• Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    Every event must have an explanation [...] Everything has an explanation [...] Even if the universe is acausal then that just means that events are determined by probabilistic laws that can't be predicted.luckswallowsall

    Why "must" every event have an explanation? I can't argue that this is false, as there is no justification for that position (that I know of). But I also wonder what is your justification for saying that this is true? Is there such a justification?

    Your final sentence seems to say that even events which don't seem to have a cause/explanation actually do have one, but it's too complicated for us to predict, so it might look like there's no explanation. In short, you are supporting the position that there are no causeless events, nor can there be. Is this right?
  • luckswallowsall
    61
    It's just parsimony.

    if so far it seems that the world has explanations then it's more parsimonious to assume that that's the way the world works until there's evidence of something without an explanation.

    And the problem is that you can't have evidence of a world without explanations because that would require an explanation.

    And what's more likely, that sometimes there isn't an explanation or that sometimes we can't find one? I think the latter is clearly more parsimonious again.

    We have a world that makes sense and we can often make sense of it but sometimes can't. After all, sometimes it seems that there wasn't an explanation and then we later discover that there was all along and we just failed to find it previously.

    It's the same reason that monism is more likely than dualism. If there's no evidence of two kinds of ultimate substances then why assume it? Assume there's one kind of thing unless there's any evidence to the contrary. And if there can't ever be any evidence to the contrary then stick with one because it's more parsimonious.

    "Your final sentence seems to say that even events which don't seem to have a cause/explanation actually do have one"

    Well, I'm just saying that even an acausal explanation is a cause in a wider sense. It's just acausal in a scientific sense. If X happens *because of* Y then why is the cause in a wider sense even if Y is a probabilistic cause rather than a stereotypical clockwork-style "deterministic" one.

    " but it's too complicated for us to predict, so it might look like there's no explanation. In short, you are supporting the position that there are no causeless events, nor can there be. Is this right?"

    That is another possibility. And it is actually the view that I hold. That determinism is actually true and what seems to be acausal from the perspective of science is just down to a failure in our understanding. Acausality is really pseudo-acausality just like rolling some dice is pseudo-randomness (because it's really down to physics rather than actual randomness).

    I think it's far more likely that scientists are unable to find causes once we get down to the quantum level than it is the case that there actually are no causes.

    And, again, I'm using "cause" in a wide sense. Because scientists like to redefine stuff so that their models can help them make sense of their experiments and theories about what they observe.

    In the scientific sense I'm sure it is indeed the case that the quantum world is acausal. But here we're talking philosophy. Scientific indeterminism is perfectly compatible with philosophical determinism. Philosophical determinism says that there is only one actually possible future ... and scientific indeterminism just deals with observations and what is unable to be predicted.

    Plus, there are arguments against scientific realism:

  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    if so far it seems that the world has explanations then it's more parsimonious to assume that that's the way the world works until there's evidence of something without an explanation.luckswallowsall

    Yes, so it is, so that's what we do. :smile: But the point here is to wonder if our axioms (assumptions) are valid, and what would it be like if they weren't? Hence I wonder if causality is always true, and what if it isn't? Just wondering, you understand. I definitely do not assert that causality is wrong (or right). :up:

    the problem is that you can't have evidence of a world without explanations because that would require an explanationluckswallowsall

    It would? Why? It seems possible that there are (or could be) things that do not have or require an explanation, they just are. An explanation might tell you why things are what they are. Like those headphones you hire in an exhibition, that explain what you're seeing. Do we really think the world has built-in explanations, put there just for us? Couldn't the world just be what it is, and do what it does, without providing an explanation for curious humans? Put that way, it seems mad to expect an explanation, doesn't it? :joke: :gasp: :wink:
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    I think it's far more likely that scientists are unable to find causes once we get down to the quantum level than it is the case that there actually are no causes.luckswallowsall

    This bothers me. To say something is likely indicates that we have some idea of how likely it is. I.e. what the probability is of it happening or being, or whatever. Is there a way - a proper statistical way - of even estimating that probability, or is that just something we claim to bolster our own beliefs, as people often do in everyday conversation? All the way through your post, you advise the application of Occam's Razor. Fair enough. But it is just a rule of thumb, nothing more. And in this topic, we are trying to go beyond our simple everyday assumptions, to examine them more closely. So we set parsimony aside, if only temporarily. :smile:
  • luckswallowsall
    61
    No, to say something is likely doesn't mean that we know the precise probability.

    We can't put a precise probability on the existence of God but that doesn't stop God from being highly improbable.

    Parsimony, lack of parsimony, evidence, lack of evidence, etc—none of these things give us exact probabilities ... but they certainly give us good reason to believe that something can be very far away from 50% ... in either direction.

    Setting parsimony aside would be really silly because it's one of the basic principles of deciding how likely a belief is to be true when there is no direct evidence either way. When you can't prove a negative parsimony is *extremely* important. Again, God is the perfect example.
  • Willyfaust
    21
    Cause and effect are one frequency. They are not separated. They are time.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    Setting parsimony aside would be really silly because it's one of the basic principles of deciding how likely a belief is to be true when there is no direct evidence either way.luckswallowsall

    On the contrary. Occam's Razor is not a "principle", nor is it a law or a rule. It's just a heuristic; a rule of thumb; a way of guessing that seems to deliver better-than-random results. We use it when there is no better tool to hand. In the case where there is no evidence, such as the existence of God, the Razor leads us into a logical fallacy. In this case "argument from ignorance".

    We can't put a precise probability on the existence of God but that doesn't stop God from being highly improbable.luckswallowsall

    To the first part of the sentence: agreed. :up: To the second part, which directly contradicts the (correct and accurate) first part, I offer this: please suggest any valid statistical method, technique or theory that would allow you to make even the vaguest estimate of the probability of God's existence, bearing in mind that there is no evidence at all. In saying that God's existence is "highly improbable", you go beyond the evidence, in defiance of logic and reasoning.
  • SpaceNBeyond
    11
    I think.
    Causeless can be exist and not be exist.
    Its Impossible and Possible at the same time.
    Let's say we are going to create something out of nothing and that thing is suddenly popped and exist like its nothing, It is said Causeless because that thing is suddenly exist without any cause. But its also considered 'Cause' because hey, we wanted to do it right?
  • charles ferraro
    85


    The terminology of cause and effect seems to me to beg the question.
    Instead, let us ask if it is possible for any physical entity or event to exist spontaneously and in isolation from all other physical entities and events. Haven’t physicists determined that certain virtual particles emerge spontaneously from the quantum background (empty space)?
  • GodlessGirl
    18
    Effects by definition are caused.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    Effects by definition are caused.GodlessGirl

    Yes, this topic recognises that causality is a dogma that is created solely by definition, and wonders whether the creation of this axiom is actually justified? :chin:
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    I think.
    Causeless can be exist and not be exist.
    Its Impossible and Possible at the same time.
    Let's say we are going to create something out of nothing and that thing is suddenly popped and exist like its nothing, It is said Causeless because that thing is suddenly exist without any cause. But its also considered 'Cause' because hey, we wanted to do it right?
    SpaceNBeyond

    A causeless event does not describe something being created from nothing, it refers only to something happening spontaneously.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    Instead, let us ask if it is possible for any physical entity or event to exist spontaneously and in isolation from all other physical entities and events.charles ferraro

    No, this isn't about existence, or creation, it's about causality. So, as you suggest, let's ask if it is possible for any event to happen spontaneously, and definitely not "in isolation from all other events". If an event is causeless, if there is such a thing, it can still happen in the context of, and in association with, all the other events happening in the universe. :chin: I don't think "causeless" means "unconnected"; I think it means 'without a cause'. :up:
  • charles ferraro
    85


    Hume thought it meant our inability to experience any necessary connections between or among empirical entities or events. Are you saying he was wrong?
  • Marty
    163
    The general problem I see with Hume's position is that causation is defined as a relation that relates two events or objects that takes place in a diachronic sequence. However, that assumption seems to be predicated on a false assumption: mainly that cause and event are distinct due to it being imaginable, in which he fails to hold a distinction between the intellect and imagination, and secondly, that it treats the world as a series of discrete events. If we don't take the phenomenological primitive to be discrete piece-meal moments, but rather treat the continuous as being primitive than this opens up a view of process ontology. In which case: the cause and effect are occurring at the same time, and also interdependently causing each other. So, A causes B which causes A, in a synchronic sequence. The tools in a diachronic sequence to determine causation just simply isn't sufficent; they are under-descriptions of any phenomenon.
  • Mark Dennis
    168
    "IMO, the best philosophy tries to break new ground. That isn't easy, but that's no reason not to try, is it?"

    Couldn't agree more. As for QM, it is debated as to whether it is truly probabilistic or just seems to be that way. Is it our observation that determines the state/vector of a particle with wave/particle duality or does our observation merely observe the state/vector it was always on.

    If it is the former, then I would say that all effects still have causes, however some effects can locate their causes as being in front of them in time. It's not as simple as a past cause creates a future effect.

    Here is an example of what I mean, what caused the piano to be invented? The effect is the piano being invented, the cause came from the conceptualisation of a future with Pianos. The issue I have with determinism is that it implies with enough time an astute and intelligent person could have predicted the invention of the piano, while I believe the piano itself was predictable, the details, composition, first note played, first song played and first song made would never be predictable.

    As for why I say this, because of the quantum theory of mind. If everything supervenes QM, and the quantum theory of mind is correct then this might be a direct contest to the idea that all mental properties supervenes physical properties. Whether or not this means that what we think of as mental properties aren't really mental but also physical I don't know. It does raise some interesting questions about quantum accomodation within philosophy. Will Philosophers fall behind if they keep dismissing all QM arguments as woo? Or should it be the duty of philosophers to gain an understanding of QM in order to reduce the amount of woo? Quantum accomodare friends. It's a thing.

    I don't know if my thinkings on this are a bunch of woo, however the danger posed to philosophy by Quantum accomodated arguments cannot be overlooked, as how do you determine if a QM theory is woo without attempting to develop a working understanding of QM? Without a working understanding of QM how could you ever know if a Qauntum accomodated philosophy is true in either the traditional or pragmatic sense?
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    As for QM, it is debated as to whether it is truly probabilistic or just seems to be that way. Is it our observation that determines the state/vector of a particle with wave/particle duality or does our observation merely observe the state/vector it was always on.

    If it is the former, then I would say that all effects still have causes, however some effects can locate their causes as being in front of them in time. It's not as simple as a past cause creates a future effect.
    Mark Dennis

    If the effect precedes its 'cause', this isn't "causality" (as we define, and understand, it), is it? It is more a redefinition of our existing term to avoid admitting that causality doesn't work in such a case, isn't it? :chin:
  • Mark Dennis
    168
    I'm not sure yet, this has been something that has been playing around in my head. Just an observation that Events can be the cause of themselves when they are formed by abstractions about the future. If I imagine a future with a never before seen instrument, and then I make that instrument then what caused the instrument?

    Well I mean, it should still be called causality because the instrument still has a cause. However some of the properties of the instrument and the details can only come from abstractions about the future. While they can be predicted to be anything within certain probabilities "The instrument will be made from materials found on earth" they cannot be predicted exactly.

    Some aspects of the instrument will still be caused by the past, for example the person has a past which makes them predisposed to inventing instruments and being interested in music, they also know of instruments invented in the past which enables them to know what it is in the first place.

    So I guess the best way to phrase this question, can Events be the Cause of themselves? Was the Piano creation event determined by an imaginary view of itself in the future?

    So as much as I wanted there to be a credible argument against determinism I dont think this is it, just that the concept is perhaps softer than people think. However if you think this means causality doesnt work in this case at all feel free to expand on that line of thinking and justify it for us.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    So as much as I wanted their to be a credible argument against determinism I dont think this is it, just that the concept is perhaps softer than people think. However if you think this means causality doesnt work in this case at all feel free to expand on that line of thinking and justify it for us.Mark Dennis

    I don't dispute what you describe, and I too find it very interesting. :up: My point is only that I think it misleading to use the term "causality" to describe something very different from the general definition of causality, where the effect chronologically precedes its own cause. As long as we retain and use the old term, the more we obscure the difference between this new circumstance and the 'traditional' ones. :chin:
  • Mark Dennis
    168
    You're probably right. I also don't want to reach the conclusion that events can only have one cause instead of myriad contributing factors. Let me try and think up some preliminary appropriate wording... So maybe the correct thing to say is that the piano was caused by life of inventor/inventor themselves with a future abstraction contributive factor?
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    So maybe the correct thing to say is that the piano was caused by life of inventor/inventor themselves with a future abstraction contributive factor?Mark Dennis

    Again, it's the terms that bother me. Please don't misunderstand: I'm not being a vocabulary-nazi here. I'm not insisting on the creation of a new term whenever we discover something a bit different. But I am observing that if we re-use old terms to describe new things, we tell ourselves that 'they're the same, really'. Don't we? :wink: And we tell ourselves in a way that isn't obvious, unless we pause and think more carefully.

    Maybe my point is without use or value, I'm not sure. But this is an interesting subject, and it is worth discussing further, IMO. :up:

    Let me try and think up some preliminary appropriate wording...Mark Dennis

    Please do!
  • Mark Dennis
    168
    Actually, I used Caused correctly there as I was referring to the past contributing factors of the inventor such as childhood, interest in music, formative experiences that preceded the idea event of the piano which is the part you have the problem with saying is cause in the general term as it deals with a future.

    Coming up with terms in philosophy is pretty fair game and one thing you’ll find is that some of the concepts we already know are interpreted differently by different philosophers. For example: Kants definition of The Sublime is much different than the understanding of the word we likely both grew up with. Kants Sublime is a phenomenological observation of the feeling one gets when watching something grand, natural and dangerous but viewed from a safe distance. So Kants Sublime is the feeling of awe and mild fear when watching a storm.

    However the general definition of just sublime can be attributed to a good meal.
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    Haven’t physicists determined that certain virtual particles emerge spontaneously from the quantum background (empty space)?charles ferraro

    - No-one has ever observed directly a virtual particle, they theoretical concepts only indeed the theory says they will be unobservable
    - They are better regarded as fluctuations in quantum fields rather than actual particles
    - Effects attributed to virtual particles like the Casimir effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect) have other plausible effects
    - Virtual particles are supposed to pop up out of the void in particle/anti-particle pairs, last for a few fractions of a second, then (neatly and suspiciously) annihilate leaving no trace.
    - Conservation of energy is respected. No new net matter/energy is created.

    They might be real, but its pretty clear they can have no impact on the real, macro world so would have no impact on macro causality.

    The only claim for a macro, causal effect from VPs I'm aware of is that they are sometimes claimed as the source of a 'something from nothing' event that started the universe - VPs popped up out of nothing, formed a critical mass that somehow started cosmic inflation off and then disappeared (respecting conservation of energy) but leaving cosmic inflation behind. If this was a naturally occurring event then with infinite time, we'd have infinite instance cosmic inflation ripping the universe asunder - which is clearly not the case.
  • Bill Hobba
    28
    There are a lot of misconceptions about QM and virtual particles is one of the more insidious
    https://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/0609163.pdf

    Basically its just a name for terms in a Dyson series when represented pictorially in a Feynman Diagram. They are no more a particle in the classical or quantum sense than squiggles on some paper are.

    In QM particles are emitted and absorbed without cause all the time:
    http://www.physics.usu.edu/torre/3700_Spring_2015/What_is_a_photon.pdf

    Of course science is only provisional - a cause may be found one day - but in principle it certainly is possible and in the current theory it is like that. Note according to the QM you likely learned at school electrons in a hydrogen atom is in a stationary state. But because electrons are charged they are coupled to the quantum EM field that modern physics thinks permeates everywhere. That means the electron is not quite stationary and will, according to the theory, change state and emit a photon unpredictably according to the math of the Fermi Golden Rule (the coupling to the EM Field is viewed as a perturbation):
    http://staff.ustc.edu.cn/~yuanzs/teaching/Fermi-Golden-Rule-No-II.pdf

    So yes in principle you can have effects without cause (ie when a photon will be emitted) but we know the cause of it being emitted in the first place. So its a bit nuanced - I will let those better than me at philosophy discuss that one.

    Thanks
    Bill
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    Coming up with terms in philosophy is pretty fair game and one thing you’ll find is that some of the concepts we already know are interpreted differently by different philosophers.Mark Dennis

    Agreed, and there are other strong arguments opposing what I said; arguments that I would often have deployed myself. I said what I did because we're kicking out at sacred cows here. If it should be that there are causeless effects, or 'reverse causality', it would be too easy to unconsciously deny such a thing by pretending that causality remains valid because we continue to use the same term. Perhaps I was focussing too closely on this aim? :wink:

    No-one has ever observed directly a virtual particleDevans99

    Yes, in another discussion, we might be observing that we humans have no sensory/perceptual access to that which is. In the same way, we can't see much that is smaller than a grain of salt, so the very existence of such things can only be inferred. And when the particles are non-physical, and maybe "virtual" too, things don't get any easier. But does this address the question of whether conventional causality applies universally? I'm not sure. :chin:
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    The first document is quite an interesting read - thanks. He makes quite a spirited defence of determinism and Bohmian mechanics. I've pulled out a few passages that seem relevant to this discussion:

    ’On the other hand, the usual form of QM does not say anything about actual deterministic causes that lie behind the probabilistic quantum phenomena. This fact is often used to claim that QM implies that nature is fundamentally random. Of course, if the usual form of QM is really the ultimate truth, then it is true that nature is fundamentally random. But who says that the usual form of QM really is the ultimate truth? (A serious scientist will never claim that for any current theory.) A priori, one cannot exclude the existence of some hidden variables (not described by the usual form of QM) that provide a deterministic cause for all seemingly random quantum phenomena. Indeed, from the experience with classical pseudorandom phenomena, the existence of such deterministic hidden variables seems a very natural hypothesis’

    ’Most experts familiar with the Bohmian interpretation agree that the observable predictions of this interpretation are consistent with those of the standard interpretation, but they often prefer the standard interpretation because the standard interpretation seems simpler to them.’

    ’There is only agreement that if hidden variables (that is, objective physical properties existing even when they are not measured) exist, then they must be nonlocal. Some experts consider this a proof that they do not exist, whereas other experts consider this a proof that QM is nonlocal.’

    We have never been able find a mechanism in maths that produces truly random behaviour and maths seems to mirror reality rather closely. Lacking randomness, all that is left is causality - we know of no other mechanism that the universe could use to as it goes about its business. So as a determinist, I think I have reason to remain hopeful.

    ’The calculational tool represented by Feynman diagrams suggests an often abused pic- ture according to which “real particles interact by exchanging virtual particles”. Many physicists, especially nonexperts, take this picture literally, as something that really and objectively happens in nature. In fact, I have never seen a popular text on particle physics in which this picture was not presented as something that really happens. Therefore, this picture of quantum interactions as processes in which virtual particles exchange is one of the most abused myths, not only in quantum physics, but in physics in general. Indeed, there is a consensus among experts for foundations of QFT that such a picture should not be taken literally. The fundamental principles of quantum theory do not even contain a notion of a “virtual” state. The notion of a “virtual particle” originates only from a specific mathematical method of calculation, called perturbative expansion.’

    ’Having in mind all these foundational problems with the concept of particle in QFT, it is still impossible to clearly and definitely answer the question whether the world is made of particles or fields.’

    ’To conclude, the claim that the fundamental principles of quantum theory are today
    completely understood, so that it only remains to apply these principles to various practical physical problems – is also a myth. Instead, quantum theory is a theory which is not yet completely understood at the most fundamental level and is open to further fundamental research.’


    This is very much my understanding - QM is an abstract set of statistical models that gives partial predictions of reality - they do not tell us about the actual nature of reality - and QM is not a finished article. QM does not tell us that reality is particles, waves, fields, strings or anything else. It just puts indistinct boundaries around the nature of reality in the form of statistical predictions and certain experimentally observed behaviours.

    So I doubt that the current version of QM proves existence of causeless effects - it seems it is not a precise enough description of reality to make any such claim. And even if such causeless effects are established through further research, their applicability to the macro world and macro questions (like the cause of the universe) would seem questionable.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    So I doubt that the current version of QM proves existence of causeless effects - it seems it is not a precise enough description of reality to make any such claim.Devans99

    I agree with this. But what you say applies to any and all scientific theories concerning 'reality'. After all, our theories serve only to map 'reality', not to define it. So I think it's fair to complement what you say with this: there is no scientific theory that accounts for, explains or justifies conventional causality: effects that are caused. Just as QM cannot justify or explain it, or any alternate form of causality.

    [And BTW, QM is science's most successful theory to date, by far, despite its non-intuitive flavour.]
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    That is true - causality is just an axiom - derived from empirically observed behaviour.

    - The micro world may truly never be fully understood (due to its micro nature), so we might never get an answer to the OP question.

    - Performing an experiment that demonstrates causality holds universally is obviously not possible.

    - The performing of an experiment that rules out causality holding universally? I am not sure that is possible either. There is always a get out of saying some non-local cause is responsible for the supposed causeless effect (or appealing to a hidden underlying deterministic reality)

    - Retrocausality does not count as causeless effects IMO. But there are possible instances of it like the famous quantum eraser (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retrocausality#Physics)
  • Mark Dennis
    168



    If it should be that there are causeless effects, or 'reverse causality', it would be too easy to unconsciously deny such a thing by pretending that causality remains valid because we continue to use the same term. Perhaps I was focussing too closely on this aim?” In case it wasn’t clear by my previous message I do think this is a good observation and I was agreeing with it. I am merely stating that if it happened in the past then it is still a cause.

    I think new terminology would be best to described this reverse causality perspective and I feel you are right that causality shouldn’t be used in the term. I’ve already made up a few terms in phenomenology, usually so long as you stick to something Latin/Greek/Germanic in origin and it makes some logical sense why you used that word when you explain the definition. For example: Geopiphone is the feeling of awe and smallness one gets when realising they are a long way from their place of birth and are travelling or living somewhere else yet are aware that they could still be home within two days. (So this is a relatively new experience for humans only made possible by affordable flight.)

    Another example: Quantum Accomodarre, Which is the practice of re-evaluating key problems in philosophy coupled with a working understanding of QM and is the key concept of Quantum Philosophy (See Roland Omnés and Michael Lockwood).

    So, back in a moment I have to do some quick research on something.
  • Mark Dennis
    168
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retrocausality someone beat us to it haha. This is good though, means our thinking is seen as justifiable to philosophers in the past. Michael Dummett is someone else to read however Flew and Blacks rebuttals will be worth looking at also.
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