The Universality of Causation

The Universality of Causation - The Universality of...

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The Universality of Causation The Kalam argument depends on the assumption that everything that begins to exist must have a cause of its coming-to-be. This is a principle that nearly everyone (even skeptics like Hume) admits is difficult to doubt. It is especially difficult to believe that a given thing that has begun to exist really happened through no cause whatsoever. Nonetheless, Quentin Smith (a philosopher at Western Michigan) has argued that quantum mechanics provides us with some evidence that events can occur uncaused. It is true that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle guarantees that there are certain microscopic events that cannot be predicted in advance. Smith's argument depends on his identification of causation and predictability: where there is unpredictability, there is an absence of causation. This is a highly controversial view of causation. In two weeks, we will spend some time considering a variety of conceptions of causation. For now, let me say that Smith seems to have confused causation with determinism. There is no absurdity in the idea of indeterministic, non- necessitating causation. The decay of a uranium atom is caused by the preceding state of the atom, whether or not anything about that state determined or necessitated that the decay should occur when it did. Similarly, my power of will is the cause of my free actions, even if those actions were not predetermined by any state of that will. Others have used the creation of virtual particles from the vacuum as evidence that things can begin to exist without a cause. If the energy involved is small enough, and the period of existence is short enough, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle allows particles to emerge from "nothing" and to disappear shortly thereafter. However, this argument fails to distinguish between something containing no energy or particles and sheer nothingness. In quantum mechanics, the vacuum is not a nothing. It is the indeterministic cause of the temporary existence of the virtual particles.
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The Universality of Causation - The Universality of...

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