1. In gen., cause is that which in any way exerts a positive influence in the production of a thing; it is the ground, occasion, or agency for an event, that without which effects (consequents) cannot be.
2. Newton formulated the 2d law of motion with a mechanical notion of force: force is proportional to the rate of change of momentum with respect to time, where momentum depends on mass and velocity jointly. Causation is an interaction which conforms to the laws of motion, and to the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes. J. S. Mill insisted, however, that there may be a plurality of causes producing an effect.
3. Modern science gen. has tended to conceive cause as a productive force, with cause and effect as regularly connected processes or changes, but since Hume the notion of productive force often has been replaced by causation conceived simply as an invariant relation, or universal conjunction, of events in space and time.
4. Contemporary analysis operationally interprets causality as correlation of phenomena, or invariant relation, or functional dependency. Thus it is viewed variously as a relation, in a time series, bet. events, processes, or beings such that (a) when one occurs, the other necessarily follows (sufficient condition) and when the latter occurs, the former must have preceded (necessary condition), and when one occurs under certain conditions, it is the contributory cause; (b) when one occurs, the other invariably follows (invariable antecedence, invariant relation); (c) one has the efficacy to bring about or change the other; (d) one part is functionally dependent on the whole or on another part, and when motion is described in quantitative terms the dependence of motion on conditions is expressed by functional relations which constitute the mathematical form of the laws of mechanics.
5. According to Ernst Mach, causality signifies functional relation between variables which characterize physical phenomena; e.g., causality as regularity of sequence is expressed in terms of functional relation between variables which describe the state of a system.
6. According to the statistical view of natural law, the same causes are followed by distributed effects (frequency distributions). Some modern physicists regard cause-effect as a useful tautology (analytic judgment) and hold that laws of quantum mechanics do not necessarily involve reference to, or even differentiation of, a law of connection of cause and effect, and that such laws can be restricted to first-and second-order differential equations.
See also Cause.
D. Bohm, Causality and Chance in Modern Physics (New York, 1961); R. B. Braithwaite, Scientific Explanation (London, 1953); M. Bunge, Causality (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1959); Readings in the Philosophy of Science, eds. H. Feigl and M. Brodbeck (New York, 1953); V. F. Lenzen, Causality in Natural Science (Springfield, Illinois, 1953); Readings in Philosophy of Science, ed. P. P. Wiener (New York, 1953).
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