I seek in this lecture to distinguish between causation and Causality; to indicate on what grounds I regard such a distinction of service in the discussion of causal problems; to show that the concepts to be distinguished under these names belong to different universes of discourse; to urge that they are nowise contradictory; and to state some conclusions which seem to me to follow from my whole method of treatment.
Lecture X. Causation and Causality
XLVI. A “Common-sense” View and that of “Exact Science.” XLVII. Cause as precedent to Effect. XLVIII. Ground and Conditions of Change. XLIX. Causality distinguished from Causation. L. The Position reviewed.
§ XLVI. A “common-sense” view and that of “exact science.”
To this end it will be convenient to start with some general statement such as this: Given a thing or a system of things which is in some relative sense either (a) at rest or (b) changing; then if that which is at rest begins to change or that which is changing does so more or less or in some different way this change in the one case or altered change in the other may be regarded as an effect recorded in the thing or system. The problem is to ascertain what is in some sense the cause of this effect. Here we come into touch with what has been said with regard to effective relatedness.
There is I suppose little or nothing in the foregoing statement (apart from crabbed wording) to which the so-called “plain man” would raise very serious objection from what he regards as the common-sense standpoint. He might perhaps say that it does not sufficiently emphasise the feature of uniformity (where it obtains) and that it fails in so abstract a form to distinguish different kinds of cause e.g. Force in the physical world Life as a cause of the changes which occur in organisms and above all Mind as causally operative in human affairs. In all cases he might add to be a cause it must do something. Unless it does something there will be no effect. Nothing will happen.
There is little doubt that most people thus regard the cause as operative or active in bringing about the change as effect. They hold that the effect produced is proportional to the given activity of the cause which may however have in reserve power to produce other and greater changes. Under what they take to be the teaching of science they accept in physical matters strict uniformity of connection between the cause as then and there operative and the observable change which results from its operation. They look upon changes wrought by the will of man as due to a cause which is in a high degree and very characteristically active but which is owing to our freedom in a less degree or at any rate not so characteristically uniform. Hence it is taken for granted as scarcely open to question by practical folk that mind is pre-eminently a cause of certain noteworthy changes in the face of nature and is in a very special sense active—so much so that the activity we feel when through exercise of the will we are ourselves causes best illustrates what is meant by causal activity. Carry this a stage further lifting it to a higher plane of thought and we have the widely accepted belief that ultimately all observable change is due to some form of Spiritual Activity.
Turn now from such an opinion as this to the view that is advocated by some exponents of exact science. By them we are told that the concept of activity if not that of cause itself is to be cast aside. Half a century ago W. K. Clifford spoke of “such an interdependence of the facts of the universe as forbids us to speak of one fact or set of facts as the cause of another fact or set of facts.” And again: “The facts of one time are not the cause of the facts of another but the facts of all time are included in one statement and rigorously bound up together” (L. E. Vol. I. pp. iii 123). Ernst Mach says: “I hope that the science of the future will discard the idea of cause and effect as being formally obscure”; and he adds: “In my feeling that these ideas contain a strong tincture of fetishism I am certainly not alone” (P. S. L. p. 254). More recently Mr. Bertrand Russell has urged that the word “cause” is so inextricably bound up with misleading associations as to make its extrusion from the philosophical vocabulary desirable (M. L. p. 180).
This as it stands may seem an extreme view. But in what sense extreme? Extreme only as expressing a method of interpretation in exact science within the carefully restricted universe of physical discourse. One is dealing with the changes which are observable at the basal level of emergent evolution and with kinds of relatedness that obtain therein; one fixes attention on a relatively isolated situation in which all disturbing conditions coming from beyond it are excluded or if this be impossible allowed for; one conceives this whole state of matters as affording a field of relatedness; the more one knows about this field the more confidently can one say that what happens is an invariable expression of the nature of the field and the nature of that which lies therein and the more adequately can one summarise the net result of many observations in a law or express it in suitable equations. All reference to force as an agency through the operation of which the changes occur is barred because it is quite valueless for purposes of exact science. The word “force” may still be used but not with this meaning. In one such usage it expresses the measure or degree of some observable change in some specific field of relatedness.
There is another reason why the word “cause” is so sparingly used in physics if it be used at all. Part of the commonly accepted connotation of the word as it occurs in what may be called the historical sciences is that the cause or some part of it under analysis precedes the effect. But such historical treatment is not the primary aim in physics. The aim is rather so to reduce the time-interval toa minimum as to say “X now causes Y now.” If this be so the use of the word “causation” which commonly implies antecedent cause and subsequent effect may not be desirable save under some suitable re-definition.
Now if we may say that an essential feature of causation may be thus expressed: Given a field of effective relatedness that which observably happens under the existent go of events is an expression of the nature of the field and the nature of this or that which lies within it; then it is clear that the higher we ascend in the evolutionary scale the more complex are the concrete problems of causation. We have a progressive superposition of level on level. Higher kinds of relatedness—chemical vital and conscious—are each in turn supervenient on those that stand lower in the scale; but they do not supersede them in the sense that when some higher kind of relatedness comes the lower kinds go. It is just because they do not go—because the lower still remain in such measure as to afford foundations for the emergent superstructure that all higher level treatment of causation becomes increasingly complex. And if the manner in which lower level events run their course depends on the higher kind of relatedness co-existent at the supervenient level this does but emphasise the effectiveness of the relations which obtain at that higher level.
§ XLVII. Cause as Precedent to Effect.
Whatever may be said for or against the retention of the concept of causation in the more exact branches of science it is in matters of common experience dealing with the net result of concurrent events at many or perhaps at all levels that the words “cause” and “effect” are chiefly of service. Nor sanctioned as they are by long usage are they likely to be discarded. We are interested in the sequence of events; and it is in daily life mainly this interest that decides what event or component in a system of events we select as that which is to be regarded as “the cause” of some other event. We must satisfy ourselves that it is relevant; and the discarding of irrelevant events (such as spilling the salt at breakfast) is a first step towards realising that there is some kind of connection other than temporal sequence between cause and effect. Relying on a somewhat vague and general but gradually strengthening notion of uniformity in natural routine we search for the cause of something that happens in order that we may promote or prevent its recurrence; or if the cause lie beyond our control that we may place ourselves or our belongings out of reach of the effect. The wider our practical experience and the fuller our knowledge of routine the more complex does the concept of cause become. Not one condition only but quite a number of conspiring and concurrent conditions have to be taken into consideration. Still we may as a matter of emphasis lay stress on one as the cause—meaning that of chief interest. Sometimes we may discuss which of two conspiring conditions is in this sense the cause. We may for example ask whether the outburst of vegetation in the Spring is due to increasing warmth or to longer and stronger light-illumination. The man of science may say “both” and may seek to assign a value to each. The student in any scientific laboratory has moreover to learn that the more obvious and salient facts are not the only conditions to success in his experiments. He thus gradually grasps what Mill meant when he said that “the cause is the sum total of the conditions positive and negative taken together—the whole of the contingencies of every description which being realised the consequent invariably follows” (S. L. Bk. III. ch. v. § III.). And with this in view part of his aim under analysis will be to distinguish the contributory from the counteracting conditions when both are in evidence. Where the contributory or positive conditions would as he judges be effective if certain counteracting or negative conditions were absent he may speak of a “tendency” in the cause to give rise to an effect which as a matter of fact does not follow. Thus the earth has a tendency to pursue a course tangential to its orbit.
One need only notice in passing what Hume spoke of as “Rules by which to judge of causes and effects” (agreement difference concomitant variations residues and so forth). They were developed by Mill and used to be fully discussed in text-books of logic. Such rules are of value as a means to discovering the chief factors in the causation of some given event. On these terms our knowledge of causation may be discussed under probability. Hence Professor Broad has suggested some such statement as this: “To every true proposition that asserts the happening of an event at a time there is a set of relevant true propositions such that relative to the whole of them the probability of the event happening is 1” (P. P. R. p. 154).
Without attempting to follow up this matter in its more recent developments it suffices here to say that if under analysis we may regard as a near approximation to 1 the probability of the proposition: When and where the total relatedness under consideration obtains is irrelevant; then it follows that the prediction of future events may be trustworthy even if these events be new to human experience—as was exemplified in the discovery of Neptune. But must we not add as a proviso that the characters we deal with are resultant? If they comprise also evolutionary emergents in some measure in that measure they are unpredictable. In the total set of relevant propositions which are referable to the cause there are certain propositions which are from the nature of the case not yet known. Hence the basis on which the probability of the effect is logically founded is de facto an incomplete basis.
The question for us then arises: May we bring emergence itself under the rubric of causation? The reply turns on our answer to a further question: Is emergent evolution itself the expression of an orderly and progressive development? If so (and such is my contention) then emergence itself takes rank as Mill and Lewes also contended among the “laws of nature.” We may be unable to predict the probable nature of a character that is emergently new. We could not have foretold on the basis of physico-chemical events only what the nature of life would be. But that is due to our ignorance before the event of the law of its emergence. May we then say:
(1) That where resultants and resultants only are concerned the probability of the uniform continuance of the routine of the past approximates to 1 and thus would enable an adequately instructed Laplace to predict with assurance and success;
(2) That such approximation to 1 is taken to be 1 under acknowledgment;
(3) That genuine novelty under emergence precludes in the measure of its presence such confident prediction; but
(4) That if there be a natural plan of emergence then every effect is strictly determinate in accordance with the nature of that plan;
(5) That novelty itself is thus caught up in the web of causal nexus under suitable acknowledgment; but
(6) That such novelty is for us unpredictable owing to our partial knowledge of the plan of emergence up to date and our necessary ignorance of what the further development of that plan will be?
Important as this question is for us it may be regarded as parenthetic. To revert then to more detailed discussion we have seen that for historical treatment some part of the cause as the sum total of the conditions is precedent to the effect. But we have also seen that in the more exact science of physics the time-interval between cause and effect is reduced to a minimum. They are in touch at some “now” in the current situation.
In historical treatment wherever there is transmission we refer the cause to some effluent event which precedes the arrival of the influent event; under scientific analysis we focus attention on what happens at the moment of arrival of this influence. Only where there is transmission does the effluent event precede the arrival of influence. This may not be so in a gravitative field which has therefore to be treated under the concept of varying “density” in that field. Here causation in the historical sense is out of place and the word “causation” is seldom used (cf. Russell M. L. p. 180).
Where transmission obtains then as in the case of all optical records the effluent event always precedes the influent event and there is time-interval between the one and the other with passage of events in transmission. It is however a corollary from relativist theory that classical and old-fashioned notions of temporal sequence must be discarded. One may no longer speak of time but of “local times.” Hence one is hopelessly out of date if one says that the past is non-existent now (cf. Whitehead P. A. S. 1921–2 p. 132). For the past may and still does exist in some other local time than that of the record.
Out of this in part at least arises Mr. Russell's hypothesis of “mnemic causation.” He urges that the traditional antithesis of mind and matter as diverse in the nature of its ultimate stuff cannot be accepted. “The dualism” he says “is not primarily as to the stuff of the world” (for him sensations) “but as to causal laws.” “The causal laws of psychology are prima facte very different from those of physics” (A. M. pp. 137 172 cf. p. 121). In what then does this difference lie? Mr. Russell replies that the difference lies in this; that in mnemic causation as distinguished from physical causation the proximate cause consists not only of a present event but of this together with a past event (p. 85). In more formal terms instead of asserting: “X now causes Y now” we should say: “A B C... in the past together with X now causes Y now” (p. 87). The emphasis is on causal events in the past: and this is to be taken literally. “I do not mean merely” he says “what would always be the case—that past occurrences are part of a chain of causes leading to the present event. I mean that in attempting to state the proximate cause of the present event some past event or events must be included unless we take refuge in hypothetical modifications of brain structure” (p. 78).
The alternative view is that the past has ceased to exist though its enchained effects persist unless we take refuge in the relativist hypothesis of “local times” (p. 128) under conditions it would seem which render the Lorentzian factor negligible. For us such local times are matters of projective appearance. As at present advised I must therefore reject mnemic causation. But I may close on a note of possible agreement. When Mr. Russell says that “the state of the body and brain is proved to be necessary but not sufficient” (p. 91) he gives expression to that which is fully accordant with the contention of emergent evolution. That contention is that there is more at the conscious level in spatial projicience and temporal projection than there is in the set of events at the level of life or a fortiori that of physical matter. I too should agree then that what is involved is necessary but not sufficient.
§ XLVIII. Ground and Conditions of Change.
We have seen that according to Mill the cause is the sum total of the conditions positive and negative taken together; and that according to Mr. Broad our knowledge of the cause is a set of propositions expressing the conditions which is implied by the proposition which expresses the effect. But we have still to consider in what sense the word “conditions” is to be understood.
In several passages Mill distinguished between events and states. Discussing for example the case of a man who eats from a dish of contaminated food and dies in consequence he says: “The various conditions except the single one of eating the food were not events but states possessing more or less permanency; and might therefore have preceded the effect by an indefinite length of duration for want of the event which was requisite to complete the required concurrence of conditions.” So too “when sulphur charcoal and nitre are put together in certain proportions and in a certain mannerthe effect is not an explosion but that the mixture acquires a property by which in given circumstances it will explode” (S. L. Bk. III. ch. v. §§ 3 5). Now although Mill regards the more or less abiding state or the constitution as part of the sum total of conditions he does here draw an important distinction. It will be helpful to emphasise this distinction by naming the “state” of the system the intrinsic ground of the change which occurs within it when certain extrinsic conditions are also present. In popular speech the cause is commonly identified with some salient feature in the set of conditions. Thus warmth during incubation is regarded as the cause of the hatching of a chick; the ground of development—the intrinsic constitution of the egg—is taken for granted. On the other hand the embryologist may take the external conditions of incubation for granted and direct his attention to the constitution of the fertilised ovum as the ground of that which specifically happens.
That factor in the changes within any given system which has its ground in the constitutional nature of that system is sometimes spoken of as attributable to immanent causation; while that which is due to conditions extrinsic to the system is attributed to transeunt causation. When gunpowder explodes a spark may be the condition of the disruptive change under transeunt causation. But if it be asked how it is that under such conditions gunpowder explodes though charcoal does not the reply is: Because such is the constitution of gunpowder. The two kinds of causation methodologically distinguished are here co-factors. When an organism behaves in such and such a manner a describable pattern of extrinsic influence may afford the transeunt conditions. But if it be asked: How comes it that under substantially the same external influence this organism behaves thus and that organism quite otherwise? The reply is: Because the immanent ground is different in this organism and that. Even what we call the same organism may respond differently to like stimulation on some subsequent occasion. This is because the ground of behaviour i.e. the constitution of the organism is no longer the same. In human life the distinction is familiar under the headings of character and circumstances.
If there be any talk of “proportionality” of cause and effect it is essential to comprise under the cause intrinsic ground no less than extrinsic conditions. We need not discuss in what sense such talk is wise when we are dealing with events—e.g. emotional events—which are not in strictness measurable; or any events of which some estimation of their intensity is all that we have to go upon. Assume for the nonce that there may be some sort of proportionality in some liberal sense of the word. Then even so if we restrict the word “cause” to extrinsic conditions only—sometimes spoken of as the releasing cause (cf. Bergson C. E. p. 77)—then there is no proportionality. An explosion of gunpowder is not proportional to the spark that ignited it. In such a physico-chemical matter one must consider the intrinsic ground of what happens i.e. the constitution of the gunpowder; one must consider too the change of so-called potential to kinetic energy in the mass of powder throughout which the disruptive change spreads; and so on. At a much higher level as Sir Robert Ball used to say in his popular lectures with a piquant touch of Irish intonation: “If a boy in the audience runs a pin into his neighbour's thigh the consequent commotion is nowise proportional to the size of the orifice” When we pass to the reflective level of human consciousness quite astonishing conclusions animistic or other have been drawn from the fairly obvious fact that a very slight difference in advenient influence (i.e. in extrinsic conditions of vision or hearing) may make a profound difference in consequent conduct. Of course they often do so; in accordance with the intrinsic ground which includes (under correlation) the character—the total mental constitution as an integral whole—of the person who is the recipient. Or given the same person: a slight difference in what falls on the retina may induce a marked difference in that person's mental attitude. If owing to mishap a letter drops out; and if instead of the text “We shall all be changed” one reads “We shall all be hanged”; the outcome whatever it may be and however it is interpreted cannot with any sense of propriety be said to be proportional to the elided letter c. The essential point is that (if there be proportion) intrinsic ground has in all such cases far more weight than extrinsic conditions.
The distinction then between ground and conditions must be borne in mind. And if we introduce some notion of proportion we must include under cause the immanent as well as the transeunt factor in causation But we have also to remember that the distinction is methodological in its application; methodological because it depends on what natural system we so isolate under attention as to regard the changes therein as intrinsic thereto. If to take but one example we regard the nervous system of an animal as such a system (and the biologist often does so) then other occurrences in the body have transeunt influence on that system. On these terms when science has given the fullest possible account of the constitution of any given system as immanent ground and of all the transeunt conditions of some given change therein its task (up to date) is accomplished.
Now we may regard the total goingness of any given system as its activity—in the sense of “something doing” as contrasted with “nothing going on.” Or we may and commonly do apply the word “activity” to intrinsic go—that part of a system's own doing which is not merely impressed on it from without—the active go of an aeroplane or a thoughtful man compared with the passive go of a drifting balloon or of a man at the mercy of every wind of doctrine. It is not activity in either of these purely naturalistic senses that is barred in science. It is not of such activity that Mr. Broad says that “(1) it is perfectly useless to science and (2) no kind of observation of external things or their changes could prove it” (P. P. R. p. 80). In what sense then is it barred? In the sense of Activity as that which makes events go as they do go. It is this Activity that is quite useless in science and is nowise susceptible of scientific proof. The causation with which I have been dealing has nothing whatever to do with it.
But philosophy throughout the ages has had very much to do with it. For those who acknowledge God the concept is essential. Much that has been written on causality implies it at every turn. Well then since we have two differing concepts and two different words it seems not unreasonable to suggest that causation should be reserved for the one and Causality applied to the other. I differentiate partly by using a capital letter. This usage though perhaps inelegant is convenient where we have no different words while the underlying concepts are quite different—e.g. in determination under causation and Determination through Causality; or as above the activity which characterises a going system and the Activity on which the passage of all events in the universe manifested in diverse ways is ultimately dependent.
§ XLIX. Causality distinguished from causation.
I believe that the “capital” distinction I thus draw on methodological grounds is traceable throughout modern philosophy and has its roots in precedent systems of thought. A brief impressionistic sketch may serve to show what I mean.
Descartes interpreted under causation all physical events and included under his doctrine of automatism such processes as perception imagination and memory in animals—included also even in man all that could be regarded as independent of Guidance by the Rational Soul. Denning “substance” as that which has being in such manner as to require no other being in order so to subsist he urged that this can be imputed only to God. There are indeed (1) corporeal substance (res externa) and (2) mental or thinking substance (res cogitans); but they need for their being the concurrence of God; “Dei concursu egent ad existendum.” Apart from this common Dependence on God neither is dependent on the other; for if it were so neither would be substance under the definition. Furthermore this common Dependence on God excludes both in strictness from the status of substance. Still in virtue of the Rational Soul Causality is attributable to man. It remained for Descartes'disciples Male-branche and others to attribute Causality to God alone. All merely “occasional” causation is subject to His Determination.
Spinoza—in so far as he dealt with “modes” i.e. concrete things or events—taught that each is determined from without (per aliud) under transeunt causation. But any given system of events though it is thus partially and qua mode determined by extrinsic conditions is also determinate from within i.e. in virtue of its intrinsic ground or “essence” (immanent causation). Now the totality of all such events is nature. Taken as a whole it cannot be determined from without for there is nothing external to it. It must therefore be determinate wholly from within that is in virtue of its constitution or essence. Thus we get natura naturata. But is not this too Determined? If so by what? By Natura naturans under Causality. Here God is not only the one Substance in that He exists by the sole necessity of His nature; He is the one Free Cause in that He acts by the sole necessity of His nature (Eth. Part I. Prop. 17 Corr. 2).
According to Spinoza what transeuntly determines this or that several event or mode as it is must be sought in other external and relevant events which it is not. This renders them finite. But nature comprises all finite events; hence in its essence it is not thus finite. The constitution of nature in its essence (and of any given system in essence) is infinite. But since modes as finite are determined ab extra they are constrained. Now the antithesis of such constraint is freedom. Nature therefore as totality of events is free since there is nothing to constrain it from without. And any given system is in essence free in so far as what happens therein is the outcome of its own intrinsic constitution. Its freedom however is that of a determinate system and differs from the Freedom of God under Causality. The former Spinoza calls freedom after its kind; the latter absolute Freedom. Constraint is ab extra and is determinant of modes; freedom is ab intra and is determinate in essence; but Freedom is Ab Intra and characterises God as Natura naturans—characterises man too in so far as he expresses sub specie aeternitatis the Immanent Activity which is Divine Causality at its ultimate Source.
For Berkeley causation is swallowed up in Causality. The so-called “causes” in any empirical discussion of “causation” are falsely so called. Any supposed connection between “cause and effect” is no more than the observed conjunction between the sign and that which is signified Dependent on the arbitrary but nowise capricious Causality of God who has chosen this means of admonishing us with regard to what we may expect. But we too as Spirits created by God are endowed with our measure of Causality. And if he be asked what assurance we have of Activity Berkeley replies: Look within; we most assuredly know that we are Agents and on this knowledge is based all our notions of efficiency and relation. We have only to raise these notions to their absolute limit and God stands revealed. Such in brief is Berkeley's argument.
But here David Hume intervenes and roundly asserts that on looking within he finds nothing on which such notions can be based. He finds primary “impressions” and secondary “ideas” derivative therefrom often very complexly ordered in ways we must accept as we find them. These in their given clustering constitute us. And we are all that there is in Hume's radical phenomenalism. “We never really advance a step beyond ourselves nor can conceive any kind of existence but those perceptions which have appeared in that narrow compass.” And here conjunction under the empirical sway of custom is all that can be found. The uniform rules of conjunction are what we deal with under causation which suffices for all interpretation of matters of fact. Other matters are intellectual constructs with laws of our imposing. For Hume Causality is barred save in so far as it may be accepted on non-rational grounds. “Our most holy religion is founded on faith and not on reason.” That was his form of acknowledgment—genuine as I think but in need of more systematic development.
In so brief an outline sketch I have passed over Hobbes and also Locke in whose often-revised discussion of Power the emphasis falls on Causality. Leibniz could hardly be summarised without entering in some detail into his elaborate scheme; but an adequate disentangling of the warp of causation and the woof of Causality would I think serve to throw light on his system of philosophy and on his exact meaning when he said that “in the phenomena of nature everything happens mechanically and at the same time metaphysically.” The word “mechanically” must here be read subject to his denial of all transeunt causation; “metaphysically” subject to his doctrine of pre-established harmony. He might have been content to substitute for divinely imposed harmony a “natural plan” of accord in the whole system of monads which constitute a natural hierarchy wherein one is supremely domiant. But was he? It is matter of controvesy.
Let us realise to how large an extent Leibniz in his hierarchy of monads anticipated the ascending order of levels which is a cardinal feature in emergent interpretation. In man at his highest and best there is the quality of deity. Hence through his relation to God he becomes a supreme monad. But as a member of the progressive hierarchy he is still only primus inter pares. He still remains in some measure weighted with matter which sets limits to the Activity expressed through him. God alone is free from all such limitation—as Actus purus. And so after the manner of his time Leibniz strives to give proof of the God he acknowledges as the ultimate fount of Causality. Even if perchance we agree with Mr. Bertrand Russell (P. L. ch. xv.) that the proof lacks cogency we may still acknowledge that which lies beyond logical proof or logical disproof. On this understanding we may see what Leibniz meant when in addition to saying that everything in nature happens both mechanically and metaphysically he declares that “the source of the mechanical is in the metaphysical” (Letter to Remond Edn. Erdmann III. 607).
Little can here be said with regard to Kant. For him the distinction is rendered explicit as that between “natural” and “free” causality. His upward path lay through emphasis on “synthesis” in that human experience from which he sets forth in his quest for truth. Such experience is both objective and subjective in synthetic relatedness. Independently of us the objective world cannot be as it is for us; independently of a world rendered objective for us we should not be what we are. Kant's detailed treatment of causation is purely empirical and justifies his claim that “truth is to be found only in experience.” It justifies too his stress on the synthetic or ampliative nature of all propositions in which discoverable connections are predicated even in mathematics. It might seem then that for Kant Causality is out of court. But in the “thesis” of the third antinomy he says: “Causality in conformity with the laws of nature is not the only causality from which all the phenomena of the world can be derived. To explain those phenomena it is necessary that there is also a free causality.” In the “antithesis” this Freedom is denied. By Freedom is meant the power of bringing something into existence spontaneously. It implies the capacity of making an absolute beginning; of doing one as easily as the other of two opposite things. It belongs to that which he calls the “intelligible” realm of noumena as contrasted with the empirical world of phenomena. In the one we have Causality; in the other causation. I substitute these words in the following passage from the solution of the third antinomy. “May it not be that while every phenomenal effect must be connected with its cause in accordance with empirical causation this empirical causation without the least rupture of its connection with natural causes is itself an effect of a Causality which is not empirical but intelligible”? The trouble is that “between the sensible realm of nature and the supersensible realm of freedom a gulf is fixed which is as impassable by theoretical reason as if they formed two separate worlds.” Hence it is in the practical reason and in the domain of ethics that we must seek those principles through which the two realms may in some measure be united. How far Kant succeeds in establishing a valid union and in what manner he attempts to do so need not here be discussed. After all this meagre sketch is only intended to illustrate how a methodological distinction in more competent hands might be applied.
§ L. The Position reviewed.
In such more competent hands I must leave the solution of the third antinomy which may be suggested on the lines of Hegelian dialectic. I suppose it may be said that contradiction begotten of difference disappears in the reconciliation of a higher synthesis (cf. Caird C. P. K. II. p. 63). I should urge however: (1) That it is only apparent contradiction that is susceptible of reconciliation and (2) That causation and Causality are not contradictory in any strict sense.
They do not belong to two realms or to different orders of being; nor is there any gulf. There is one realm within which both are always present. And this I think though I speak with diffidence accords with the spirit of Hegelian treatment.
If this be so there is no reason why both may not be accepted each in its appropriate universe of discourse. Let me now review the position:
Emergent evolution works upwards from matter through life to consciousness which attains in man its highest reflective or supra-reflective level. It accepts the “more” at each ascending stage as that which is given and accepts it to the full. The most subtle appreciation of the artist or the poet the highest aspiration of the saint are no less accepted than the blossom of the water-lily the crystalline fabric of a snow-flake or the minute structure of the atom.
Emergent evolution urges that the “more” of any given stage even the highest involves the “less” of the stages which were precedent to it and continue to coexist with it. It does not interpret the higher in terms of the lower only; for that would imply denial of the emergence of those new modes of natural relatedness which characterise the higher and make it what it is. Nor does it interpret the lower in terms of the higher. If it be said that I have myself urged that how things go depends on the level of relatedness at which events run their course this means the full recognition of the kind of effective relatedness which obtains at the level in question. It does not mean for naturalistic treatment dependence on kinds of relatedness not yet emergent. If physical changes be explained in terms of life; or physiological changes in terms of unreflective consciousness; or this in terms of guidance by reflective consciousness; when there is no sufficient evidence that these respectively higher kinds of relatedness have yet emerged then the interpretation is not consistent with the tenets of emergent evolution; it is not in accordance with generalised description under causation.
But if we may acknowledge on the one hand a physical world underlying the phenomenal appearances with which we are acquainted by sense and on the other hand an immaterial Source of all changes therein; if in other words we may acknowledge physical events as ultimately involved and God on whom all evolutionary process ultimately depends; then we may with Kant but on different grounds accept both causation and Causality without shadow of contradiction. I claim that such procedure is legitimate in philosophy and that it furnishes a consistent scheme. I have confessed my doubt whether either acknowledgment is susceptible of strictly logical proof. But in neither is there so far as I can see aught discrepant with the evidence. In regard to both one can only ask: Does the postulate so work that I am prepared to adopt it and to run the risk of being mistaken in doing so? In my belief in God on Whom all things depend I am certainly not alone. I would fain not stand alone in combining with this belief and all that it entails that full and frank acceptance of the naturalistic interpretation of the world which is offered by emergent evolution.
Emphasis on relatedness still seems to be essential; and this is implied in both involution and dependence. Of God in isolation from the world—of God apart from what Mr. Alexander calls the emergent quality of deity supervenient near the summit of the evolutionary pyramid—I can form no adequate conception.
An adaptation of the use of a current philosophical expression of old standing may serve to bring out more clearly a salient feature of the position. Suppose we are dealing with some lowly plant as a natural system that has reached the level of life with its keynote of vital integration. There are physico-chemical events and there is emergent vital relatedness. If then we deal with its materiality in abstraction from the supervenient life—or with its life apart from a physical basis—in either case we are concerned not with the concrete whole in accordance with its level of emergence but with a res incompleta. The res completa is the living organism nothing less but nothing more. Similarly man the highest natural system that we know is a res incompleta if considered in abstraction from those emergent qualities which give him in alliance with all that is involved his status as res completa; and of these the highest is what Mr. Alexander calls the emergent quality of deity.
So far we have an interpretation in accordance with emergent evolution. Introduce now acknowledgment of Dependence. If this be accepted then we may urge that apart from God—some Hegelians may prefer to substitute Reason or Thought or Knowledge—what I spoke of at the outset as the pyramid of emergent evolution is still a res incompleta. A constructive philosophy demands the Res Completa which is Reality.
But if we acknowledge God we nowise supersede interpretation under emergent evolution; we supplement it by accepting something more in a richer attitude of piety. We supplement not supersede immanent causation as unconditioned in the universe—for as a whole it is subject to no extrinsic and transeunt conditions—by Causality in the Unconditioned. And the supplementary concept is not introduced at some higher stage—that of life or of consciousness or of reflective thought in man; it is present throughout at all stages. We do not assert that at some given level there is not causation but Causality. We urge rather: No instance of causation subject to limitations of time and space save as the expression of Causality sub specie aeternitatis.
Hence there can be no antagonism. There is not even the alternative “this” or “that.” The alternative is “this without that” or “this with that also”; more comprehensively the world without God or the world just as it is but none the less dependent on God. A de facto nisus towards deity which we find running upwards along a special line of advance in the ascending levels is fully accepted on the evidence. But this valid concept under causation is supplemented by the completing concept—no less valid at the bar of philosophy—of Nisus in Causality manifested in all natural events.
In foregoing lectures emphasis has been laid again and again perhaps with wearisome reiteration on such expressions as “within the system” “within the organism” “within the mind.” There is nothing in these expressions to preclude acknowledgment also of that which exists or subsists beyond us—acknowledgment of a physical world of other minds and of God. The stress is on primary acquaintance with signs which have reference to that which as signified lies beyond us. We acknowledge God as above and beyond. But unless we also intuitively enjoy His Activity within us feeling that we are in a measure one with Him in Substance we can have no immediate knowledge of Causality or of God as the Source of our own existence and of emergent evolution.
From the book: