Causality and Modern Science

Causality and Modern Science

Causality and Modern Science

Causality and Modern Science


"I regard it as a truly seminal work in this field." - Professor William A. Wallace, author of Causality and Scientific Explanation.

Non-technical and clearly written, this book focuses on the place of the casual principle in modern science. The author defines the terminology, describes various formulations, examines the two primary critiques of causality, and more.


Two decades ago, when I wrote this book, the principle of causality seemed dead. It had succumbed under the joint attack of the two great intellectual revolutions of the 1920s: the quantum theory and logical positivism. Since the former was at the time interpreted in the light of the latter, and positivism had always denounced causality as a myth, it is no wonder that the quantum theory was thought to have buried the principle of causality. From then on until recently indeterminism became fashionable.

Causalism, the view that all relations among events except the purely spatio-temporal events are causal, is surely untenable. Think not only of quantum jumps but also of genetic mutations and even of the events in our ordinary lives. Each of us is a result of both the random shuffling of parental genes as well as of a number of social circumstances that appear and disappear largely at random. Chance is not just our ignorance of causes: chance is a mode of being. So, any theory of events that ignores chance--and causalism does just that--must be false.

Causalism seemed then defunct when the first edition of this book appeared in 1959. And yet a thesis of this book was that the causal principle does hold a necessary if somewhat modest place in the ontology of contemporary science.

2. The Resilience of Causal Thinking

The verdict of philosophers concerning the demise of causality seems to have been premature. As the founder of wave mechanics has stated, "The search for causation is an instinctive tendency of the human mind" (de Broglie, 1977). Develop-

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