Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Burbridge, John. Cause for Thought: An Essay in Metaphysics

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Burbridge, John. Cause for Thought: An Essay in Metaphysics

Article excerpt

BURBRIDGE, John. Cause for Thought: An Essay in Metaphysics. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2014. 130 pp. Cloth, $75.00; paper, $19.95--This slender volume suggests that an adequate analysis of reality focuses on causality and begins in materialistic nature that cannot be understood as deterministic. The essay then rises above matter to consider psychological causality that, in turn, points toward the possibility of the divine. Accordingly, as is fitting for an essay in metaphysics, it begins with an examination of the physical as indicating causes much beyond the physical. Here, one finds the refreshing, humbly put suggestion that, yes, indeed, sufficient reflection on material reality points to both its own lack of determinateness and to irreducibly spiritual causes, both that of the human psyche and, perhaps, some entity beyond all matter that insures that, ultimately, all shall be well and well understood. In light of the fact that "even in the most demanding natural sciences there is no compelling evidence for strict causal determinism," the author takes the opportunity to explore the alternative, namely, the presence of "small contingencies." Burbridge puts forth the following thesis: "By adopting the hypothesis that contingencies are possible, we have explored the structure of reciprocal causation as well as some implications that follow. So this essay in metaphysics is itself provisional and subject to revision, reflection and refutation. It is put forward as an alternative to the determinist position and it claims to do greater justice to the phenomena of organic, conscious and rational agency than reductive materialism."

The author delivers on the above in six succinct chapters. In his first chapter, he recalls the history of the declination away from metaphysics beginning with Hume while noting a return to its possibility in Peirce. Following a "double process" or reflective equilibrium between explanatory concepts and phenomena to be explained, the author tentatively suggests that determinism proves inadequate and that a focus on causality in contrast to considering solely substances proves fruitful.

In the second chapter, he proposes that "the most plausible scenario is that, as events combine into sufficient conditions, there is no strict necessity, but one subject to contingent variations that could over time modify the general pattern of regularities. To use the simple conditional judgement, 'if A then B,' as the Procrustean model for our understanding of forward-moving causal action is misguided."

In the third chapter, the author follows out complex causality as found in organisms, in whose realm mechanistic deterministic causal explanations especially fail. …

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