## Is Cause and Effect a Contradiction?

• 89
Apologies for the long post, but I can't really summarize it.

Cause & Effect

With respect to the determinative power of causality, I submit that there is none. In support of this assertion I've developed the following explication, which reveals the nullifying contradiction of “cause and effect” when it is extracted from its purely conceptual context:

There can be no cause qua cause until after the effect is manifest. For what is a cause without an effect? It's certainly not a cause. For if a cause has not actually caused anything, then it's not a cause by definition. In this way, then, anything which we would qualify as cause is categorically dependent for its rational and efficacious definition as a “cause” upon the effect.

Furthermore, we must also assert that there is no effect then which can exist except utterly independent of the cause. For unless the effect exists independently of the cause, it must be considered a direct and absolute function of the cause. But if it is a direct and absolute function of the cause, then the distinction is eliminated, which then obliterates the very root essence of “cause and effect” in the first place, relegating it to irrelevance, and thus nonexistence…for that which is existentially irrelevant contradicts itself right out of existence.

Speaking of contradiction, note the following:

By the previous logic, cause and effect, being entirely distinct from one another, must therefore have entirely autonomous, separate existence already, prior to the confluence which is defined as “cause and effect” qua “cause and effect”.

In other words, there can be no effect unless the effect is an effect alone, absent any cause, before any cause manifests itself as a cause.

Which then makes, by logical extension, the cause only a cause if it itself exists as such autonomously, absent the effect, before any effect manifests itself as an effect.

In other words, each one must exist already as a prerequisite for “cause and effect” to meet any sort of rationally consistent criteria in order to be defined as such: the effect is an effect prior to the cause causing it; and the cause is a cause prior to it actually having caused anything.

The cause needs the effect to be defined as the cause; and the effect needs the cause to be defined as an effect.

But the effect cannot be a direct function of the cause without eliminating the distinction; and the cause cannot be given its absolute meaning and relevancy by the effect without likewise eliminating the distinction.

But if the effect exists as the effect utterly independent of the cause, and the cause exists as the cause utterly independent of the effect, then what we assert is that an effect doesn’t actually require a cause to be an effect, and a cause doesn’t actually require an effect to be a cause.

Which…destroys the definitions of both, nullifying their “autonomous”, “independent” existence.

The point is that no matter from which angle approach it, you inevitably run into an impenetrable wall of contradiction.

...And so it goes when we attempt to incorporate mutually exclusive conceptual abstractions into the non-abstract material universe of actual objects by assuming and imagining that they are likewise, themselves, in possession of a material, actual essence.

The solution to reconciling the contradictions now becomes apparent.

We must not consider cause and effect an actual, catalyzing causal force…like we spuriously do with the laws of physics when we describe them as “governing”.

We must recognize cause and effect for what it really is: a concept human beings use to describe the relative movement of objects in the environment, objects which are fundamentally neither caused nor effected but are rooted in the infinity of their own absolute and infinitely singular material essence, in whatever form it happens to be observed, and as a function of whatever relative context in which it happens to be observed.

Indeed–and in conclusion–the presence of relativity in object interactions precludes any actual (materially “existent”, for lack of a better term) cause and effect; yet it necessitates a conceptual cause and effect that the self-aware agent engages as a means to define and identify both what an object is, and how it is observed (i.e. its position relative to the observer at any given moment).
• 5.1k
Yes. We observe effects and impute their causes. We can note some change in the world, and then we can construct an explanatory model of what could have caused that change.

But that doesn't seem a contradiction given it is just the rational/scientific/pragmatic way of doing things – constructing models that can be used to explain and predict.

Where things get interesting is when people try to defend one metaphysical model of causality against another. Or even, when they realise that causality is indeed a business of modelling.
• 1.1k
Speaking of contradiction, note the following:

By the previous logic, cause and effect, being entirely distinct from one another, must therefore have entirely autonomous, separate existence already, prior to the confluence which is defined as “cause and effect” qua “cause and effect”.

[...]

The cause needs the effect to be defined as the cause; and the effect needs the cause to be defined as an effect.

But the effect cannot be a direct function of the cause without eliminating the distinction; and the cause cannot be given its absolute meaning and relevancy by the effect without likewise eliminating the distinction.

I fail to see any contradiction, contradictions as I understand them being "both X and not-X at the same time and in the same respect".

Cause and effect have a dyadic relation, so they do not occur independently/autonomously in respect to the other.

The same argument you've quoted in the OP (from whom, by the way) can, for instance, be made for "up" and "down": Up cannot occur without a down; down cannot occur without an up. The two can only have a dyadic relation. They do not occur independently/autonomously of the other - except in the faulty abstractions of some. That said, one does not conclude that up and down (and derivatives such as top and bottom) pose a contradiction, however.

Indeed–and in conclusion–the presence of relativity in object interactions precludes any actual (materially “existent”, for lack of a better term) cause and effect; yet it necessitates a conceptual cause and effect that the self-aware agent engages as a means to define and identify both what an object is, and how it is observed (i.e. its position relative to the observer at any given moment).

As to this idealist interpretation of things - with heavy emphasis on idealism not equating to sole-self-ism (this being an issue for a different thread) - I'll leave that open-ended on my part.
• 1.4k
We must recognize cause and effect for what it really is: a concept human beings use to describe the relative movement of objects in the environment, objects which are fundamentally neither caused nor effected but are rooted in the infinity of their own absolute and infinitely singular material essence, in whatever form it happens to be observed, and as a function of whatever relative context in which it happens to be observed.

And yet you tapped your fingers along your keyboard anyway. I guess old habits die hard.
• 10.4k
There can be no cause qua cause until after the effect is manifest. For what is a cause without an effect? It's certainly not a cause. For if a cause has not actually caused anything, then it's not a cause by definition. In this way, then, anything which we would qualify as cause is categorically dependent for its rational and efficacious definition as a “cause” upon the effect.

Cause and effect are two aspects of a single process. Say for example you have a building which is infested by termites. This takes place over the period of some years without the building owner having noticed. Then one day there's a structural collapse due to weight-bearing beams having been weakened by termite infestation. An inspection finds that the collapse was caused by the weakening of the structure by termites.

But had the inspection been carried out in a timely manner, then steps could have been taken to prevent the collapse, by fumigating the structure and replacing the weakened components. In that case no collapse would have occurred, because the cause of a potential collapse was identified before it happened. But in either case, there's a clear connection between the termite infestation and the ensuing structural weakness.

Agree that 'cause' and 'effect' can't be given an absolute meaning. That doesn't prevent causal analysis being indispensable.
• 10.4k
On reflection, I suppose my above objection is exactly like the realist philosophers' objections to David Hume's criticism of causal necessity. What is at issue is not the common-sense notion of the relationship of cause and effect, which can easily be ascertained by empirical observation, but an account of the nature of the relationship between cause and effect over and above mere inductive inference based on observation, as a matter of principle. Which is the subject of this well-known work by Kant.
• 89
Yeah I got into it with this guy on a different forum and something smelled off about pretty much every reply of theirs. Mind you they sent me like 4 different paragraphs full of this stuff and then blocked me from replying so...

All I know is that they seem very sure of themselves and says they are arguing this with 99% of the forum (which to me sounds like they might need to revise their views).

This will be a short post, because this is fairly simple to explain…well, it is now, after boiling down a very long hand-written post to its salient and self-evident points.

Cause and effect are mutually exclusive ideas…that is, what is the cause cannot also, simultaneously, be the effect; and what is effect cannot also be the cause.

Each notion has an absolute definition which must remain consistent in order for “cause and effect” to have any meaning in the first place.

At the same time each notion depends on the other for its value and relevancy.

What this means is that the cause is not actually a cause without an effect.

There is no such thing as a cause with no effect, by definition; and the converse is also true.

So, in other words, each notion obtains its value and meaning as a direct function of the other.

For instance, a cause is only able to be defined as a cause and observed as a cause via the effect, which makes the cause merely a direct extension of the effect, which I have already explained must be absolute (i.e. the effect is absolutely and utterly the effect…it cannot simultaneously be a cause).

...And this renders any actual distinction between cause and effect impossible.

The distinction is purely conceptual; a product of the human capacity to conceptualize what he or she observes.

The converse, naturally, would also be true.

An effect is only able to be defined and observed and identified as an effect via the cause; its value and relevancy a function of the cause, therefore making the effect merely a direct extension of the cause; and the cause must be absolute (i.e. a cause cannot simultaneously be an effect).

This renders any actual distinction between cause and effect impossible.

Such a distinction can only be made conceptually, as a product of the human conceptualizing brain, which is uniquely able to organize the environment in such a way.

And from here you can see why the title of this article makes sense. “Cause” and “effect” are both everything (i.e. absolutes, which must possess a consistent and ineluctable definition at any given moment) and nothing (i.e. each one deriving its value and relevancy as a direct function of the other, rendering each one a direct extension of the other, thereby making moot both concepts altogether).

Everything and nothing are mutually exclusive, which means that everything and nothing cannot possibly be the existential state of any object or force in question.

To write the equation mathematically, everything is 1, and nothing is zero. 1 x 0 = 0. The product of both “cause” and “effect” separately is zero. And thus when you couple them together as “cause and effect”, or rather, cause plus effect, in order to complete the notion, you get, presented abstractly, 0 + 0. Which of course equals zero.

The point is to show that cause and effect is not an actuality…is not a causal force which somehow, outside of man’s conceptualizing brain and therefore his life, exists as some actual, tangible, efficacious objective reality and causal power. But rather, the material universe is what it is, and it is a singularity, not ruled by “laws of nature” or other forces which are in reality human-derived concepts, much like “cause and effect”, and another one of my favorite punching bags, “chance” (which we will look at later).

The material universe, being an infinite singularity, makes all objects within it likewise infinite singularities, parsed and given meaning and relevancy and truth by those who possess observation coupled with an innate ability to make a conceptual distinction between SELF and OTHER (whatever object or objects are observed to be NOT SELF). And thus, truth is a function of the truly self-aware agent.

He who is able to know and define SELF as SELF is the Standard of Truth for all which is observed; and is likewise he who gives value to everything in the universe, and is the most valuable.

Reason thus demands that all castes and hierarchies, and distinctions of all sorts, must inevitably crumble under the weight of infinite individual human worth.

Because these castes and hierarchies and distinctions are not actual, they are conceptual.

Therefore all human beings can only be judged according two things: their own self-ascribed values, and how they wish to freely exchange those values as a function of their individual attributes and desires (excepting, of course, the decidedly irrational desire to exploit and violate a fellow human being, or supposed gods, etc.).

In this sense, then, one having “judged”, has not been in the least judgmental.
• 89
As mentioned before I don't see how these things being concepts necessarily means that they don't exist.
• 7.9k
If I understand correclty, the author of the article(?) is claiming that what we identify as cause and effect, both, must exist independently of each other. He reasons thus: Before we can consider the issue of cause, we must identify the effect and, naturally, work backwards to the cause. This, according to him, implies that the effect has an independent existence of its own. Then, as per his logic, the effect can't be a "direct and absolute function" of the cause for the reason that this would obliterate the distinction cause and effect. Being as charitable as possible the author probably wants to say that if an effect is a "direct and absolute function" of a cause, it would be impossible to make a distinction between what's an effect and what's a cause - the two would blend into each other and become inseparable. From this, the author concludes, the cause too must be exist independently. The finishing move is that if both cause and effect exist independently, then the notion of cause and effect doesn't make sense; after all, the received wisdom in re cause and effect is that the effect is dependent for its existence on the cause.

Where's the flaw, if there's one?

The the crux of this argument is that what we identify as cause and effect exist independently of each other and the contradiction derived is that the definition of causality involves the effect being dependent on the cause. At least that's how I interpret it. As far as I can tell, to the extent that I can make sense of it, the author makes the mistake of thinking that causality is about existence, it isn't. For certain that which is identified as a cause and that which is identified as an effect exist independently in the sense both can be documented to occur in reality. Causality, however, isn't the claim that the cause brings the effect into existence; what causality is - at its heart - is a constant relationship between cause and effect, that's all.

To illustrate imagine you have with you red, white, yellow and black balls. The red ball is always associated with the white ball, the yellow ball is always associated with the black ball: this is causality, the association between existent things and that in no way means that the red ball brings the white ball into existence or that the yellow does the same with the black ball. :chin:
• 89
I mean that's not what we think though. There are events that cause other events to happen but I don't think that anyone would argue that they exist independent of each other. We just label the cause and the result that it led to, so it's two in one in a sense.

I though his argument felt wonky to me.
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