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Re: [ontolog-forum] Cause and chemical reactions

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2007 22:39:50 -0400
Message-id: <46789376.9050405@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Alan,    (01)

I'm sorry I mentioned that, because I didn't want to get into
a tutorial on Aristotle.  Following is a quotation by a 19th-
century physicist, who also happened to be a logician and
a philosopher:    (02)

    Those who make causality one of the original uralt elements
    in the universe or one of the fundamental categories of
    thought -- of whom you will find that I am not one -- have
    one very awkward fact to explain away.  It is that men's
    conceptions of a cause are in different stages of scientific
    culture entirely different and inconsistent. The great principle
    of causation which, we are told, it is absolutely impossible not
    to believe, has been one proposition at one period in history and
    an entirely disparate one at another is still a third one for the
    modern physicist. The only thing about it which has stood... is
    the name of it.    (03)

    Charles Sanders Peirce, _Reasoning and the Logic of Things_    (04)

As Peirce said, there have been several theories of causality
at different historical periods:    (05)

  1. Aristotle's modes of explanation (aitia), which correspond
     very roughly to the Indo-European case roles.  To try to
     relate those roles to a more modern notion of cause is
     more confusing than helpful.  It's better to relate them
     to the thematic roles in linguistics.  For a quick summary,
     see the following web page:    (06)

     http://www.jfsowa.com/ontology/thematic.htm    (07)

  2. An intermediate stage around the time of Hume, which
     identified the so-called "efficient cause" as the
     basic cause.  This created a chimera, which still had
     a role-like relationship to events, but it did not
     map smoothly to Newtonian mechanics with multiple
     objects fields exerting forces on one another.    (08)

  3. Modern physics, with continuous fields and moving
     masses, discrete and/or continuous, interacting
     with one another according to "laws" expressed as
     partial differential equations.    (09)

I have an (unfinished) paper on that third topic:    (010)

     Processes and Causality    (011)

John    (012)

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