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An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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indiscriminate use of two-valued 'cause' and 'effect' leads structurally to a great deal of absolutism, dogmatism, and other harmful semantic disturbances, which I call confusion of orders of abstraction.
We usually follow the 'philosophers' and ascribe - or, rather feel, as conscious ascribing would not stand criticism - some mysterious structural continuity, some mysterious overlapping of 'cause' and 'effect'. We 'feel', and try to 'think', about 'cause and effect' as contiguous in 'time'. But 'contiguous in time' involves the impossible 'infinitesimal' of some unit of 'time'. But, since we have seen that there is no such thing, we must accept that the interval between 'cause' and 'effect' is finite. This structural fact changes the whole situation. If the interval between 'cause' and 'effect' is finite, then always something might happen between, no matter how small the interval may be. The 'same cause' would not produce the 'same effect'. The expected result would not follow. This means only that in this world, to be sure of some expected effect, requires that there must be nothing in the environment which can interfere with the process of passing from the conditions labelled 'cause' to the conditions labelled 'effect'. In this world, with the structure which it has, we can never suppose that a 'cause', as we know it, is alone sufficient to produce the supposed 'effect'. When we consider the ever-changing environment, the number of possibilities increases enormously. If it were possible to take into account the whole of the environment, the probability that some event would be repeated, in all details, thus exhibiting the assumed two-valued relation of 'cause' and 'effect', which we took for granted in the old days, would practically be nil. The principle of non-elementalism, as we see, requires an oo-valued semantics of probability.
The reader should not take what is said here as a denial that in this external world some regularities of sequence occur; but the above analysis, which is mainly due to Russell,1 shows clearly that the verbal principle of 'same cause, same effect' is structurally untenable. We can never manage to observe the 'same cause' in detail. As soon as the antecedents have been sufficiently ascertained, so as to calculate the consequences with some plausible accuracy as to details, the relations of these antecedents have become so complex that there is very little probability that they will ever occur again.
The clearing up of the problems of 'cause' and 'effect' is of serious importance, because powerful semantic reactions are connected with it. To begin with, we must differentiate between the terms 'cause' and 'effect', which, linked together, imply a two-term relation nowhere to be found in this world, and thus represent a language and a two-valued