The Child's and the Savage's Evolving Concept of Causality
SUMMARY: In this first chapter we begin our study of determinism by examining some of the aspects of causality as the term is used in our ordinary everyday language. Our approach will be to see how the child, maturing in our civilization, evolves through a spectrum of causal usage which reproduces to some extent the way in which our modern commonsense causality has developed from the causality of more primitive peoples. We will make a classification of cause into four types: 'partial cause', 'total cause' (including preponderating cause), 'original cause', and 'final cause'. Recognizing the practical impossibility of ever completely specifying the total cause of an event, 'total cause' will be replaced by the equivalent concept of 'determinism', in which attention is shifted from the causes of an event to the event itself.
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'Why' and 'because' are two of the commonest words in the vocabulary of the child and his parents as they try to satisfy his constantly expanding curiosity and to discipline his behaviour. As the child matures, these words are used less and less, but the need 'to know the reason why' vanishes only with death. In time, the average person has been satisfied with more or less pat explanations for everyday events, but the extraordinary always excites his interest to a degree out of proportion to its purely logical importance in his life. Reasons must be found for everything. They may be good or bad, but we must find them before we can be happy to return to our ordinary humdrum (humdrum, when the reasons have all been found) existence. The answers to questions can take on a remarkable variety of forms:
|Why did you hit him?||-- Because he hit me first.|
|-- Because he was going to hit me.|
|-- Because I can't control myself.|
|-- Because he wasn't careful and he|
got in the way.