Russell and the Notion of Cause

From enfascination

Jump to: navigation, search

Great quote in Russell's essay, On the Notion of Cause:

the subjective sense of freedom, sometimes alleged against determinism, has no bearing on the question whatever. The view that it has a bearing rests on the view that causes compel their effects...

What he is saying, in my words, is that causation is a human perceptual convenience, a pattern that is handy to percieve as true and safe to assume to continue to hold. However, to assume that there is causation is problematic. It is based on atleast two assumptions, that there are things and that there are events. These are also safe to assume at human scales, given human perceptual limits, but they fall apart at non-human scales, which is to say that 'things' and 'events' as models don't completely account for all of the behavior of their referents, merely enough to ensure the good functioning (survival) of most humans most of the time.

I feel very free seeing that the whole free will v.s. determinism thing rested on the faulty assumption that causes as I concieve them fully account for the actual events they describe. Before this, my inclination was to reject both determinism and free will as useful approximations of reality at human perceptual scales. Now I find that I don't have to do that anymore, instead I can reject all three!

For folks not used to these ideas, it can be difficult to accept that someone who holds them can see much meaning, joy, and fulfillment in life. Well, there is plenty more room for all that when you haven't packed all kinds of order and structure (and even intent and purpose) into a world much more complex than we can fully comprehend.