnomon
    ?
    Lionino

    Aristotle's Four Causes :
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-causality/
  • Lionino
    1.4k
    I am aware of teleology. I messed up the quotes. What I meant was:

    a First Cause implies a Final Cause, produced by the operations of an Efficient Cause, working in the medium of a Material Cause. What could we call it? The First Concept? The god-who-shall-not-be-named inquiry?Gnomon

    "What could we call it" refers to the first cause? First causes are typically called prime mover or unmoved mover in English. In Greek, it is/was typically called arhí (ἀρχή), meaning beggining, rule, even empire, and discussions about it predate Aristotle.
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    It has seemed to me that the effort involves supposing that an(y) artifact of language (e.g., about so-called first causes) has anything to do with physical reality. Recognize that it doesn't and the problem of reconciling irreconcilables evaporates.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Question: if the future need not resemble the past, why did you say a first cause needs a final cause. Your post seemed contradictory to me
  • ucarr
    1.2k


    "What could we call it" refers to the first cause?Lionino

    Gnomon is asking what title should be affixed to this conversation.
  • ucarr
    1.2k


    ...supposing that an(y) artifact of language...has anything to do with physical reality. Recognize that it doesn't and the problem of reconciling irreconcilables evaporates.tim wood

    So, why are you two posting here? I don't suppose you refute the notion written narratives have no relationship to material things. Do you?

    180 Proof, if you respond, I expect you to nuance away from the simple premise implied by my question.
  • 180 Proof
    14.1k
    Clarify what are you asking about – I don't see the relevance.
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    The hazard, it seems to me, is that language itself is paradox-prone. Insofar as the paradox creates a mess and the mess needs cleaning up, the usual rule for cleaning up messes is to clean them up where they are and not where they are not. Cantor's paradox (about set theory) arises out of descriptive language thought entirely sound but found to be flawed, the remedy being to fix - qualify - the language. A set of all sets seems at first reasonable; it turns out not to be.

    The "paradox" of first beginnings is an applying of language to the world. The world being neither obliged to cooperate with nor obey language, paradox in this case nature's way of saying "Dead-end. Turn about and go another way." Which is good advice.

    A digression: it is a sign of intellectual maturity to both recognize good advice when and where met, and to follow it.

    But first beginnings is an itch just crying out to be scratched! Since this is about the world (and not about knowledge of the world) the right approach is to conform the language to the world, and not the world to language. In practical terms that means to define, define define, the defining being refining/qualifying the language about the world until it works.

    As "first cause," for example, implies temporality, that has to be understood as to what that is, and if it applies. For thee and me that's easy: the sandwich has to be made before it can be eaten. For the world itself, not so easy. And indeed it may be that temporal priority is an irrelevant dead-end!

    Dead ends can be fun to explore; but it is a mistake to suppose they're the way to anyplace in particular.
  • ucarr
    1.2k


    Let me correct myself. When I posed my question to you and tim wood, I was understanding tim wood to be questioning generally about the relationship between words -- as in propositions -- and empirical experience. Now I see -- I think -- that tim wood is questioning specifically about a relationship between the proposition: "There is a first cause." and empirical experience.

    This latter interpretation of tim wood's meaning has him saying of the proposition: "It's a false claim. There are no first causes.

    Now, let me correct my attempted correction. I see in tim woods' response above that, indeed, he has clarified his meaning. So, yes, my first interpretation is correct after all. He is questioning the relationship between words and empirical experience.

    I find much in his clarification agreeable. So, I find your endorsement of tim woods' first post understandable and reasonable.
  • ucarr
    1.2k


    [Georg ?] Cantor's paradox (about set theory) arises out of descriptive language thought entirely sound but found to be flawed, the remedy being to fix - qualify - the language. A set of all sets seems at first reasonable; it turns out not to be.tim wood

    I'm interested in learning how and why "A set of all sets" is not reasonable. Are you referring to the ZFC restriction of the comprehension axiom and how they avoid Russell's Paradox and fixed Frege's math set theory premises? Can you pass along citations to this literature?

    The "paradox" of first beginnings is an applying of language to the world. The world being neither obliged to cooperate with nor obey language, paradox in this case nature's way of saying "Dead-end. Turn about and go another way."tim wood

    When you say "paradox in this case nature's way of saying "Dead-end. Turn about and go another way,"are you invoking the principle of non-contradiction?
  • Gnomon
    3.5k
    It has seemed to me that the effort involves supposing that an(y) artifact of language (e.g., about so-called first causes) has anything to do with physical reality. Recognize that it doesn't and the problem of reconciling irreconcilables evaporates.tim wood
    Along with any reason for doing philosophy. :smile:
  • Lionino
    1.4k
    :up: It is the classical drawing empirical conclusions from a priori premises.

    Gnomon is asking what title should be affixed to this conversation.ucarr

    :chin: I guess the thread answered its own question?
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    I'm interested in learning how and why "A set of all sets" is not reasonable.ucarr
    This site was referenced in another thread.
    https://math24.net/paradoxes-set-theory.html
    It is too clear, simple, and brief for papaphrase. Take a look.
  • Gnomon
    3.5k
    "What could we call it" refers to the first cause? First causes are typically called prime mover or unmoved mover in English. In Greek, it is/was typically called arhí (ἀρχή), meaning beggining, rule, even empire, and discussions about it predate Aristotle.Lionino
    No, "it" refers to the name of this thread. Don't overthink "it".

    Aristotle's summation of causation was not presented as the first attempt to make sense of incessant change in the world. It was just an example of a well-reasoned approach to the metaphysical question of why the world just won't stand still. Reality might be easier to deal with if today was just like yesterday, no unexpected events to anticipate. But if there was no change from time to time, how did Philosophy Forum posters come to be? Are philosophical arguments eternal & infinite, as questioned in the OP?

    After a long desultory dialog on the ancient First Cause question, I thought it might be fun (philosophically) to turn the reasoning around, and instead of assuming that there must be an original act of causation --- raising the possibility of an act of creation of something from nothing --- let's try to work backwards (timewise) from Now to the time-dated emergence of Sentience in a material world.

    However you define physical Causal Evolution, follow the chain of Causation back, not to the absolute beginning of everything, but merely toward a reasonable explanation for the age-old Consciousness conundrum*1. Imagine a day without a thought, then due to some mechanical physical process, a day with an idea emerges. This tactic would avoid any supernatural "First" presumptions, by arbitrarily defining space-time as eternal & infinite. Hence, there would be no First, and no Final Cause, just consecutive differences in being, for no purpose that rational philosophy could reason out, but that empirical science can demonstrate.

    Since the earlier FC thread, not the First or Last, had exhausted most arguments in favor of, or opposed to, the notion of a First Cause (creator?), maybe looking for a First Concept (knower) would give us a fresh angle of attack. That's why I entitled this thread "The First Concept", and not the First Act of Causation. If the primitive universe was totally mindless, at what point along the way did conceptual abstractions emerge from concrete reality? On the other hand, if Consciousness was intrinsic to the physical world from the beginning (Panpsychism), why did it take so long (14BY) for sentient beings to emerge?

    Was the first Concept born in the brain of an upright ape, or was Awareness inherent in the universe from the beginning of Time (however you define that word)? Discuss amongst yourselves. :smile:


    *1. The physical state of conscious conception :
    The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why any physical state is conscious rather than nonconscious.
    https://iep.utm.edu/hard-problem-of-conciousness/
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    When you say "paradox in this case nature's way of saying "Dead-end. Turn about and go another way, "are you invoking the principle of non-contradiction?ucarr
    You're on the wrong road. Non-contradiction may guide how I think about what I think about, but it has nothing to do with the world.

    If you wish to understand first causes, then at the least you shall have to decide what context you're in. Language? Then it appears the language yields paradox. The world? No apparent paradox, but also no easy understanding.

    A trivial example: if I claim to be a faster runner than anyone, likely you will have a good understanding of what I mean, that I am fastest in my school, community, age-group, the world, whatever. But one thing I cannot be is faster than anyone, because I am an anyone, and that would mean I am faster than myself. So, while in the world I may be fast, the language fails as description. I'll opine here that all paradox is simply one sign of failure to understand - failure of language.
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    Along with any reason for doing philosophy.Gnomon
    Along with any reason for doing foolish philosophy. But one place a fool never sees a fool is in a mirror. I attest to this from my personal experience with mirrors.
  • Gnomon
    3.5k
    ↪tim wood
    :up: It is the classical drawing empirical conclusions from a priori premises.
    Gnomon is asking what title should be affixed to this conversation. — ucarr
    :chin: I guess the thread answered its own question?
    Lionino
    What empirical conclusion do you infer from the open-ended question of First Concept? Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to provide the empirical evidence to support your personal conclusion to the question of "where did ideas come from?". Did storks drop them down the chimney?

    No, the title is still open to suggestions. I could have simply put a question mark in the Title register. But I can change the title if someone comes up with a better one. However, the question of "First Concept" is what I had in mind (a priori) for this discussion, as noted in my reply to Lionino above. Was there a First Idea, or was Ideation always a component of the material world? So many titles, so little time. :smile:
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    What empirical conclusion do you infer from the open-ended question of First Concept?Gnomon
    What do I infer? That lacking a lot of preliminary groundwork, mostly in establishing working definitions - though they be provisional and subject to change, pace Banno! - the question remains a non-sense question. That is, an attempt to make sense where there is no sense to be made.

    Temporality is implied in "first." Admittedly we're all temporal beings, and make sense of our world in terms of before, after, during. But what does modern physics say? For events space-like related which came first depends on who you ask - and notions of entanglement make that even more difficult to understand.

    And definitions - even understandings - partake of the nature of templates. But I believe it is Wittgenstein's observation that notwithstanding the efficacy of some templates, all templates are imposed and thus nothing of the world itself.

    (But) we exist in such a way that our templates appear to get the world's work done, with improvements over time - maybe it's evolutionary. And it is understandable that people would confuse their ideas about the world with being how the world actually works.
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k

    You are right. The discussions on the subject of First Cause can go forever. As those about the concept of time and a lot more.
    I have been involved in a few discussions about First Cause --whether its existence is necessary or not-- here and elsewhere. But I won't repeat myself here. As I was reading your description, a new idea came to my mind. Maybe it can be proved useful:

    Assuming one accepts the law of causality --i.e. every effect has a cause-- trying to find the First Cause is simply a vain effort. The chain of cause and effect is infinite. And trying to find the start of infinity --or anything that infinite-- makes no sense.
  • ucarr
    1.2k


    What do I infer? That lacking a lot of preliminary groundwork, mostly in establishing working definitions - though they be provisional and subject to change... the question remains a non-sense question...an attempt to make sense where there is no sense to be made.tim wood

    Are you steeped in linguistic philosophy?

    Temporality is implied in "first."... But what does modern physics say? For events space-like related which came first depends on who you ask - and notions of entanglement make that even more difficult to understand.tim wood

    Do you think language is inherently limited in its ability to characterize empirical experience truthfully and completely, or do you think language has innate potential to do this, but your endorsement of this characterization comes with the proviso that, up front, tremendous work over eons is necessary?

    ...it appears the language yields paradox. The world? No apparent paradox, but also no easy understanding.tim wood

    Do you think paradox exists only within language? I ask bearing in mind superposition at the quantum scale.
  • Gnomon
    3.5k
    Question: if the future need not resemble the past, why did you say a first cause needs a final cause. Your post seemed contradictory to meGregory
    Not I, but the estimable David Hume*1, said that Cause & Effect is based on an unprovable assumption that there is a causal connection between Before & After. It's a non-empirical universal principle, that humans believe-in without hard proof, because past-experience-based-arguments allow philosophers & scientists to make predictions of the future, that would otherwise require prophetic powers. That faith in the reliable & predictable laws of causation is the basis of Aristotle's argument for a necessary First Cause. I'm pretty sure he was not aware of our 21st century notion of logical mathematical Natural Laws, but he seemed confident that Prior & Posterior are causally related. Are you?

    However, Thomas Bayes showed that Past & Future are only Probabilistic related. So he devised a method for updating our beliefs with additional evidence*3. I suppose that we could now say that our Natural Laws are only statistically predictable within a margin of error :smile:

    *1. Hume's Problem of Induction :
    "A key issue concerning the plausibility of scientific arguments, which are inductive arguments (since they generate scientific laws from a limited number of observations) is whether we can prove the Future Will Resemble The Past Principle."
    Philosophy Now magazine, feb-mar 2024.

    *2. Natural Law :
    Aristotle (384–322 bce) held that what was “just by nature” was not always the same as what was “just by law,” that there was a natural justice valid everywhere with the same force and “not existing by people's thinking this or that,” and that appeal could be made to it from positive law. . . . In contrast, the Stoics conceived of an entirely egalitarian law of nature in conformity with the logos (reason) inherent in the human mind.
    https://www.britannica.com/topic/natural-law

    *3. Bayesian Inference :
    Bayesian inference . . . is a method of statistical inference in which Bayes' theorem is used to update the probability for a hypothesis as more evidence or information becomes available.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayesian_inference
  • Gnomon
    3.5k
    Along with any reason for doing foolish philosophy. But one place a fool never sees a fool is in a mirror. I attest to this from my personal experience with mirrors.tim wood
    Who you callin a fool, fool? :joke:

    Mirror reversal. That's why the famous philosopher Michael Jackson advised us to "talk to the man in the mirror". :cool:

    Man in the Mirror
    I'm starting with the man in the mirror
    I'm asking him to change his ways
    And no message could have been any clearer
    If you wanna make the world a better place
    Take a look at yourself and then make a change

    https://genius.com/Michael-jackson-man-in-the-mirror-lyrics
  • Gnomon
    3.5k
    What empirical conclusion do you infer from the open-ended question of First Concept? — Gnomon
    What do I infer? That lacking a lot of preliminary groundwork, mostly in establishing working definitions - though they be provisional and subject to change, pace Banno! - the question remains a non-sense question. That is, an attempt to make sense where there is no sense to be made.
    tim wood
    Are you inferring that there is no beginning or end to causation . . . or just to argumentation? On what basis? Did you participate in the First Cause thread referred to in the OP? Did you critique the "working definitions" that were presented there, to allow the postulators to make a change?

    Are the causal assumptions of Empirical Science (natural laws) also non-sensical?*1 Are you assuming that a First Cause, at least 14B years before the invention of empirical Science, is an evidence-based, rather than reason-based question? If so, you missed the point of asking non-sensical hypothetical questions.

    I agree with your assumption that First Cause is not a viable scientific question. But this is not a scientific forum. In any case, this thread is explicitly not about the First Cause question, but about the questioner. The one who conceives of such "open-ended" queries. :smile:


    *1. The Assumptions on Which Causal Inferences Rest :
    Statisticians commonly make causal inferences from the results of randomized experiments, but usually question causal inferences from observational studies on the grounds that untestable assumptions are required.
    https://www.jstor.org/stable/2346206

    *2. Open-ended question :
    An open-ended question is a question that cannot be answered with a "yes" or "no" response, or with a static response. Open-ended questions are phrased as a statement which requires a longer answer. They can be compared to closed questions which demand a “yes”/“no” or short answer. ___Wikipedia
  • Gnomon
    3.5k
    Assuming one accepts the law of causality --i.e. every effect has a cause-- trying to find the First Cause is simply a vain effort. The chain of cause and effect is infinite. And trying to find the start of infinity --or anything that infinite-- makes no sense.Alkis Piskas
    The premise that "the chain of Cause & Effect is infinite" is also an ungrounded assumption. Where's the empirical evidence for Infinity? "Vanity of vanities" : to count infinity on an abacus*1.

    Anyway, the point of this thread is to avoid infinities, and to trace Cause & Effect only back to the First Concept within space-time. When & where & how did Matter become self-conscious enough to ask about its own origin? This is only a thought experiment, no material evidence required. :smile:


    *1. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

    What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.

    Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
    It has been already
    in the ages before us.

    There is no remembrance of former things,
    nor will there be any remembrance
    of later things yet to be
    among those who come after.

    ___Ecclesiastes 1:2-11
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    Assuming one accepts the law of causalityAlkis Piskas
    And there you have it. Assuming you accept X, you get Con(X) (consequences of X). Except of course when you don't, then you can either reject X, or develop X', and maybe X'' or X'''.

    I am under the impression cause-and-effect is no longer accepted in much of physics as being the right account for how the world works. The point I suppose when looking at foundational concepts, is to question everything and assume nothing, so far as is possible. As it must be that some assumptions are made, it remains to make them explicit and to test them to see if they "work." The idea of a first cause or concept seems not to work (in this context) leading to paradox. That alone would suggest it be rejected.
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    Are you steeped in linguistic philosophy?ucarr
    Not that I know of.
    Do you think language is inherently limited in its ability to characterize empirical experience truthfully and completely, or do you think language has innate potential to do this, but your endorsement of this characterization comes with the proviso that, up front, tremendous work over eons is necessary?ucarr
    I think language can at best only deal with empirical experience - what other experience would there be? The trouble comes about when empirical experience is taken for the world itself as it is in itself.
    Do you think paradox exists only within language? I ask bearing in mind superposition at the quantum scale.ucarr
    I'm of the mind that there are no paradoxes in the world, only in descriptions of the world. Of course when descriptions are incomplete, that leaves apparent paradoxes.
  • ucarr
    1.2k


    I think language can at best only deal with empirical experience - what other experience would there be? The trouble comes about when empirical experience is taken for the world itself as it is in itself.tim wood

    You say language reaches its limit dealing with empirical experience. Can you elaborate on "dealing with"? For example, "Dealing with" means perceives and understands as if through a glass darkly.

    I've been forming the impression you see clearly two distinct experiences, one linguistic, the other hands-on_material.

    I'm of the mind that there are no paradoxes in the world, only in descriptions of the world.tim wood

    You think paradoxes logical things categorically apart from hands-on_material things?

    You think paradoxes the products of narratives made incoherent due to missing pieces? Do you have any ready-to-hand examples?
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Aristotle thought the world was eternal in the past and future. A constant loop. But something kept the whole from falling into its parts or losing all its parts and hence ceasing. Some way the world can be understood rationally, however that is. But why does this imply there was a First reason or a Final reason for the whole? Again the loop. Reality keeps the world alive
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