DETERMINISM - Eliminative Determinism - What is Meant by Saying "One Event is Caused by Another?" - Jud Evans -Athenaeum Library of Philosophy

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What is Meant by Saying
'One Event is Caused by Another?'
Jud Evans
A Causal Object Causal Objects 
Jud Evans

Eliminative Determinism* is a new  anti-metaphysical theory of causation. It is a natural corollary of the theory of eliminative materialism and its challenge to folk psychology. Rather than  present itself merely as an innovation or intertheoretic version of traditional determinism, it seeks to offer itself as a replacement,  or at least as an alternative, for the present generally accepted school of thought.

      It is based upon principles of parsimony and simplicity. It does not pretend to amend or eliminate the core determinist bottom-line doctrine that the algorithms of causal consistency in human behaviour are the inevitable result of antecedent conditions and that the human being, in acts of apparent choice, is the ineluctable expression of his or her heredity and past environment.

     Reflective judgment can take up the slack to what is left unattended to by this new ontology.

Now the confrontation twixt old and new extends into the cobwebby domain of folk ontology and the Gothic seigneury of causality and free will and the psycho-myth of 'events.'

Copyright 2007 Jud Evans. Permission granted to distribute in any medium, commercial or non-commercial, provided author attribution and copyright notices remain intact.
What is Meant by Saying that "One Event is Caused by Another?"

Causal Objects
A. Every  cosmic  entity   is  a  causal  object.
B. Every  event is caused by a causal  object.
C. Therefore  every  human  is causal  object.
D. Events couldn't  have happened otherwise.
E. Objects  couldn't  have  existed  differently

F. Abstractions Cause and Effect do not exist

     In this essay I plan to address each proposition in alphabetical order and deal with it from the stance of a traditional Determinist versus the Free Will position. I will then elaborate and evaluate my own paradigm by way of comparing and contrasting the differences with conventional determinism. I think it fair to point out at this early stage that I fully agree with the way that the question has been formulated. As regards my personal differences with determinism, they concern recommendations calling for a more scientific emphasis and terminology, and the Ockam-like stripping away of unnecessary metaphysical intrusion, rather than any substantial disagreement with the final conclusion.

A. EVERY EVENT HAS A CAUSE. The claim that every event has a cause is doubly interesting to me. Determinism introduces a catenulate chain of causal events which bifurcate back endlessly into the past. Causal sequences proliferative like eventive fractals, as seen as it were, from the rear-view mirror of a time machine as it zooms from the past to the present. The nostrum of causality points conclusively to the fact that what exists in the cosmos now has always existed, though in uncountable different versions. If the cosmos had NOT always existed, and a lone formative event had finally initiated its 'coming into being,' then the so-called 'first cause' could never have eventuated, because scientific determinism admits of no first cause. Why do I make this claim? Because if the above determinist paradigm is correct there can be no exceptions to the rules of causality and the event of the first cause must itself have had a cause too.

So the way we act today and the decisions and choices we make are dictated to us as the end product of multiple, fractal-like Mandelbrot systems generated by antecedal transformations that took place far in the distant past. We are in a sense the summation of what has gone before us. Even the entablatures of our very genetic codes that have mapped our living bodies were perhaps laid down in the scrublands of the African plain, or in some hurried coupling on a pile of straw in the dark recesses of some dank and dripping cave God knows where and when.

Yes, every event has a cause. Nothing ever happens without a reason. An event is a phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous incident or happening and is a direct consequence of a multivariate chain of previous occurrences, influences, episodes and eventualities that snake back into the history of mankind by a reticulation of pathways that outnumber the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world.

For the Free Willer it is inconceivable that they are not the captain of their mental and bodily bark. The idea that simple choices like whether or not to watch Coronation Street or Eastenders is their uninfluenced decision appals them, and is often seen almost as an affront to their intelligence. If we tentativally offer the suggestion that they have in fact chosen Coronation Street because perhaps subliminally one on the actresses looks very much like an old flame, or that being a Northerner they connect more easily to the nuances of language or the cityscape of the backdrop, they usually hotly deny it. Often a bit of prior questioning as to the reasons that they prefer Coronation Street will provide useful causative evidence that their choice was not as simply explained and as free as they thought it to be.

We hold people accountable for their behaviour. How could we think otherwise unless they had a free choice when they went in for the action for which they are being held to account? What would happen in our courts if the defence involved claiming innocence on the basis that the accused was an innocent victim of fate and was helpless other than to rob the old lady of her life-savings?

In the version of determinism know as compatibilism, freedom is an agent's ability to do what he or she wishes in the absence of impediments that would otherwise stand in her way. The compatibilists' criterion of impeded or encumbered action is compelled action. Compelled action can be defined as if one is compelled by some external source to act contrary to one's will. A compatibilist view of determinism will protest that whilst they are aware of the general thrust of deterministic ideas and are confirmed determinists themselves they still believe that free will is congruous with determinism. I have felt for a long time that compatibilism does not provide a satisfactory solution to the free will problem, and its concern with reconciling the conflict between free will and determinism.

A. Every  cosmic  entity   is  a  causal  object.
B. Every  event is caused by a causal  object.
C. Therefore  every  human  is causal  object.
D. Events couldn't  have happened otherwise.
E. Objects  couldn't  have  existed  differently

F. Abstractions Cause and Effect do not exist

B. EVERY HUMAN ACTION IS AN EVENT. In the sense that every human action is caused it follows that every human action is also an event - an event which leads to further events both on the part of the human involved and other humans and non-humans who are affected by the human action under consideration. As an event is defined as: 'Something that happens at a given place and time' it follows that all human causal actions are events. With the past already a fait accompli or an irreversible ontological accomplishment and following the fixed laws of physics, only one future is possible at any moment in time.

C. THEREFORE EVERY HUMAN ACTION IS CAUSED. The principle of causality - the doctrine that no event happens without a cause - implies that everything that human beings do is inevitably fixed beforehand. The actions we initiate are among the things that happen and so must have causes - which in turn must have causes, and so on infinitely. I find it extraordinary that anyone should ever think differently, but there are some free-willers who believe in the possibility of spontaneous action which is unaffected by antecedent events and circumstances.

D. ANY EVENT THAT IS CAUSED COULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED OTHERWISE. In other words, certainly in the field of science and increasingly in the world of the everyday citizen at the forefront of our thinking today is the ontological panacea is that 'every event has a cause. Free will is taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility, i. e., we freely and willingly decide it is morally wrong to beat our wives or steal goods from the local shop. From the free-willer's point of view free will can be defined as the unique ability of persons to exercise control over their conduct in a manner necessary for moral responsibility.

    My position is quite clear from what I have written up to this point, and I agree that any event that is caused. A determinist would say that our social and domestic behaviour is not free, although we feel better if we believe it to be, and that we avoid beating our wives because we either love them due to nature's mechanism for encouraging reproduction, or because they just might ring the police and have us incarcerated. Compatibilism is opposed by incompatibilists, who reject the idea of any the compatibility between free will and determinism. . But most take a further stand regarding the reality or unreality of free will. Some incompatibilists also known as libertarians, insist some persons have free will and that, therefore, determinism is false. Other incompatibilists, hard determinists, have a less optimistic view, holding that determinism is true and that no persons have free will.

What exist are causal objects. Every object or material/energetic entity in the cosmos is a causal object - nothing else exists.

                   MY OWN VIEW AN THE MATTER
What would be the result of the elimination of causality and the removal of the notion of *events* upon the doctrine of determinism? My ontology states that the metaphysical abstractions of 'cause' do not exist to cause any action either intrinsically or extrinsically to any object. What exist are causal objects. Every object or material/energetic entity in the cosmos is a causal object - nothing else exists.

    Let me test my theory on the existential modalities of a hawk and a field-mouse, [the way they exist in the world.] Both are causal objects existing with a deterministically inherited need to feed.   This need is a feature of the way that they exist - a physical feature of their existential modality in the world. As causal objects the digestive systems of the animals concerned signal and trigger the feeling of emptiness in their gut. The result is the need to go in search of food. The mouse rummages around in the grass stalks at the riverside. The hawk prowls the sky above surveying the fields below for signs of small moving causal objects. If the spatio-temporal existential modalities of the predator and prey are in a suitable conjunction or juxtaposition, the existential modalities of the hawk determine it seizing the deterministically vulnerable and consequently predatorially available mouse.

     There is no doubt that the behavioural modes of the mouse and hawk are deterministically dependent upon their own present intrinsic and internally antecedal existential modes and the modes of their ancestors in the endless chain of existential presence. There has been no abstract *causation* involved - nor would a catenulate anterior *event* have occurred. Simply put - two causal objects responded or mirrored the behaviour inherited deterministically from ancestral entities which existed in similar determinate modes.

The two causal objects the field mouse and the hawk existed in congruent spatial modalities. Converging space-rocks exist with a similar absence of choice, and when the rocks collided quite separate entitically-changing existential modifications took place. This leads me to a consideration of the abstractions called *events* and *causation* and my long-held belief that they do not exist.

For rock (A) and rock (B) a sudden explosion and disintegration meant a mereological reconfiguration into a multiplicity of separate disparate objects. In the case of the hawk, the existential modification of having a dead mouse-carcase undergoing acidic digestive tissue-breakdown in its gut, and the mouse, now inanimate with its corpse gradually dissolving in a bath of the hawks digestive juices.

It is much easier to analyse the 'non-event' of the ontological problem of two space rocks on collision-track, where the mutual trajectories result in a collision and dismiss it as an *event* by saying that *collision-paths* and *trajectories* or *vectors* do not exist - only the rocks exist. But it is much more difficult to persuade people that the  *events* that involve human participation don't exist either. Notions of *free-will* impinge, and the suspicion is that whilst space-rocks have no causal compunction but to smash into each other, humans have the choice of not doing so. By deciding to change their original trajectory of driving their car to meet Uncle Cecil, and by turning the steering-wheel and causing the car to change direction to visit a ball-game or go to Joe's Diner instead they may have avoided an accident on the route to their relative's home.

I am a determinist - albeit of a new eliminative determinist variety - so I have no real quarrel with the propositional question at all. In concluding I am very conscious that due to the historical lingual inheritance of a form of language which is descriptively totally dependent upon words and phrases which are commensurate with intuitive understandings of *cause and effect' and the apodictic nature and acceptance of *events* I have been forced to employ terms which might be perceived as being merely substitutions which carry the same or a similar semantic cargo to the terms I am at pains to eliminate. As I see it the only way around this would be to create neologisms which would remove this problem of communication.