What Is Causation? Essay

1526 words - 6 pages

Causation is vital in science and scientists operate with an intuitive knowledge of it. Causation is not the simple uninformative 'one thing causes another to happen', but more importantly what it takes for one thing to cause another. There is occasionally difficulty with using causality because we associate active elements of the world with being causes, rather than passive elements. For example, if a ball is thrown at a window and the window breaks we tend to believe that the ball has caused the window to break. However the lack of strength of the window is also part of the cause of the window breaking. Temporal confusion also exists, with uncertainty over how far back the cause should be in time. Using the above example, where the ball is seen as the cause (or one of them), but looking further back the person throwing the ball was the cause and further back the person's parents are the cause because they created the person and this process can be carried all the way back to the big bang. Furthermore there are challenges as to whether causation exists, and different views on how causation should be proved.Two of the major philosophical doctrines which influence causation within science are those of Induction and Refutationism. In mathematics deductive methods have been used for millennia to prove the correctness of solutions. However these methods only give us correct conclusions because they are self-contained, operate with a limited set of definitions and starting points and apply rules of logic that guarantee method validity.However in empirical science this is impossible because real world assertions do not start from set starting points, and the observations that are made are often incomplete and potentially inaccurate. This meant that the early modern empiricists had to promote a new form of logic. Francis Bacon was one of the leading European characters in the formation of this new problem solving theory, which they called induction. Induction was an indirect method used to gain insight into the processes that occur in nature. One observes nature and if patterns occur then the observations are said to create thoughts which suggest a more general statement about the world's workings. This statement will then either be refuted or reinforced by further observations. An example might be that of a scientist attempting to discover the melting point of a specific chemical (X). If it is observed that X melts at 1000K, and then repeats show this to be the case, then by induction the chemist could state that the melting point of X is 1000K. The induction involves suggesting that there is a general statement, beyond the observations, which describes the nature of X. Therefore induction was a different form of logic to deduction. However, whilst it is important to note that induction represented an advance over previous methods, the validity of this logic was quickly questioned. David Hume showed that induction had no logical force. This was because...

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