The Principle of Causality
Causality is an active relationship, a relationship which brings to life some thing .. In nature determination acts in only one direction, from the present, which is a . Correlation and causation: if A and B are correlated, any one of these the time delays involved are consistent with one direction of causality. recognize a relation which we may call causal priority, which holds in one direction only between a cause and its effect, and that this relation is not identical with.
Clearly, a single correlation cannot be used to determine four unknown parameters. When we have more than two variables, however, matters may look a little different. It may now become possible to exclude some causal hypotheses as clearly inconsistent with the data. Whether or not this can be done will depend on the complexity of the causal nexus being analyzed. For example, a pattern of correlations of the form would support one or other of the causal sequences or in preference to orders that place A or C in the middle.
The fact that causality implies temporal priority has been used in some applications to advocate a longitudinal strategy for its analysis.
Statistical Language - Correlation and Causation
One approach is the cross-lagged panel study in which the variables A and B are measured at two points in time, and. If the correlation of A at with B at is greater than the correlation of B at with A atwe might give some credence to the causal priority of A over B. The cross-lagged approach, though strongly suggestive of causality in some circumstances, is not entirely foolproof. With this fact in view, researchers are always on the look-out for other approaches that can be used to test hypotheses about causality in correlational data.
This temporary relation may be defined in various ways. Some people believe that cause always precedes effect, that there is a certain interval between the time when the cause begins to act for example, the interaction of two systems and the time the effect appears.
For a certain time cause and effect coexist, then the cause dies out and the consequence ultimately becomes the cause of something else. And so on to infinity. Other thinkers believe that these intervals partially overlap. It is also maintained that cause and effect are always strictly simultaneous.
Still others maintain that it is pointless to speak of a cause already existing and therefore taking effect while the effect has not yet entered the sphere of existence. How can there be a "non-effective cause"?
The concepts of "cause" and "effect" are used both for defining simultaneous events, events that are contiguous in time, and events whose effect is born with the cause. In addition, cause and effect are sometimes qualified as phenomena divided by a time interval and connected by means of several intermediate links. For example, a solar flare causes magnetic storms on Earth and a consequent temporary interruption of radio communication.
The mediate connection between cause and effect may be expressed in the formula: Though it may change, the cause of a phenomenon survives in its result. An effect may have several causes, some of which are necessary and others accidental. An important feature of causality is the continuity of the cause-effect connection. The chain of causal connections has neither beginning nor end. It is never broken, it extends eternally from one link to another.
And no one can say where this chain began or where it ends. It is as infinite as the universe itself. There can be neither any first that is to say, causeless cause nor any final i. If we were to admit the existence of a first cause we should break the law of the conservation of matter and motion. And any attempt to find an "absolutely first" or "absolutely final" cause is a futile occupation, which psychologically assumes a belief in miracles.
The internal mechanism of causality is associated with the transference of matter, motion and information. Effect spreads its "tentacles" not only forwards as a new cause giving rise to a new effect but also backwards, to the cause which gave rise to it, thus modifying, exhausting or intensifying its force. This interaction of cause and effect is known as the principle of feedback. It operates everywhere, particularly in all self-organising systems where perception, storing, processing and use of information take place, as for example, in the organism, in a cybernetic device, and in society.
The stability, control and progress of a system are inconceivable without feedback. Any effect is evoked by the interaction of at least two phenomena. Therefore the interaction phenomenon is the true cause of the effect phenomenon. In other words, the effect phenomenon is determined by the nature and state of both interacting elements.
A word conveying tragically bad news may cause a condition of stress in a sensitive person, whereas it will bounce off an insensitive or phlegmatic individual like "water off a duck's back", leaving only a slight emotional trace. The cause of stress in this case was not the word itself but its information-bearing impact on vulnerable personality. The cause-effect connection can be conceived as a one-way, one-directional action only in the simplest and most limited cases.
The idea of causality as the influence of one thing on another is applied in fields of knowledge where it is possible and necessary to ignore feedback and actually measure the quantitative effect achieved by the cause.
Such a situation is mostly characteristic of mechanical causality. For example, the cause of a stone falling to the ground is mutual gravitation, which obeys the law of universal gravitation, and the actual fall of the stone to the ground results from gravitational interaction. However, since the mass of the stone is infinitely small compared with the mass of the earth, one can ignore the stone's effect on the earth.
So ultimately we come to the notion of a one-way effect with only one body the earth operating as the active element, while the other the stone is passive. In most cases, however, such an approach does not work because things are not inert, but charged with internal activity.
Therefore, in experiencing effect they in their turn act on their cause and the resulting action is not one-way but an interaction. In complex cases one cannot ignore the feedback of the vehicle of the action on other interacting bodies. For example, in the chemical interaction of two substances it is impossible to separate the active and passive sides.
This is even more true of the transformation of elementary particles. Thus the formation of molecules of water cannot be conceived as the result of a one-way effect of oxygen on hydrogen or vice versa.
It results from the interaction of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. Mental processes are also a result of the interaction of the environment and the cortex.
To sum up, all processes in the world are evoked not by a one-way or one-sided action but are based on the relationship of at least two interacting objects. Just as various paths may lead to one and the same place, so various causes lead to one and the same effect. And one and the same cause may have different consequences.
Correlation and causation
A cause does not always operate in the same way, because its result depends not only on its own essence but also on the character of the phenomenon it influences. Thus, the heat of the sun dries out canvas, evokes extremely complex processes of biosynthesis in plants, etc. Intense heat melts wax but tempers steel.
At the same time an effect in the form of heat may be the result of various causes: He would be a bad doctor who did not know that the same diseases may be due to different causes. Headache, for instance, has more than one hundred. The rule of only one cause for one effect holds good only in elementary cases with causes and effects that cannot be further analysed.
In real life there are no phenomena that have only one cause and have not been affected by secondary causes. Otherwise we should be living in a world of pure necessity, ruled by destiny alone. To understand the cause that engenders a change in the state of an object we should, strictly speaking, analyse the interaction of the object with all other objects surrounding it.
But experience shows that not all these interactions are equally significant in changing the state of the object. Some are decisive while others are insignificant. So, in practice, we are able to single out a finite number of decisive interactions and distinguish them from those that are secondary. In the sciences, particularly the natural sciences, one distinguishes general from specific causes, the main from the secondary, the internal from the external, the material from the spiritual, and the immediate from the mediate, with varying numbers of intervening stages.
The general cause is the sum-total of all the events leading up to a certain effect. It is a kind of knot of events with some very tangled threads that stretch far back or forward in space and time. The establishing of a general cause is possible only in very simple events with a relatively small number of elements. Investigation usually aims at revealing the specific causes of an event.
The specific cause is the sum-total of the circumstances whose interaction gives rise to a certain effect. Moreover, specific causes evoke an effect in the presence of many other circumstances that have existed in the given situation even before the effect occurs.
These circumstances constitute the conditions for the operation of the cause. The specific cause is made up of those elements of the general cause that are most significant in the given situation. Its other elements are only conditions. Sometimes an event is caused by several circumstances, each of which is necessary but insufficient to bring about the phenomenon in question.
Sometimes we can clearly perceive the phenomenon that gives rise to this or that effect. But more often than not a virtually infinite number of interlocking causes give rise to the consequences we are concerned with. In such cases we have to single out the main cause—the one which plays the decisive role in the whole set of circumstances.
Objective causes operate independently of people's will and consciousness. Subjective causes are rooted in psychological factors, in consciousness, in the actions of man or a social group, in their determination, organisation, experience, know ledge, and so on. Immediate causes should be distinguished from mediate causes, that is to say, those that evoke and determine an effect through a number of intervening stages. For example, a person gets badly hurt psychologically, but the damage does not take effect at once.
Several years may elapse and then in certain circumstances, among which the person's condition at the time has a certain significance, the effect begins to make itself felt in the symptoms of illness. When analysing causality we sometimes speak of a "minor" cause giving rise to major effects. This so-called "minor cause of a major effect" is the cause not of the whole long and ramified chain of phenomena that produces the final result, but only the cause of the first link in the chain.
Sometimes the "minor cause" is merely a factor that starts up quite different causal factors. These are "triggering" factors, factors relating to the initial stage of avalanche processes and to a whole system's loss of labile equilibrium. Any phenomenon depends on a definite diversity of conditions to bring it into existence. While it is only one of the circumstances conducive to a certain effect, the cause is the most active and effective element in this process, it is an interaction that converts necessary and sufficient conditions into a result.
We sometimes treat the absence of something as a cause. For example, some illnesses are attributed to lack of resistance in an organism or a lack of vitamins.
However, absence should not be regarded as a cause but merely as a condition for disease. For a cause to actually take effect there must be certain conditions, that is to say, phenomena essential for the occurrence of the given event but not in themselves causing it. Conditions cannot in themselves give rise to the effect, but the cause is also powerless without them. No cause can give rise to illness if the organism is not susceptible to it.
We know that when a person's organism is infected with certain microbes he may fall ill or he may not. The way a cause takes effect and the nature of the consequence depend on the character of the conditions. Sometimes there is only one direct and immediate cause of death or injury—a bullet.
But more often the causes and conditions are intricately combined, some of them being only secondary circumstances. When discussing the relationship of cause and condition one must remember that the term "condition" is used in two senses, the narrow and the broad. Apart from what we mean by condition in the narrow sense, conditions in the broad sense comprise such factors as "background" and "environment" and various factors of a causal nature. But there is no strict and consistent dividing line between the two basic senses of the term, just as there is no dividing line between condition and cause.
This fact often leads to an incorrect use of the two terms and to wrong definition of the various conditioning factors. Avoidance of incorrect usage is made all the more difficult by the overlapping of the accepted meanings of the two terms "cause" and "condition" and also the term "foundation". Science is gradually evolving special concepts relating to the categories of "foundation", "condition" and "cause", which, when used together with these categories, make it possible to define genetic links more exactly.
In various fields of knowledge the problem of the relationship between cause and condition is solved in different ways, depending mainly on the complexity of the relationships that are being studied, their uniformity or, on the contrary, the distinctness and comparative importance of separate factors.
But the degree of abstraction usually employed in the given science also affects the treatment of this question. So the meaning of the cause and condition categories in the system of concepts of various sciences may also differ considerably.
One could scarcely apply the relation of cause and condition that is revealed in studying, for example, physical phenomena, to physiological processes, or vice versa. Every phenomenon is related to other phenomena by connections of more than one value.
It is the result both of certain conditions and certain basic factors that act as its cause. That is why the cause-effect connection has to be artificially isolated from the rest of conditions so that we can see this connection in its "pure form". But this is achieved only by abstraction.
In reality we cannot isolate this connection from the whole set of conditions.