Friday, May 18, 2012

On everything 'having a cause' vs. 'having a reason'

Every happening has a cause, but every happening having a reason is quite a bit different.

So a philosophy friend of mine who does metaphysics posted this on his Facebook wall, and I asked him the following in an interchange:
him: I think the first part of this is false. Not everything happens for a reason. But the second clause is certainly true and worthy of posting.
me: Let 1 = Everything that happens has a set of causes for why it happened. And let 2 = a set of causes just is a reason Is 1 true? Is 2 true? If so, the first part [of the picture above] could be seen as true, but I'm wondering what you think of 1 and 2.
him: Does 'cause' in 1 and 2 mean 'efficient cause'?

Hmm.  He certainly asked the right question. The question rightly presumes that one should draw from Aristotle's careful partitioning of the concept of cause.  Of course, now I had to answer him, having brought the whole issue up. What would I mean by 'cause' in 1 and 2?

I don't mean final cause, but piety precludes me from excluding it in all instances of events. Maybe God has a few Plans for some events, though not, I'd say, plans for every event.

I don't mean material cause.  Again pious man that I am, I would not want to limit myself there, for who knows what Spinozic activies God initiates outside of this realm, or from outside this realm into it?

I certanly would mean formal cause, but some causes in conjunction bring about random events, so I'd be merely saying, at least, that when patterns of stuff happens it causes other patterns of stuff to happen -- hardly controversial, and nets me only a trivial truth for 1 and 2.

Now, by 'efficient cause' I understand as a thing that acts, happens, or exists in such a way that some specific thing happens as a result. Stuff happens, yeah, but does specific stuff happen?

Everything specific is relative to a greater context, like part is relative to whole. I could, thus, be saying a) this little set of events was brought about by other, wider events.  Again, trivial; or, b) this little set of events was brought about by a specific chain of events, and would not have been brought about otherwise.  This latter sense of 'efficient cause' seems way too strong for what I believe.

I concluded 1 and 2 would be only trivially true at best, and that asking him metaphysical questions takes too much effort on my part.


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