The Cement of the Universe: A Study of Causation

The Cement of the Universe: A Study of Causation

The Cement of the Universe: A Study of Causation

The Cement of the Universe: A Study of Causation

Excerpt

This book has as its theme an attempt to discover or elucidate the nature of causation. It is, of course, part of the business of the various sciences to discover particular causal relationships and causal laws; but it is part of the business of philosophy to determine what causal relationships in general are, what it is for one thing to cause another, or what it is for nature to obey causal laws. As I understand it, this is an ontological question, a question about how the world goes on. In Hume's phrase, the central problem is that of causation 'in the objects'. In approaching this ontological question it will indeed be necessary to examine the meaning, and the logic, of several kinds of causal statements, the uses of what we can classify as causal language; to engage, in other words, in conceptual analysis. But questions about the analysis of concepts or meanings are distinct from questions about what is there, about what goes on. Of course, we may, or rather must, accept the use of causal language as a rough guide to what we are to take as causal relationships, as indicating-- though not as authoritatively marking out--our field of study. But it is always possible that our causal statements should, in their standard, regular, and central uses, carry meanings and implications which the facts do not bear out, that our ways of speaking and reasoning about the situations or sequences which we recognize as causal should (explicitly or implicitly) assert of them something which is not true. It is equally possible that some or even all of the situations and sequences that we recognize as causal should have features which we have not fully recognized, or perhaps which we have not discovered at all, and which therefore are not built into the meaning of our causal language. Conceptual and linguistic analysis in the causal area, then, is a guide to our main topic and an introduction to it; but it is not itself our main topic, and with regard to that topic its authority is far from absolute.

Also subsidiary to our main topic, but even more important . . .

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