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Chapter 9: The Theory of Causal Significance

  1. Apr 17, 2005 #1


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    Our considerations of the problems of consciousness thus far have repeatedly brought us to questions about causation. In chapter 8, we saw arguments that we should be realists about causal connections. Given that causal constraint is a real feature of the world, what can we say about it, and what consequences does it have for our understanding of nature?

    The obvious starting point in our investigation of causation is physics. Physics gives us powerful methods by which to describe and predict the evolution of physical phenomena, but it does not appear to tell us the whole causal story. We can readily be realists about the various entities described by physics but still be Humeans about causation, because the mathematical machinery of physics does not explicitly refer to anything like causal connections or causal constraint. The minimal theoretical obligation physics places upon us in this regard is that we hold that there are certain regularities that occur among physical phenomena; we need not view these regularities as the results of causal processes in order to interpret physics in a logically coherent fashion. If we choose to regard physics as a causal theory, it is only because we are projecting something extra into the theory, not because the theory itself forces us to take this point of view. Thus, if we accept the argument from chapter 8 that the world must have real relations of causal constraint, it follows that physics is not telling the whole causal story; it seems to tell us part of the causal story, while leaving the rest to reside implicitly in the background. Our task, then, is to unearth the portion of the causal story left implicit by physics and make it explicit, such that we cannot be realists about our complete theory of causation without also being realists about connections of causal constraint.

    It seems that accounts of causation in philosophy have also been inadequate. Philosophers have historically considered causal responsibility the core explanatory target for a theory of causation, where the study of causal responsibility is the study of how a given event, process, agent, or fact can be credited as being the productive cause of a certain effect. But attempts to assign causal responsibility seem inevitably to involve intentional and interest-relative features, and so fail to be completely objective. As Rosenberg puts it, these problematic aspects of accounts of causal responsibility "create a striking portrait of a convenient explanatory construct rather than an objective natural relation" (p. 148). A natural theory of causation should strip away these intentional and interest-relative aspects and reveal the underlying objective basis, the causal significance of phenomena in nature.

    Rosenberg proposes the following definition for causal significance:

    In other words, the minimal fact that will be true in a world featuring real causal constraint is that certain things within it will place restrictions on how other things can be. Thus, we can think of causation minimally as an operator on a space of possibility. This minimal construal of causation is a more general version of our usual concept of the term. We usually think of causation as an asymmetric process occurring locally in space and forward in time, whereby a certain cause produces a certain effect. On the above definition, however, we are not committed to the conditions of asymmetry, locality, or directionality; a causal relation could be symmetric and non-local and still have causal significance. Causal significance and causal responsibility also differ in that for the former we characterize causation negatively, as a constraining influence, and the latter positively, as a productive influence.

    To see how we could have a relation of causal significance that violates our notions of causal responsibility, imagine a world wherein two coins must always be flipped together, and they share the causal constraint that they must always land either both heads or both tails. The landing state of one coin has causal significance for that of the other, and vice versa, so this is a symmetric causal relation; there is no clear grounds for causal responsibility here whereby we could name the state of one coin the cause and that of the other, the effect. There is just a mutual condition of constraint on the possible joint states of the coins. In fact, we need not conjure up an imaginary world for this exercise; the states of entangled quantum particles in our world have a relation of symmetric causal constraint analogous to that of our imaginary coins. The shared causal significance of entangled particles is also non-local, thus presenting us with another violation of normal concepts of causal responsibility that is easily accommodated by a more general theory of causal significance.

    Effective and Receptive Properties

    Causal significance must arise as a result of certain properties of phenomena in nature that are causally relevant. Rosenberg names these causally relevant properties the nomic content of an individual, and proposes two basic kinds of such properties: effective and receptive.

    Effective properties are those properties that have the capacity to place causal constraints on the space of possible ways the world could be. These are precisely the kind of properties studied by physics. Physics is ultimately an empirical endeavor driven by observation, and we only observe things (either directly or indirectly) by means of the roles they play in a causal chain of events that culminates with the systematic activation of our biological senses. In other words, all phenomena that can be the objects of objective empirical study must be effective properties or complexes thereof, because such effective causal properties are precisely the things that subserve objective observation in the first place.

    Receptive properties are those properties that allow the causal constraints of effective properties to be placed. Receptive properties do not figure heavily, if at all, into contemporary notions of causation, but they seem to be a logically necessary counterpart of effective properties; asserting the existence of properties that can place causal constraint already presupposes the existence of properties that can 'feel' those causal constraints (even if only implicitly). Likewise, the notion of receptive properties already presupposes the existence of effective properties. In this way, effective and receptive properties are circularly defined, interdependent entities, but they are also distinct. We can think of the relationship between effective and receptive properties as analogous to the relationship between the front and back of a wall. The two seem to be dual aspects of the same fundamental thing, and although the existence of one logically requires the existence of the other, they are not identical and one does not supervene on the other.

    We can get a firmer grasp on their distinctness by considering some hypothetical examples where one is at play but not the other. The classical conception of God as the unmoved mover, and Newton's absolute space and time, are both examples of hypothetical entities that have only an effective aspect; they can place causal constraint, but cannot themselves be changed or affected. The conception of consciousness as an epiphenomenon is an example of an entity with only a receptive aspect; an epiphenomenal consciousness can receive causal constraint from brain events, but cannot affect the brain, or anything else, in turn.

    Rosenberg proposes to model receptivity as a connective property that binds various effective properties together, rather than as a monadic, one-place property. If we were to view receptivity as a monadic property, we would still have the problem of accounting for how an individual's receptive property connects to effective properties in various circumstances. Modeling receptivity as the connection itself avoids this problem, and also allows for further explanatory power. As we'll see, modeling receptivity as a connection will allow us to 1) produce an account of what levels of nature are and how they emerge, 2) produce conditions of substantial metaphysical unity upon which we can ground facts about natural individuals and natural individuation, and 3) sketch the outlines of how it could be that spacetime is not a fundamental entity, but rather arises from causal circumstances.

    The Theory of the Causal Nexus

    Let us now delve into Rosenberg's detailed theoretical proposal for what causation is and how it works. Recall that we characterize causal significance as an operator of constraint on a space of possibilities. Thus construed, causation solves the determination problem, which is stated as follows: given that the world contains many properties with many potential states, what is it that creates a world with determinate instantiations of these properties?

    In the spirit of the determination problem, we can view effective properties as determinables, which are kinds of properties that may take on a range of particular values or forms, called the determinates. General examples of determinables include redness, a kind of property whose determinates are shades of red, and shape, a kind of property whose determinates include circularity, triangularity, etc. Fundamental effective properties in nature such as mass, charge, and spin are also determinables. Insofar as sufficiently unconstrained effective properties are not determinate, we can say they are incomplete, and they approach completion by becoming more and more determinate (i.e., by having more and more of their possible determinates excluded from possibility by conditions of causal constraint). An effective property is defined as being complete if and only if it is in a completely determinate state (i.e., all but one of its possible states have been excluded by conditions of causal constraint).

    We can also consider receptivity in terms of completeness and incompleteness. Receptivity, modeled as a connective property, is a neutral essence with the ability to bind to effective individuals. We can think of this ability to bind to effective properties metaphorically as a kind of open 'slot' in a receptive property into which an effective property could fit. In this sense, an instance of receptivity is analogous to the plastic binding that holds together a six-pack of Coke cans, where the cans are the analogue of effective individuals. A complete instance of receptivity, then, is one whose 'slots' are completely filled, and an incomplete instance of receptivity is one that can bind to further effective properties. (Rosenberg builds a theory where all instances of receptivity have a discrete and finite number of 'slots,' but does not take this discreteness and finiteness to be a necessary feature of the theory.)

    The six-pack metaphor is useful for loosely conceptualizing what an instance of receptivity is, but the proposed binding relation between effective and receptive properties is a more substantial one than that implied by the metaphor. What it means for effective and receptive properties to bind is that in some sense they become part of one another's natures, and in the process approach completion. In particular, if two effective properties EP1 and EP2 are bound to the same instance of receptivity R, then EP1 and EP2 infuse part of R's nature, and part of R's nature is taken up by EP1 and EP2. Thus, by transitivity supported by R, EP1 and EP2 become part of each other's natures, and so have a means of placing causal constraints upon each other's determinable states.

    When a single instance of receptivity binds two or more effective individuals, the resulting property complex is called a causal nexus. Causal nexii are governed by causal laws, which are laws that describe the compatibility, incompatibility, and requirement relationships between effective properties within a nexus.

    Natural Individuals

    In order to characterize causation at various levels of nature, it is useful at this point to introduce the notion of natural individuals (which I will also refer to in the following simply as 'individuals'). Singular instances of 'primitive,' unbound effective properties and receptive properties are defined as level zero natural individuals. These should be taken as useful abstractions; lone instances of effective properties that are not bound to any receptivity, and lone instances of receptivity that are not bound to any effective properties, are not things that actually exist in nature. A level one individual is defined as a completed level zero receptivity that binds level zero effective properties. Level one individuals are the most fundamental kinds of things in existence, whether those turn out to be fundamental particles, or strings, or something else. A level two individual is constituted by an instance of a level one receptivity binding two or more level one individuals. An example of a level two individual would be a causal interaction between two colliding fundamental particles. In general, a level N individual (for N > 0) is defined as a set of natural individuals of level N-1 that are bound together by a common level N-1 receptive connection. Each instance of receptivity at each level is taken to be an ontologically novel and irreducible entity.

    As with the primitive effective and receptive properties, we can evaluate an individual at level one or higher in terms of completeness, as follows: a level N individual (for N > 0) is complete if and only if all of the level N-1 individuals bound by its receptivity are complete. It is important to evaluate individuals in terms of completeness, because following causal significance and the determination problem, the process of causation is just the process of individuals becoming more determinate, or more complete. If a given individual is complete, then it is completely determinate, and no more causal work can be done on it (although it may place causal constraints on other incomplete individuals). If a level N individual X is incomplete, then its effective state is not yet determinate; there is a range of possible values that X's effective state can take, and it can approach completeness by binding with other level N individuals to form a level N+1 individual. The new level N+1 individual is a causal nexus in which X can receive constraints on its effective state from the other individuals to which it is bound (we say that the individuals with which X shares a common receptivity are within its receptive field). The exact nature of the constraint placed on X by the causal nexus is determined by the causal laws of the nexus and the effective states of the individuals within X's receptive field.

    Causation at Work

    To get a better hold on these concepts, imagine a world in which two individuals, A and B, are bound by a common receptivity R to form a causal nexus C. To evaluate the causal constraints placed on A and B by the nexus and its causal laws, we must first discern the possible effective states A and B could have as a result of their own internal causal relations, considered independently from the constraining influences of their causal environment. These are the independently possible states of A and B; it is these independently possible states that constitute the space of possibility which the causal relations inherent in C can operate upon and constrain.

    Suppose that A has the independently possible states 1 and 2, whereas B has the independently possible states 1, 2, and 3. Considered independently, the possible joint states of A and B is the Cartesian product of their independently possible states, i.e. (1, 1), (1, 2), (1, 3), (2, 1), (2, 2), and (2, 3). Further suppose that there is a causal law on the nexus C such that the sum of the values of all its individuals' effective states cannot exceed 3. This causal law immediately excludes B's independently possible state 3, and also excludes the independently possible joint state (2, 2). As a result of this causal constraint, B has had one of its independently possible states filtered out, and thus has become more determinate (although it has not become completely determinate). Because A and B both condition each other in this scenario, the nature of the causal relation between them is symmetric.

    Now suppose we tweak the situation slightly, such that A's only independently possible state is 2. In this case, we say A is determinate when considered independently; its own internal causal relations are sufficient to determine completely its effective state. As before, suppose B has independently possible states 1, 2, and 3. In this case, two of B's independently possible states, 2 and 3, are excluded by the causal law of the nexus, in conjunction with A's fixed state 2. B's only remaining possible state is 1, and thus B has become fully determinate as a result of its receptive binding with A. Note that although A placed effective constraint on B in this example, A's effective state was already fixed, and so it could not receive any causal constraint from B. Thus, this is an example of an asymmetric causal relation, since A conditioned B but not vice versa.

    Note that the creation of higher-level individuals is essentially a recursive matter of the binding of lower-level individuals, with more and more constraints being placed as more and more individuals 'nest' within each other; thus, the route to completeness is via the creation of higher-level individuals. There is no in principle limit to the depths of this recursion; depending on the circumstances, it might take only a layering of two levels of nature to result in a complete (level two) individual, or it might take two hundred.

    At this point we are faced with the significant question of what are the laws that govern the emergence of higher-level individuals, specifically, their configurations. Why would an individual of type A tend to bind with type B instead of type C, assuming such tendencies even exist? One rule that seems to follow directly from the model of causal significance considered here is a negative one: higher-level individuals cannot be formed unless there is indeterminateness at a lower level. If we are given a set of complete, level N individuals, there is no determination problem to solve, and thus no need for the creation of a level N+1 individual. The positive rules governing the formation of higher-level individuals seem to be a more difficult matter, and Rosenberg hesitates to offer a concrete proposal. However, he does nominate two principles which might guide how nature chooses to configure natural individuals. The first is the principle of maximal completion, which states that individuals tend towards completeness; under this principle, nature might favor the creation of those individuals which place the greatest constraints on their lower-level constituents. The second is the principles of thermodynamics; under this principle, nature might favor the creation of those individuals whose states have the highest entropy.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 21, 2005 #2


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    New terms

    There's a lot of new material presented in this chapter. To help make sense of it and provide a quick and easy reference, I'll provide a list of some of the new terms introduced here.


    * The causal significance of a thing is the constraint its existence adds to the space of possible ways the world could be. A successful theory of causal significance should lay bare an objective basis of facts on which less objective facts about causal responsibility rest. (Definition 9.1, pg. 150)

    * Causal nexus (pluralized as causal nexii): A receptive connection binding two or more effective properties. (Definition 9.2, pg. 159)

    * Effective properties: Properties that contribute to constraints on the determinate states of a causal nexus. (Definition 9.3, pg. 159)

    * Receptive properties: Connective properties enabling individuals to become members of causal nexii and to be sensitive to constraints on the state of the nexii where they are members. (Definition 9.4, pg. 159)

    * Causal laws: Laws describing restrictions on the composition of the causal nexus; that is, laws describing the compatibility, incompatibility, and requirement relationships between effective properties within a nexus. (Definition 9.5, pg. 159)

    * Causal nexus (expanded definition): Two or more nonneutral determinable individuals (i.e., effective individuals) sharing a common neutral essence (i.e., a common receptivity). A causal nexus must have exactly one receptive connection binding more than one effective individual. (Definition 9.2 (expanded), pg. 168)

    * Natural individual:
    base case: Any primitive effective or receptive property is a level-zero natural individual.
    inductive case: Any set of natural individuals of level N bound into a completed receptive connection constitutes a natural individual of level N+1. (pg. 178)

    * Level-one individual: A completed receptive connection consisting of a level-zero receptivity binding level-zero effective properties. (Definition 9.9, pg. 170)

    * An individual I is in a determinate state when considered independently if, and only if, the causal relations belonging to the constituents of I entail that I is in a determinate state. (Definition 9.6, pg. 160)

    * A state S is independently possible for an individual I if, and only if, S is a state left open for I when I is considered independently. (Definition 9.7, pg. 160)

    * A receptive connection is complete if, and only if, it does not contain an open slot. (Definition 9.8, pg. 170)

    * An effective property is complete if, and only if, it is in a fully determinate state. (Definition 9.10, pg. 173)

    * A compound individual is complete if, and only if, all of its member individuals are complete. (Definition 9.11, pg. 173)
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2005
  4. Apr 23, 2005 #3


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    I think Rosenberg is on to something here. I'm swayed by his argument for the logical necessity of receptive properties. Modeling receptivity as a connection, in conjunction with his notion of causal significance, really does seem to give us a far richer and less problematic account of causation than the common sense notion thereof. The general principles of his model seem to allow us to readily make sense of phenomena like quantum entanglement, quantum superposition, and complex/emergent systems, i.e. the kind of phenomena that are deeply problematic for common sense or 'classical' accounts of causal responsibility. There is a lot of explanitory promise here.

    That said, I also have to agree with Steve Esser's remark that "At the level of specificity Rosenberg has given, he has pretty much guaranteed that many details will prove to be wrong in describing our world." For instance, it might make more sense to model receptive connections more generally instead of committing ourselves to the view that they come in discrete instances with finite carrying capacities (Rosenberg does mention that he believes the theory could be extended in such a manner).

    Also, I'm not clear what the theoretical motivation is for so cleanly demarcating levels of nature, as in the definition of natural individuals where a level N individual is always composed of level N-1 individuals. It seems more intuitive that receptivity should be able to bind individuals of levels M and N, for any arbitrary M and N greater than zero. On such a view, we could keep the current definitions of level-zero, level-one, and level-two individuals, and define an indivudal of level N (for N > 2) to be an instance of receptivity that binds at least two individuals, such that at least one of them is at level N-1. With this amendment, we could (for instance) have a level-one, fundmental particle P interacting directly with a higher-level individual I without the requirement that P either 1) be a member of an indivual at the same level as I, or 2) only interact with the level-one components of I.

    In general, it seems that in his formulation, Rosenberg is placing some specific values on parameters of more basic concepts (receptivity, levels of nature, etc.). Ironically, it was precisely by stripping away such specific values in order to get to the more basic parameters/concepts that Rosenberg retrieved his notion of causal significance from causal responsibility. So the course of the treatment on causality here seems to go from too specific (causal responsibility), to very general (causal significance, plus effective and receptive properties), and perhaps back to being too specific (Rosenberg's detailed proposal).

    But even if Rosenberg has overextended here, it seems certain that substantial, perhaps even groundbreaking, progress has been made. Also, it seems that most (if not all) of the important consequences of Rosenberg's work on causation (spelled out further in coming chapters) do not depend on the specifics so much as the general concepts-- so even if some of the details are wrong, we can still take away the important new ways of seeing things. We can regard the details as providing us with a simplified, easy-to-work-with model of causation that can still derive important results, results that can be salvaged even if some of the specifics of the theory are revised later on.
  5. Apr 25, 2005 #4

    Thanks for all that. I don't have much to say about the details of this particular conceptualisation of causation except that it seems ad hoc and unnecessarily complicated to me at this stage. But that may change later. I'm still struggling to get my head around his ideas.

    Metpahysically I struggle with a few problems here, as I did throughout the book since many issues are never addressed. If Rosenberg was an inhabitant of the Matrix then his approach to causation would be just as valid, despite the fact that in the Matrix causation does not work like this at all. Theoretically we ourselves could be in some form of Matrix-like situation. From this we can see that Rosenbergs ideas are not grounded on any scientific facts or testable assumptions. Of course all scientific theories of causation suffer from this problem so it would be unfair to single out Rosenberg for criticism. However it leaves me wondering why we should adopt this particular system of classification of the components of causation rather than some other system.

    One question. If receptivity is a connection and not a property of objects then does receptivity exist independently of the objects which it connects? Or have I misunderstood this?

    It seems to me that receptivity is just causal significance from the other perspective. When, say, a baseball is hit by a bat then one can say that the bat affected the ball and also that the ball affected the bat. (Hence, presumably, the circular definition of causal significance and effective properties that you mention). In this case I'm not sure I understand the difference between a thing having causal significance and it having causal receptivity. If a thing has one it must have the other, since they are just the same thing seen from two different perspectives.

    I suppose what I mean is that every effect is a cause and vice versa, so how does one distinguish which is which without raising the spectre of intentionality and observer-specific perspectives.

    Hmm. That's rather muddled as usual. If you can't see what I mean I'll have another go.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2005
  6. Apr 25, 2005 #5
    I think like you, Hypnagogue, that a receptivity of level N does not need to bind only individuals of level N-1 but can also bind individuals of all levels M < N . (I think Rosenberg proposed the strict hierarchy only for educational purpose.)
    An illustration of this is Rosenberg’s simplified model of the Newtonian physics (p. 174-8). A level-1 individual binds the level-0 properties mass, charge and velocity to a singular entity P1. (I conceive this receptivity as a kind of locating a physical entity, but I’m not sure whether Rosenberg would accept this thesis although he calls the level-one individual the “basic particle”.) This level-1 individual is not fully determined, but there are some constraints to the three properties so that they can be found together. The level-0 property acceleration is not determined. It can be filled via Newton’s Law: F = ma.
    For Rosenberg Newton’s Law is a receptivity of level two and a Newtonian world is a world in which there exist only individuals of level zero, one and two. But what kind of individual is a force F? Rosenberg suggests that it is a level-one individual, a “field of force”. But why not think that a force is only a level-0 individual? In the latter case there would exist a level-2 individual which contains one level-1 individual P1 and one level-0 individual F (independent of P1 and the properties of P1).

    Canute, I think that a receptivity exists as independent of the objects that it connects as the natural law (e.g. F=ma) exists independent of the objects which it connects.
    My question is: Could there be haecceitatic receptivities which bind only one single individual?
  7. Apr 26, 2005 #6


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    What strikes you as ad hoc? Also, as I implied earlier, the complications and details of the theory will be useful for generating some theoretical results in coming chapters. We should take the details as simplifications of a sort that allow us to get a grasp on applying the more general concepts. I think several of the specific details proposed here can be discarded if need be without losing the important consequences of the theory along with them.

    I'm not sure what your grounds are for that claim. At most, it might be the case that the specific receptive structures would be different in a Matrix world than they would be in a non-Matrix world, but this does not abolish receptivity altogether, and there have not been any concrete proposals yet for the kinds of receptive structures that exist in nature anyway. I don't see any reason why we should say that things in the Matrix do not feature receptivity; at worst, receptivity just gets pushed onto the computational elements underlying the Matrix world, but the Matrix world is identical with those computational elements and their interactions, so the general situation does not seem so different.

    It is true, of course, that finding empirical justification for receptivity would be an elusive endevor. By definition, we could not directly observe receptivity. However, what we can do is form logical arguments in the first instance (receptivity must exist), and then develop those arguments in a more definite context (causal significance) and form (causal nexii/natural individuals). Then we can see how compatible these ideas are with what we can observe, and how well we can explain what we observe using these ideas. We already have seen something of this flavor, by observing how a receptivity/causal significance view can so easily accomodate non-local quantum entanglement, which is a problematic phenomenon for more classical conceptions of causation. We'll have more evidence of this sort as we go along.

    The main justification, to repeat, is compatibility with, and ability to explain, known phenomena. Empricial justification is a problem, but if our new theory can accomodate and explain a large range of phenomena which our older notions had systematic difficulties accomodating and explaining, then we have strong circumstantial evidence that we're on the right track.

    By definition, level-zero receptivity is independent of any effective properties. (Note I said 'effective properties'; this is not a substance theory, so 'object' might not be the best word to use here.) But Rosenberg does not take the level-zero individuals to be actually existent things; the most fundamental things he holds to actually exist in nature are level-one individuals, which are receptive/effective complexes. Also recall that Rosenberg sees the binding relationship between effective and receptive properties as one in which part of the receptive property literally becomes part of the effective individuals it binds, and those individuals literally become part of the receptivity. So, on this view, receptivity is not something which is ever actually completely independent from the individuals it binds, although it is still ontologically distinct from those individuals. There's more on this topic in chapter 10.

    You seem to be equating receptivity with Newton's third law, which is not the correct way to conceive of it. When you say the ball affects the bat and vice versa, what you are pointing out are two effective influences; there is no explicit account of receptivity here. An explicit account of receptivity here would say that the bat has some receptive property which allows it to receive the effective influence of the ball, and likewise the ball has some receptive property which allows it to receive the effective influence of the bat. If we suppose, for instance, that the ball is not receptive to any effective influence from the bat, then presumably it would sail through as if the bat had not struck it at all. By saying the ball and bat affect eachother (in a realist, i.e. non-Humean sense of 'affecting'), we certainly seem to be implying that they are receptive to one another's effective properties, but we need to take an extra step to really make this point explicit.

    Also, recall the definition of causal significance: "The causal significance of a thing is the constraint its existence adds to the space of possible ways the world could be." This is just an attempt to get at the objective core of what it means for something to be causal, and is not to be equated with receptivity. Rather, we start with the minimal notion of causal significance, and then propose some properties (in this case, effective and receptive properties) that could be the mechanisms by which things could have causal significance for eachother. One could hold that things in the world have causal significance and also reject receptivity altogether. I don't think it is coherent to reject receptivity, but that's a separate issue altogether from causal significance; the definitions of causal significance and receptive properties are not linked in such a way that rejecting the latter forces you to reject the former.

    Hence, it would not make sense to say that causal significance and effective properties are circularly defined; rather, it is receptive and effective properties that are circularly defined. To assert these twin notions of effective and receptive properties is just to assert a mechanism by which things could have causal significance for eachother. The definition of causal significance itself does not identify any such mechanisms.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2005
  8. Apr 26, 2005 #7
    Lots of great ideas in this chapter – it rewards repeated reading. Let me just now stress one theme which Hypnagogue has also raised: which is the strong compatibility of the theory with quantum mechanics.

    When most folks think about causality I think they have something inspired by classical mechanics in their minds: “Billiard ball A striking billiard ball B”. Note I say “inspired by” classical mechanics. The time-symmetric laws of classical physics do not explain this everyday notion of causality, although we tend to think they do.

    When it comes to quantum physics, many philosophers seem to assume it implies something like a simple probabilistic version of classical causality, but it does not – it is very different and ultimately richer.

    Rosenberg’s theory of causal significance has the ability to be compatible with the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, whereas the traditional notion of causal responsibility or production cannot, as Rosenberg points out.

    But also I believe that the proposal that both effective and receptive properties exist in nature is necessary to explain the measurement phenomenon of QM. For position or charge or spin (effective properties) to be determined, they must be measured (As an aside, the evolution of a quantum system absent measurement is also time-symmetric and includes no notion of causal production). A quality must exist in nature which is a property of “being able to measure” (some would prefer “being able to receive information”). This is the receptive property.

    Any theory of how causation works in the world (including our middle-level macroscopic domain) must be built up from these quantum measurements, and you need both effective and receptive properties to do it. Rosenberg’s system of levels and slots, etc. is a way of showing how the extra degree of freedom which comes from having both effective and receptive properties could account for the existence of individuated natural systems interacting in the world we know.
  9. Apr 27, 2005 #8


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    A quick word on this-- I think this is just an example that uses some concepts we are familiar with (particles, forces, mass, etc.) in order to get a better grasp on the concepts of how causal determination works in this model through the formation of higher-level individuals. I don't think we should take the specific proposal here too seriously, beyond its role as a demonstration of concepts.

    That said, I don't think it would make sense to model forces as level-zero individuals, since the most intuitive causal interpretation of classical physics has forces arising from effective properties such as mass and charge. In fact, it would probably be more intuitive to model (say) the electromagnetic force acting between two electrons as nothing more than the causal constraints themselves that each electron places upon the other in the causal nexus. That is, we could say that two electrons in close proximity bind into a common instance of receptivity to form a causal nexus N, and their charge, mass, and motion properties mutually constrain each electron such that they are forced into their respective paths/probability distributions through spacetime. In this way of looking at it, the electromagnetic force is not a separate individual that binds to either electron, but is rather the causal constraint itself that the properties of each electron places on the other, in accordance to the causal laws of the nexus N.

    I'm not sure what haecceitatic means, but in chapter 10 Rosenberg uses a toy example of a trivial causal world for illustrative purposes, where instances of level-zero receptivities each only bind one instance of level-zero effective properties (figure 10.7). So there's nothing in the model that explicitly precludes such a thing, although whether such things could exist in nature, and whether we could know about them, are further questions.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2005
  10. Apr 27, 2005 #9


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    I'm not sure the quantum measurement issue really supports the notion of receptivity in a much stronger sense than does the more mundane effective interactions of everyday things. Presumably there is some regular set of effective conditions under which collapse of the wave function lawfully occurs, and if this is true, then the collapse is not very much unlike any other physical phenomena that follow lawful dynamical descriptions. The common thread is just that, if we take a causal realist view of these lawful regularities, we must posit that affected phenomena have some property that allows them to be so affected (or else they could not be so affected at all). For instance, we need not invoke quantum measurement to say something like, "If a bat has real causal significance for the path that a baseball takes upon being struck by the bat, then the ball most have some property of 'being able to measure' or 'being able to receive information from' the effective properties of the bat."

    When stated this way, the case for receptivity seems like almost a trivial observation, which I think is a good sign that the argument for the logical necessity of receptive properties is a strong one. Anyone who denies the existence of receptive properties has a lot of explaining to do.

    That said, I think the wave function collapse upon measurement does provide another crucial bit of evidence in support of Rosenberg's theory of causation. On classical notions of causation, it seems utterly bizarre and mysterious that a sufficiently tiny thing should have multiple, distinct states at once, only to have these resolved into a determinate value upon certain kinds of interactions with larger systems. On Rosenberg's model of causation, this whole phenomena seems not like an intractable mystery, but rather a harmless and expected sort of occurence that follows straightforwardly from the basic principles of causation: we should expect that 1) the more fundamental individuals of nature should sometimes find themselves in indeterminate states (superposition of quantum particles), and 2) such indeterminate individuals become more determinate ('collapse') by receptively binding with other individuals (being 'measured').
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2005
  11. Apr 27, 2005 #10

    You're right, I meant that effective and receptive properties are circularly defined, not causal significance. I'll try to explain what I was getting at a bit more clearly.

    I meant to suggest that the idea of causal significance requires only that there are effective properties. Receptive properties are just effective properties from a different perspective. A baseball has effective properties that operate on the bat. The bat has effective properties that act upon the ball. Why do we need to posit receptive properties?

    It seems to me that we can define 'properties' as having causal significance, since properties must be causally significant in order to exist, or at least for us to observe that they exist. (They must affect our senses or measuring devices). In this case everything that has properties has causal significance, and a thing with no properties does not have causal significance. So, to have causal significance is to have properties, to have properties is to have causal significance. Why do we need 'effective' and 'receptive' properties? Why not just properties?

    In everyday life we adopt particular positions as observers of events, and tend to think of events as causes or effects depending on their relation to us. For instance, if we hit a cricket ball with a bat we tend to think of the bat as causing the ball to change trajectory. This is because there is intention behind the movement of the bat. But if the bat was standing in a corner and we threw a ball and knocked it over we would say that ball caused the bat to change trajectory. Philosophically these are identical cases of causation, but in one we assign effective properties to the bat, in the other to the ball. This is an arbitrary decision. The bat and the ball have properties, that's all. Having properties they are bound to effectively cause each other. A road connects two places, say A and B. One cannot say that the road goes from A to B rather than from B to A. It just depends on which way you look at it.

    This relates to consciousness in that many people assume that consciousness has receptive properties but not effective properties. If these terms are circularly defined then this idea is completely incoherent, for if a thing has receptive properties then it has effective properties. For every action there is a reaction. It is impossible to cause without being caused. If this were not so then a perpetual motion machine would become a possibility. Because of all this the distinction made by Rosenberg between effective and receptive properties is one of the features of the theory I find ad hoc.

    What I meant by mentioning the Matrix is that causation in the Matrix-world is illusory. Events are caused by (something like) the interaction of algorithms in an alien computer system that is not even in that world. Yet Rosenberg's theory would be just as plausible or implausible in that world as it is in this one. There seems no reason for us to believe that causation works in anything like the way he suggests it does.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2005
  12. Apr 27, 2005 #11


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    Obviously, we must posit some sort of receptive aspect to things, or else no effective causal work could be done. I take that much to be uncontentious.

    A more substantial question is whether we should identify those receptive aspects with their effective counterparts, which is what you seem to be proposing. This point is addressed on pages 154-155. Basically, Rosenberg offers some examples of things that we conceptualize as having one aspect (receptive or effective) but not the other. For example, Newtonian spacetime is essentially a purely effective entity, with no respective aspect; it is absolute and unchanging. Einstein's spacetime has a different effective character from Newton's, but it also is responsive to mass, and so Einstein added receptivity to spacetime. Epiphenomenal consciousness is an example of a hypothetical phenomenon that has receptivity but no effective aspects.

    These examples serve to demonstrate that effective and receptive properties are conceptually and empirically distinct. As such, we should recognize that they subserve distinct causal functions and should be given distinct accounts. Specifying one is not sufficient to fully specify the other.

    Correct, but that's an example of the deficiences of accounts of causal responsibility. Rosenberg has already rejected causal responsibility by way of that sort of objection to its intentional/interest-relative characterizations.

    You still seem to be thinking of receptive and effective properties as a redressing of Newton's third law, which is not what this distinction is about at all. It's not a matter of whether A caused B or B caused A. It's a matter of how it is that A and B were able to affect eachother at all. For this to occur, there must be some property of A such that it can affect, but also some property of B such that it can be affected, and vice versa.

    Given that 1) you seem to have a distaste for epiphenomenalism, and 2) you think that the circular definition of effective and receptive properties rules out epiphenomenalism, I'm not sure what your issue is here. If anything, this line of reasoning should lend you support for accepting receptive properties.

    That's just Newton's third law again. You need to recognize that this is not what's at stake here.


    What is it that you feel Rosenberg is trying to explain away by introducing receptivity? This is just ground-level reasoning about causation. At the point where he introduces the notion of receptivity, all he has done is asserted a commitment to a very general causal significance view of causation. I don't even see any commitments made at this point in the reasoning process that could be the target for ad hoc tactics.

    The Matrix scenario is really not all that different. If we take a naturalistic view of the world, we don't suppose that it is the appearances of objects/events that have causal significance; we postulate objective entities (atoms and the like) that do the causal work. In a Matrix world, the ontology of the underlying objective entities is different than we might have suspected (there is a computational 'layer' underneath what we would call the physical layer), and even the specific kinds of causal structures and processes that exist might be different from what we might otherwise have suspected. But in both cases, we have some objective phenomena that underlie surface appearances, and it is these objective phenomena that have causal significance. And if causal significance is preserved, then so is the reasoning about effective and receptive properties.

    In short, you have not given me good reason for believing that Rosenberg's account would not validly extend to a hypothetical Matrix world. The only way you could really do that is to be a Humean about causation, but not just in the apparent Matrix world, but also in the underlying world that houses the Matrix computers. That is, you'd have to assert that the computational elements of the computer do not really have causal significance for eachother at all, but rather just happen to instantiate regular patterns of behavior. But then that leaves you susceptible to the arguments of chapter 8.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2005
  13. Apr 28, 2005 #12
    Me also. Causes must have effects in order to be causes.

    Yes, these are certainly examples of things we conceptualise as having one aspect, either receptive or effective. But I'm suggesting that we misconceptualise them, and that the idea of a thing having one aspect but not the other is not forced on us by the evidence and is logically incoherent. I'm only suggesting this tentatively since it's a complex issue. However from what you say here I see no reason to change my mind yet.

    John Post has written a very relevant article called 'Is Supervenience Assymetric' in which he concludes it is not. The article is here -


    To me it seems that the examples show only that it is hypothised by some people that effective and receptive properties are distinct. They are not conceptually distinct to me, and I'm not convinced that it's possible to show them to be empirically distinct.

    Yes, he does appear to have rejected them. But I'm arguing that to distinguish between effective and receptive properties is an inadvertant intentional/interest-relative characterisation of causality.

    If we say that receptive/effective properties are distinct types of property then we would have to say that it is impossible for a thing to have effective properties unless some other thing has receptive properties, and vice versa. Thus the two types of property exist only in dependence on each other, do not exist independently of each other. I'd rather say they're the same property seen from two viewpoints, just as the relative motion of two objects can be seen from two viewpoints. In other words, I'm suggesting that the cause/effect distinction is epistemilogical or psychological, not ontological. To say otherwise creates the 'first cause' (or 'last effect') paradox among other problems.

    I agree that both A and B must have properties that interact causally if they causally affect each other.

    This is not quite my position. I would say that epiphenomenalism depends for its plausibility on the idea of there being a clear distinction between effective and receptive properties, and that this is its most significant weakness as a hypothesis. (I'm not against the idea of epiphenominalism per se, but would argue that both brain and mind are epiphenomena).

    Perhaps you're right, but I'm not convinced that Newton is irrelevant here. Would you say that epiphenomenalism (in the context of brain/mind) requires that the brain expend energy to create consciousness?

    I called his reasoning ad hoc because I can see no scientific evidence or logical reason for supposing that there is a distinction between effective and receptive properties. Perhaps this is a misuse of the term ad hoc, but this is what I meant.

    Yes, if we take a naturalistic view. But when we look for those postulated objective entities we can never find them, so on what grounds should we take a naturalistic view?

    In consciousness studies the non-dual view of Buddhism etc. shows up as 'relative phenomenalism'. According to relative phenomenalism it is precisely the appearances of objects that have causal significance, since objects are no more than their appearances. This is more consistent with the findings of physics than the idea that objects have some intrinsic existence apart from their properties.

    You will know the old and intractible philosophical 'problem of attributes'. In this context we could call it the problem of properties. When we examine objects closely we find that there is nothing underlying or 'having' these properties. Until there is some evidence that there is some object underlying these properties it would seem best not to assume that there is one. This would certainly be the best strategy within the Matrix.

    I thought I said that Rosenberg's account would be just as valid or invalid in a Matrix world as this one. It seems to me it would. But for it to be valid in the Matrix would require that some physical or algorithmic elements of the computer system running the Matrix have receptive properties but no effective properties, which seems odd. So, where you'd say that his account is equally valid in the Matrix I'd say it was equally invalid.

    By the way, not quite off topic, I came across the best essay I've ever read on QM the other day and it relates in a roundabout way to this discussion. I think you'd really enjoy it, whether or not you agreed with the author (Ross Kelley). It's titled 'Kantian Quantum Mechanics' and is here -


    You may also like his essay on 'Non-Intuitive Immediate Knowledge', reachable from his home page. Almost everything on the site is brilliant and worth a read imho. If you do read any of these I'd be very interested to know what you think if you've got time to PM any comments. (It would be off-topic here, although only just). I have no arguments at all with this guy.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2005
  14. Apr 28, 2005 #13
    The point with which I disagree with you, Canute, is that receptive properties are not effective (seen from another point of view). Receptive properties are the most important supposition so that individuals (individual events and perhaps also objects) can exist and not only properies. All action and reaction is between effective properties. But there can be no action and reaction if there are no individuals whose effective properties interact.

    No, it is an advantage for a relatively simple thesis to be a proposal for a solution for the constitution of individuals. (The problem is: Do the constructed individuals realy exist?)
  15. Apr 29, 2005 #14


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    Canute, chapter 11 is dedicated more or less to this issue of whether we can identify effective and receptive properties. I think it's best if we hold off on discussing the details of this issue (particularly the justification for distinguishing effective and receptive properties) for that chapter, when we'll have a more in-depth perspective on the matter to talk about. So I'll hold off on discussing the meat of this issue for now and address some of the more basic points here.

    Rosenberg revisits this issue briefly on pages 177-8, when he addresses the hypothetical example of God as the unmoved mover from the perspective of his account of causation. He does not conceive of this as implying that God has no receptive aspect whatsoever, but rather, that God is already in a complete or determinate state when considered independently of the world, and so cannot receive further causal constraint. So it's not that God has no receptive aspect as much as it is that God's receptive aspect has no causal work to do. (Actually, it would be more accurate to say that God's receptivity has no further causal work to do than that which it performs when God is considered independently.) We can imagine something similar for the opposite case, e.g. epiphenomenal consciousness (EC). We need not take the view that EC has no effective aspect whatsoever; it could be that it does have effective properties, but that no physical things are receptive to whatever causal constraint they might place.

    Perhaps that helps with the apparent logical incoherence. On Rosenberg's view, everything that actually exists has both receptive and effective aspects. This view can account for hypothetical entities that seem to have one aspect but not the other by supposing that the 'missing' aspect simply has no causal work to do in a larger causal environment. Thus it winds up looking as if the aspect in question does not exist, but in fact it does. It is missing in the sense that it cannot do causal work of the relevant kind, but ontologically, it still exists.

    That link isn't working for me.

    To repeat, the effective/receptive distinction is not the same thing as the cause/effect distinction. Events that we call 'causes' and 'effects' are effective in nature. Receptivity is that which allows them to constrain eachother. Also, you should recall that Rosenberg's account of causation does not require us to make a distinction between two constraining (effective) events, such that we call one 'cause' and the other 'effect' (as in the example of the mutually constraining coins). So not only is distinguishing effective and receptive properties not about distinguishing cause and effect, but Rosenberg's theory even explicitly frees us from doing the latter.

    I honestly don't know the details of how epiphenomenalism is supposed to work, or if any really detailed proposal has ever been put forth; perhaps an application of Newton's third law could spell trouble for some particular brand of epiphenomenalism.

    But the more basic concern is that you are identifying the effective/receptive dichotomy with dichotomies like cause/effect and action/reaction, which entirely misses the point. Even if you wish to argue that effective properties can already do receptive work, you're operating from a misinformed basis, because you're not quite recognizing the meaning of the proposal for receptivity in the first place.

    I meant appearances in the sense of how things appear to us in conscious experience, not in the sense of the properties of things. The former is subjective, the latter objective. We do not ever perceive the charge of an electron, but charge is a property of electrons.

    By hypothesis, it is true that the subjective appearances of things in the Matrix have underlying, objective properties (the properties of the computers). I'm really not clear what you're trying to get at here.

    That's not true. The hypothetical examples where one aspect is missing was just intended to demonstrate that effective and receptive properties are conceptually distinct. Certainly, we do not have to suppose that some things must actually be missing one or the other. In fact, as I mentioned above, all things have effective and receptive properties, by Rosenberg's account.

    Thanks, I haven't had a chance to read it yet but I'll put it on the queue.
  16. Apr 29, 2005 #15
    First of all, thanks Hypnagogue and rest of the people for he interesting comments so helpful to the understanding of Rosenberg's proposal.

    Second, I understand that up to this point, the idea of causation is a very abstract one. It is not the usual concept of causation we are used to handle (more or less consciously) in our ordinary life. It is not either the scientific concept of physical causation (Newton's 3rd law, etc). However, it arises from those common concepts, using them as an intuition or trying to extrapolate them. So, it is a new concept or approach that I guess is not operating in our habitual space-time frame. I imagine how difficult it must be to try to convey that idea (In fact, at times it seems to me as if we lacked an appropiate language to address it. Of course, the language of physics doesn't serve us there. But it occurs to me if perhaps a mathematical formalism could be employed). Also in ordinary life, language of subjective experience is not either language of science.
    Anyway, all we have at the moment is this language to try to explore that domain (and I wish I could use it more accurately, my apologies).

    Well, one of my doubts now concerns the characterization of that field or space (not the fourth dimensional usual subjective or scientific frame of reference) where causation is operating. When it is considered as a "space of possibilities", I wonder which kind of possibilities.
    "All possible worlds" seems too a wide view, giving place to all type of fantazising.
    I tend to assimilate those possibilities, then, to phenomenal properties or phenomenal experiences, and to relate the "space of possibilities" to the "qualitative field" suggested in an earlier chapter.
    But "All phenomenal experiences" makes me wonder wether we have a useful or valid ontology of such experiences, or they remain at the moment as too a debated reference.
    Besides, I am not sure if the proposal of that general view of causation points just to the phenomenal field, or the phenomenal isn't but a part of a wider domain where causation operates.
    Perhaps I am misunderstanding the reading. I'd appreciate some help or redirection to the appropiate understanding.
  17. Apr 29, 2005 #16
    I don't quite see how distinguishing receptive from effective properties helps us establish the existence of individuals underlying these properties.

    Hypnagogue writes "We can think of the relationship between effective and receptive properties as analogous to the relationship between the front and back of a wall. The two seem to be dual aspects of the same fundamental thing, and although the existence of one logically requires the existence of the other, they are not identical and one does not supervene on the other."

    The Yin/Yang symbol is sometime characterised as representing the two opposite faces of a mountain, one bathed in sunlight the other in the shade. These faces are aspects or appearances. In this it shares something with Hypnagogues wall analogy. However the Yin/Yang symbol is very sophisticated. It also represents the resolution of these two aspects in nonduality, thus affirming that aspects are not things and that the relative should not be mistaken for the absolute.

    In the Encyclopedia Britannica (9th ed) James Ward writes "In psychology a difference in aspects is a difference in things". In other words, human beings generally take aspects to be things. In reality a difference in aspects is not a difference in things. I'm suggesting that to conceptualise causation as operating through two opposite and complementary mechanisms or forces, one receptive one effective, is to mistake psychology for ontology.

    You seem to asume that action and reaction entail that there is some 'real' or physical entity underlying the aspects and appearances of things. This assumption is not only not necessary it gives rise to contradictions. If true it would entail that if one were to take away all the properties of an object there will be something left over, the thing that is really real. This would be something with no properties. It could therefore be neither causal nor caused.

    That is certainly the question. In my view the answer is no, except as aggregates of aspects and properties. The question of whether the objects we perceive in the world are externally real or the phenomenal contents of our minds is undecidable, which suggests that neither is quite the right answer.
  18. Apr 29, 2005 #17
    Good idea.

    It strikes me that sometimes your enviable skill at communicating does more justice to these ideas than they deserve. I'm not prepared to get involved in this sort of sophistry in order to rescue an hypothesis the defence of which requires it. What sense can one make of the idea that God has receptive properties but that He has no use for them, or that consciousness can cause but that there is nothing that it causes? If there is nothing that it causes then it has no causal significance.

    That just restates the view that I'm disputing.

    Hmm. Is this better?


    Yes, I see the point about cause and effect, although I still feel that these issues are not as separate as you suggest. My understanding is that receptivity does not allow things to constrain each other, that effectivity is also required. Unless, that is, a constraint is something other than a cause. But I can't make sense of that.

    We can therefore say that all events are causes. This appears to do away with the need for making a distinction between effectivity and receptivity.

    I've never come across a discussion of this issue, but it seems to me that it spells a great deal of trouble for all the brands of epiphenominalism I've come across. I haven't thought about this one much. There are other more straightforward objections.

    Surely there is some connection between cause/effect, action/reaction and receptivity/effectivity? I'm tempted to say that it is not me that is missing the point, but to honest I'm not sure which of us it is yet.

    I am not suggesting that effective properties can do receptive work. That would be to adopt Rosenberg's assumptions. I'm saying that there is no distinction between effective and receptive work.

    My point, or one of them, is that if causation in Matrix-world is the result of the properties of a computer, and if in Matrix-world some 'things' have receptive properties but no effective properties, then some parts of the computer have receptive properties but no affective properties. This seems an odd idea to me.

    Does it not strike you as suspicious that the only things you have suggested have receptive but not affective properties are spacetime, consciousness and God (or whatever is fundamental), three things whose existence is disputed by many physicists and which are metaphysical rather than scientific entities? The three things that have this lopsided property of being caused but not being causal, or vice versa, are the same three things which science cannot explain, and are the three things one can claim have this lopsided property without any fear that any future scientific test or experiment might prove one wrong.

    This seems like a play on words. It is entirely against the principle of Ockham's Razor to suppose that an entity has effective properties but cannot affect anything. However, I'm happy to agree that effective and receptive properties are, for Rosenberg at least, and perhaps yourself, conceptually distinct. However this has no bearing on whether they are distinct.
  19. Apr 29, 2005 #18


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    You're correct to point out that this notion of causal significance is substantially different from common conceptions thereof. The common view of causation is precisely the causal responsibility view that Rosenberg has ultimately rejected as the fundamental target for explanation for theories of causation. To sum up the major differences:

    Causal responsibility views hold that
    - there are only effective properties (or at least, only effective properties are explicitly appealed to)
    - the fundamental causal relation is one of production (i.e., causes producing effects)
    - causal interactions are local in spacetime
    - causal interactions are asymmetric

    Causal significance views holds that
    - there are receptive properties, which subserve causal roles distinct from those of effective properties
    - the fundamental causal relation is one of constraint (i.e., effective properties constraining eachother's independently possible states via a shared receptivity)
    - causally significant relations need not be local in spacetime
    - causally significant relations need not be asymmetric

    It's correct to say that reflection on common views of causal responsibility ultimately lead to the causal significance view. But once we've achieved the causal significance view, causal significance takes a primary ontological role, and ends up subsuming notions of causal responsibility. That is, the latter is a particular kind of view that ultimately rests on the more basic concepts of the former. So, in this sense, we can think of notions of causal responsibility as arising from the more fundamental notions of causal significance.

    The terms introduced in this chapter go a ways toward building a new language that is suitable for talking about causal significance in general, and Rosenberg's own version of a causal significance view in particular. In addition to these new linguistic elements, there is also a directed graph notation introduced in the next chapter that contributes to understanding these ideas and their applications in a more formal manner.

    The space of possibilities that causation operates on is the space of possible states or values that effective properties can take on. For instance, in the paradigmatic case of entangled quantum particles, spin can take on two distinct values, up or down. The spin of a quantum particle seems to be in a superposition of both states until it is 'measured,' at which point it is sufficiently constrained such that it only takes one one of these values, to the exclusion of the other. This is an instance where the space of possibilities for the effective property spin has been constrained from two values to just one.

    At this point, we are only committed to saying that it is effective properties that have a range of possible states which are constrained by relations of causal significance. Effective properties are understood to be the kinds of properties that physics studies-- mass, charge, spin, velocity, etc. So, as of now, there is no relationship between these notions of causation and the phenomenal properties of p-consciousness. However, effective properties and phenomenal properties will be tightly drawn together in subsequent chapters.
  20. Apr 29, 2005 #19
    I think, you are right, Hypnagogue. So a force would not be level-zero or level-one, but the receptive side of a level-two individual. Also Rosenberg describes the classical viewpoint as a “level-two solution” (p. 158). The level two individual constituted by a Newtonian force would be determinate considered independently as described in Definition 9.6.

    Canute does not think that there exist individuals like this and it is prima facie not desirable that an instance of a force constitutes an individual.

    I can argue (1) against the apparent ontological contradiction and also (2) against the prima facie missing empirical evidence.
    (1) My ontological argument is this: If you take all efficient properties away (what is only possible for a level-one individual), then that what remains is only a “neutral essence”, an abstract entity and no concrete thing (p. 168).
    You could say that an abstract entity cannot do causal work. I disagree. What adds the receptivity to the bundle of properties so that it is not redundant for causality? I think that receptivity excludes many capacities that would be possible if the properties would only be co-present in the bundle. It is this exclusion that makes impossible some effective actions and reactions of the receptive-bound bundle. And so it is warranted to talk of an individual with an effective side (the determinable properties which are not forbidden through the receptivity) and a receptive side (consisting in the fact that not all properties of the effective bundle can become instantiated).
    :rolleyes: The receptive field of an individual is something different from this effective side of an individual. As far as I see the receptive field of an individual is the collection/bundle of it’s effective properties. The fact that an individual is not determinate at all, i.e. that it has a receptive field is a second receptive side of the individual. This second receptive side is missing in God (if he exists), cf. Hypnagogue:
    (2) The empirical question for individuals can be solved in so far the Rosenberg uses the concept of an individual only in a technical sense of constraining determinables and lover-level individuals. (But he will grade up the concept of an individual in the following chapters.)
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2005
  21. Apr 30, 2005 #20
    Thanks for your patience, Hypnagogue.
    Still I have troubles with the characterization of the "space of possibilities" as just the space of possible states or values for effective properties. In fact, as soon as causal significance is operating, receptive properties can't be left aside anymore, I understand. And where can I locate them, then?
    I have difficulties to restrain space of possibilities to just a space whose elements are effective properties.
    And I think it's not just me.
    I can't avoid the reference to phenomenal properties, restricting space of possibilities to simply the known land of physics.
    I think that the example of quantum superposition is also significant.
    Since the effective property considered, spin, instantiated by measurement, do belong to the physical description, but the more controversial one of entangled or superposed states unfortunately remains elusive to physical description giving rise to quite a lot of interpretational disagreement.
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