Cause (Causations Causality). These are associated terms in connection with a fundamental topic in the highest range of philosophical speculation.
I. Definition of Cause. This will always be determined-at least so far as the real import of the term is concerned by the character of the theory, in which it constitutes an essential part. Therefore, it cannot be given without reference to such theory, at least so as, to convey either a clear or a fixed meaning. The significance of the word must accordingly be derived from the tenor and conclusion's of the connection. The objection to the received definitions is, that they assume at the outset what is to be explained by the close. This is true of Reid's definition of the popular idea of Cause. "Causa est id, quoposito ponitur eijectus, quo sublato tollitur." So, in Whewell (Phil. Id. Sci. pt. 1, bk. 3, chap. 2, p. 159) "By Cause we mean some quality, power, or efficacy, by which a state of things produces a succeeding state." The words, "effectus," "power," "efficacy," "produces," beg the question, and require explanation and' acceptance in advance of the definition.
As a preliminary and provisional exposition, for the purpose of inquiry, we may be permitted to say, that Cause is the agency, real or assumed, in the production of change; Causation, the exercise of such agency; and Causality, the bond of connection between the antecedent condition and the subsequent change. Causation and Causality are, however, frequently used as equivalent terms. It will not escape the notice of those familiar with investigations of the present character, that there is a latent petitio principii in the introduction of the words agency and production. This acknowledged parologism, noted already by Humime, is inevitable, from the peculiarity of the subject, from the implications of words, and their multiplicity of meanings. The fallacy involved will not be directed to the support of any conclusion. It is admitted and tolerated simply to furnish a point of departure for the doctrine of Cause, Causation, and Causality.
Before proceeding to this task, it is requisite to discriminate between the ordinary and the metaphysical employment of the term Cause, The word is full of ambiguities, and is a shifting homonym in both characters. In customary usage, as a common expression, which has passed through many successive stages of metaphor and degradation, to descend to its current laxity and vagueness, it indicates the immediate, or remote, agency of change; the motive, the occasion, the aim, the accidental, partial, antecedent, or concomitant condition of a phenomenon, without distinguishing, or even regarding, the diverse character of these several applications. With these loose meanings there will be no need to be concerned, except so far as they may illustrate the fluctuations of the philosophical import, by reflecting in their variety the speculative perplexities whence they have arisen.
Cause in Metaphysics may be said to be the connection between two states of being, the one consequent upon the other. This awkward circumlocution is employed to prevent, as far as may be, the introduction of any phrase which would virtually beg the question, or anticipate the conclusion. The absence of any precise and suitable terminology, or, rather, the indistinct- ness, variability, and inapprehensibility of the idea of what is spoken of, which occasions such absence, necessitates the adoption of this unsatisfactory procedure. Yet it may be said that, in spite of the acute and varied speculations of the philosophers, every one has a fixed, if unanalyzed, conception of Causation. To this indeterminate notion, present in the mind, reference must always be had, as a support for the reasoning, in order to render any argument on the subject intelligible.
To Aristotle (Metaph. 1, 2; Phys. Ause. 2, 3) is due the well-established division of Causes into:
1. Formal, or qualitative, revival, which gives the quantity, per quod. 2. The Material, or Substantive, ex quo. 3. The Efficient, a quo. 4. The Final, propter quod.
This celebrated classification was seen to be invalid, by Reid (Works, p. 75; ed. Hamilton). It is rather an analysis of the ambiguities of speech, consequent won ambiguities of thought, than a legitimate distinction. Careful and discriminating reflection would apparently indicate, that these species do not belong to one and the same genus. The division is not made on one plane not in accordance with one principle. It is scarcely possible to refer to the same order of conceptions, that the joiner made the table, that the table was made of wood, that tables require the character exhibited by them, and that the table is made to put victuals on.
The Final Cause, or the result contemplated, is rejected by Bacon and Descartes, and by many of the most rigorous reasoners; but is maintained by Leibnitz and other perspicacious inquirers. The aim is an inducement, but it cannot-be properly considered as part of the act of Causation, whatever Causation may be. The purpose for which a thing is. done is surely diverse from the act or operation by which it is done.
The Material Cause has been strenuously held to be an indispensable part of the process resulting in an Effect. By some writers it has been regarded as the sole cause. Aristotle considers that, in some cases, Cause and Effect are conjoint and logically simultaneous-the one is involved in the other. Hamilton asserts that all Secondary Causes (all causes but the "Great First Cause") are Siamese twins, the Material Cause necessarily participating and co-operating with the Productive Cause. This is true in a certain sense. There must be a subject to be acted on. "Esse deet, salde fat aliquid, deinde a quo flat," No effect can arise unless it arises in something. But the idea of Cause is entirely dissimilar in regard to the agent and in regard to the passive element.
The Formal Cause-the Plutonic archetype — the natura naturata — the plan — the aggregate of qualities constituting a thing "what it is," and pre:adapting it to exhibit under suitable incitement the characteristic phenomena, is, in most schemes, analogous, ex parte natura, to the Material Cause, and is obnoxious to similar censure. The Aristotelian Form must be distinguished from shape as well as from the Platonic Idea.
The Material and the Formal Cause are rather prerequisites, indispensable concomitants, conditions, aptitudes, than any part of the act or idea of Causation. No doubt, the qualities of the things in which the change is evolved, and the relations of constitution between them and the stimulant which excites the change, regulate the occurrence and the character of the Effect; but they do not aid in the apprehension of the abstract idea, or act of Causation. They do not touch the conception of Causality. The Efficient, or Motive Cause, that which involves the manifestation of power, according to Kant, is the only form which directly conveys the conception of Cause (of. Aristot. Metaph. 11, 4, 6). Therefore, in endeavoring to estimate the nature of Causation, it is the species which will be exclusively regarded. Occasional Causes belong to an entirely distinct inquiry. SEE MALEBRANCHE. Other Causes, which might be added to Aristotle's specification, such as Exemplary Causes, with which Formal Causes are often identified, and Instrumental Causes, are equally to be disregarded.
II. Theories of Causation. —The theories and modifications of theories of Causation are very numerous, and often reappear in strange combinations. It is not appropriate to discuss them in this place. Sir William Hamilton has done this very ably and elaborately (Discuss. App. 1; Metaph. § 39:40), if not always with entire satisfaction. He has added a Table, in which he has endeavored to classify the several systems which have met with any considerable acceptance, excluding, of course, the doctrine of the First Cause, the primordial, or immanent operation of the Creator. Hamilton's Table is introduced, as it may save much explanation which would otherwise be required.
This classification is, like all Hamilton's dissections, acute, arbitrary, plausible, incomplete-Systematic, but delusive from its apparent thoroughness. There are other actual and possible theories, Schopenhauer's, for instance, which he has not provided for in his scheme. Hamilton makes eight classes, all of which he rejects as "wholly worthless," except the last, which is his own, and is open to as grave objections as those which he repudiates. He distributes all his recognized Opinions between two summa genera: A, the Empirical, or a posteriori;
and B, the Pure, Noetic, or a priori. The former set, by making the conception of Causation a mere result of experience, renders it nothing more than an empty Ens, or, rather, Phantasma Rationis. Locke, Humes and Browun are types of these schools.
It may be observed, in passing, that the contemptuous terms in which Hamilton speaks of Brown's theory, which he includes in the sixth class, but which is more analogous to Locke's, may be retorted upon his own. "It evacuates the phenomenon of all that desiderates explanation," and "eviscerates the problem of its sole difficulty." The Empirical systems may be confidently repudiated as inadequate explanations of the mystery, for the reasons assigned by Hamilton, and for others not specified by him. A ready concurrence may also be accorded to his refutation of two of the Pure theories the sixth and seventh. But there is one of them, besides his own, the fifth, that which is maintained in diverse modifications "by Descartes, Leibnitz, Reid, Stewart, Kant, Fichte, Cousin, and the majority of recent philosophers," which cannot be discarded so 'readily. Its consideration may be postponed till Hamilton's original theory has been noticed.
Hamilton's scheme rests avowedly, as might have been expected, on the Philosophy of the Conditioned. He does not succeed in makings it evident that it is a logical consequence of his peculiar philosophy. He says: "We cannot know, we cannot: think, a thing except as existing, that is, under the category of existence; and we cannot know or think a thing as existing, except in time." Now the application of the Law of. the Conditioned to any object thought as existent, and thought as in time, will give us at once the phenomenon of Causality (Metaph. p. 552). There is a quibble in the word "existence" which need not be dwelt upon. The reasoning is per saltun, if not a palpable non sequitur. There is no connection manifest between the inference and its supposed foundation. Moreover, Causation, the principle of change id a quo formia mutatura is completely eliminated from consideration.
Hamilton refers the belief in Causes, which is not identical with the idea of Causation, to the impossibility of conceiving any new existence to commence, or any existence to be annihilated. The impossibility of conceiving an absolute commencement of existence is a thesis as old as Aristotle, (Met. Min. II, 1). But it can only suggest the catenation of existence, it cannot of itself suggest Causation. Hamilton illustrates his position by the line: "Ex nihilo nihil, in nihilum ni posse reverti." He thus places himself on the ground of Stoic Pantheism or Epicurean Materialism. His dogma would only justify, "omne post aliquid, sed non infinite aliquid ante omnia." In consonance with this fallacy, he confirms his doctrine by representing the Creation as evolved out of the Creator. This: accords with his identification of the causaturn with the causs; or the "absolute tautology between the effect and its causes." There is a further error in the assertion, that of Second Causes "there must always be a concurrence of two to produce an effect." This is true only in regard to Material Causes, whose introduction into the specific doctrine has already been objected to. It is not true of Efficient Causes. It is the complete absorption of Cause in the mere juxtaposition of conjoint conditions, and the acceptance of this conjunction as Causation, which necessitate the tenet.
The incapability of thinking an absolute commencement or an absolute termination results only in the necessity of thinking of existence as continuous, either as unchanged or as changed in novasformas. It does not touch the question of Causality, which is the connective between successive states, and the determinant of each sequence. The succession or conjunction is thus unconsciously converted into the equivalent of Causation; and the doctrine reverts to Hume's. There is logical legerdemain in the prompt substitution of a conclusion entirely distinct from it for the actual quaesitun.
It may be suspected, too, that the intellectual impotence, which is the character of the Philosophy of the Conditioned, can in no wise furnish a valid basis for any theory. It cannot authorize or explain any positive conviction; yet every one has such a conviction in regard to Causation, and cannot get rid of it. At most, it can conclude only negatively. Here, if anywhere, the maxim," Ex nihilo nihil," is applicable. But whatever interpretation be given to Causation, the conception of Cause and its alleged manifestation is distinctly affirmative. Sir William Hamilton's reasoning only goes far enough to show how and when the idea of Cause intrudes, not what is its essential character. His conclusion is, to retort his own language, "a virtual assumption of the question," or something worse.
It merits continual meditation that the words most current and most indispensable in daily intercourse — Being, Mind, Substance, Matter, Space, Time, Cause, Force, Power, Quality, especially involve the highest and most insoluble problems of philosophy, and are vacillating in meaning. These terms are all positive, and convey very positive meanings, impossible as it may be to define: or to comprehend them. The fact of their necessity and familiarity is something more than presumptive evidence of the veracity of the underlying conviction. It may be taken as irrefragable proof, that, in all our mental operations, there is present, not merely "aliquid ignotum et incoqnoscibile," but that this unknown constituent of thought is the kernel, the life, the truth of all thought. This is the aliquid latens in the beautiful and profound extract from cardinal Cajetan, cited by Hamilton (Disc. p. 627), and is fully recognized by Leibnitz (Opp. 5, p. 374), Reid and many others. It is noted here, because it will be involved throughout the remarks with which this article will conclude; and because a complete comprehension of Causation is impossible: "cid tan ssupra nos est quam ipsa veritas."
Hamilton's reasoning appears to be invalid. His doctrine crushes out all reality of Causation, 'and all significance in the term. There is no genuine Causation where there is no recognition of an act eventuating in change. There is thus only one theory which, has not been rejected by Hamilton, not as inherently insufficient, but as unnecessary. This is the doctrine that the conception of Cause is intuitive; that it is due to a distinct principle in man's intellectual constitution. It may be unattainable in the forms in which it has been presented, and yet it may contain the germ and the spirit of the truth. So far as it needs examination here, it will enter into the further consideration of this mysterious problem, which no one should venture to, say that he has solved. It is prudent, however, by way of caution, to say that such tenets as "innate ideas," "principles of intelligence," "intuitive perceptions" do not require 'the admission of formulated dogmas, developed faculties, or matured apprehensions. It is sufficient if the distinct tendencies which end in such results are recognized as actual characteristics of tie mind.'
III. Possible Explanation of the Idea of Causation. — Sir William Hamilton, as has been seen, distributes the various theories of Causation into eight classes, and arranges them, by a quadripartite procedure, under two supreme heads-the Empirical and the Pure. So far, only the latter aggregate has been considered. It may be asked, with much hesitation, whether these two summa genera may not be united in one explanation. No theory on any subject can be, held to be complete, certain, and: satisfactory, which does not incorporate, or subsume, all special or partial theories, revealing the fragmentary truth which each contains, and affording the means of explaining the mutilations, aberrations, and falsities of each.
The space at our command, and the design of the present article, would render it inappropriate to propound on this occasion any novel and systematic theory of Causation, though all theories but one have been rejected, and the exceptional one has not been allowed to be satisfactory. Still, it may be appropriate to add some observations tending to make more distinct, and to render more coherent, the character of Causation. This may, perhaps, be achieved by pointing out in what manner experience and the constitution of the human mind concur in the generation of the idea of Cause. It will scarcely be denied that the human intelligence is adapted, or apt, for the reception of knowledge from the external, world, and from personal observation and experience. There will be as little difficulty in admitting that internal and external experience both contribute to the excitation and determination of distinct procedures of thought, and to their results. If these things-be so, there is neither incongruity nor improbability in conceiving that the continual reactions of native aptitude and outward stimulation may develop into clearness faint tendencies, without either originating definite conceptions. Such conceptions may be the joint production; while they will be deemed purely Empirical, or purely Intuitive, by those who: contemplate only one set of the interacting and co-operating processes.
Experience, by itself, cannot furnish the idea of Cause, for Causes are nowhere directly subjected to observation, not even the results of volition. Intuition alone is equally powerless, for there is neither evidence nor likelihood that it should give a distinct, definite, formal conception. Such a conception cannot be entertained without words, without the words of the language in which the conception is expressed. Words and language can be no part of intuitive knowledge. But there may be indeed, there must be a preconformity to apprehend under suitable conditions (the most important of which will be the just occasion) the significance of those things with which the mind has to deal. The acorn on a bare rock will not produce an oak, though by nature constituted for such production. The richest soil without the acorn will be equally inoperative in this regard. The potential oak is in the acorn; the fit soil, and the airs and dews of heaven, convert the potency into act, make the acorn swell and disclose the germ, tender and feeble, and hitherto concealed, whose powers are developed and strengthened and increased, till it grows into the monarch of the woods. With the modus operandi, the latens schematismus of the two factors, we have no concern at present. These are entirely removed from human apprehension. Yet they are most important considerations in the case, but not the Cause. That lies still further beyond. But the fact of Causation-the presence of what is competent to bring about the result — the existence of a Cause cannot be ignored. Now, what has — been described as taking place in the vegetable world may be believed or conceived to be analogous to what takes place in intellectual growth. The mind may be compared to the acorn experience and observation may correspond to the soil and the air, and the dew. Analogies are, indeed, no argument, but they may be indispensable to render intelligible what is only confused and obscured by direct statement, in consequence of the ambiguities and irrelevant implications of language.
All intellectual faculties, all intuitions, if such exist, are in their primitive exercise unconscious and unintelligent. They are blind instincts. The child sucks, as the bee builds its cell, without the capacity of recognizing or reflecting upon the nature of the operation. There is a spontaneous process, a ecus appetitus, which guides its action. As acts are repeated, as experience is enlarged, as faculties are expanded, there arises an awakening consciousness of ability to perform the action, and to govern it by the will.
The spontaneous processes required for the subsistence of the infant thus convert themselves, under the instigation of the surroundings, into conscious actions. The idea of purpose and result, dimly, but with growing distinctness, develops itself, till it becomes a conscious principle, and the subject of incipient reflection. The hungry child will point to its victuals; thirsty one, able to move about, if left alone, when of large growth, will crawl or walk to the glass of water. It learns that the satisfaction of its wants may be secured by its own action. The repetition of such experiences fixes and brightens the perception that deliberate acts will produce definite results. When the process is multitudinously varied by the innumerable occurrences of daily life, the power to do what is designed is recognized, even if the mind has not yet analyzed its operations, or distinguished and named the several exercises of its faculties: "as the temple of the mind grows wide withal," this analysis is executed with more or less clearness and accuracy. The perception of power becomes habitual, and potency in action is discerned. The power of producing, by one series of acts, another, diverse, dependent, and co-related series of acts, is ascertained, tested, and demonstrated. What is thus unfolded in individual experience is analogous to the changes presented to observation. Fire is applied to gunpowder. The gunpowder explodes. There is power in fire to explode gunpowder. The contact or conjunction of the two things is followed by an explosion. The power, or ability, of the fire to change the state of the gunpowder is the Cause of the explosion. There is something more here than the sequence of conditions: Alia est cusa efficiens, alia proscedens."
Again, an act of the will may occasion sitting down, standing up, walking, running, eating, etc. There is a conscious and indisputable connection between the volition and the ensuing state, though the manner of the change may be unrecognizable. A hot coal on the flesh will produce pain. A glass of wine will eventuate in speedy exhilaration. How these things are brought about cannot be fully told; but it must be apprehended that the change is more than succession of events, and is dependent upon what went before. The Cause and the Effect are both known, and are known as Cause and Effect.
Notwithstanding the vast alteration of the primitive instinct, appetency, or tendency, which conduces to the final recognition of Cause in all changes of condition, there is nothing anomalous or surprising. Such conversion of potencies into dissimilar forms is the universal law of the mental and physical world. The transmutations are not more marvelous in the intelligence than the growth of the plant from the seed, of the leaves from the plant, of the flower from the leaves, of the fruit from the flower. Metempsychosis and metemsomatosis are the law in the realms of mind and of matter.
There is much in this exposition which has been unwillingly, but necessarily, excluded. The, briefest possible outline has been given. Enough may, however, have been said, to show that the constitution of the animal and the spiritual nature of man necessitates processes which, under external stimulation, with constant development, in connection with the reactions of experience and observation, eventuate in the inevitable apprehension and conviction of Causation in all change. Thus, the Empirical and the a priori theories of Causality are combined, and both are required to account for the idea of Cause.
IV. Literature. — We indicate only a few leading authorities. It is scarcely possible to give the Literature of Causation in extenso, because the materials are various and are widely and brokenly disseminated through the whole range of Metaphysical investigations:
Aristot. Met. I, 3; III, 2; 5, 2; Seneca, Ep. 65; Locke, II, 21:26; Leibnitz, Nouveaux Essais; Hume, Works; Reid, Works; Stewart, Phil. Essays, I, 2; Brown, Inquiry; Hamilton, Discussions (Appendix to Reid); Whewell, Phil. Ind. Sciences; Cousin, Hist. Phil. Mod.; Mill, Logic; Mansel, Metaphysics, ap. Encyclop. Briit.; McCosh, On the Divine Government'; Bain, Emotions and Will; Fleming, Vocabulary of Philosophy; Irons, Final Causes; Bowne, Metaphysics, (G.F.H.)