Chapter 9: The Theory of Causal Significance

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Tounesol said:
It is clear from physics, as far as I can tell, especially in work on M-theory, that time and space are not fundamental. If this is so then phenomena having spacetime related properties are not fundamental either. If so then causally significant properties must adhere to something that is transcendent. This would have to be something inconceivable, like a wavicle, since we cannot observe of infer it, thus making the situation seem paradoxical.
I don't see the necessity of a transcendent medium for causality if it is prior to spacetime. Several proposals for this have been discussed up on Strings, Branes and LQG, and no need for a transcendental substrate was encountered. I continue to think that philosophers should avoid making arguments based on physics unless they greatly broaden their understanding of the fields they are invoking.
 
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Canute,
Thank you very much for clearing your position and excuse me for some misunderstandings. There is an ontological difference between our positions.

Canute said:
You assume the existence of ontologically fundamental individuals. This is problematic, not least because of the old paradox of the one and the many. To me what is ontologically primitive is beyond science as it is currently defined, and in a certain sense beyond reason.
You are right: There are really arguments for the ontological denial of material individuals. But I do not feel well by introducing a non scientific Matrix-controller outside the material world. (I prefer the many weak powered controllers which Rosenberg will introduce in chapter 12. Rosenberg does not deny that there exists something beyond science.)

My argument wanted to emphasize that there is no contradiction in the thesis that individuals bear effective properties because you can think (together with some Aristotelean philosophers) that individuals are ontological basic. (The paradox of the one and the many can be seen as a problem of an ontological secondary category. – By the way: the properties you are talking about are tropes? Or is there another way to solve the question whether a property that occurs many times is one or many?)

There are now some strategies for to strengthen Rosenberg’s theses as I understand them.
(1) I can retract my argumentation about individuals and zoom in on the point that receptive properties are not reducible on effective properties (as Hypnagogue did with reference to further discussion in chapter 11).
(2) I can retract my argumentation to causation instead of my excursus to ontological basic categories. I think that there is some causation in the world that is describable without reference to the ontological basics. And I think that causation is in need of individuals: events. And I think there is a difference between the event that is involved in a causal process and the causal process itself. And so there is a problem of unification of these traditional cause and effect to a whole event. How do you solve this problem with your ontology of properties? Is there a kind of mereology of properties via causation as Rosenberg suggests it for events? If there is one you have accepted the existence of something which I would call a receptive property. If no unification relation exists I would fear that you propose an Humean theory of causation.
 
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Questions to Event Ontology

I have some questions:
What is more primitive, properties or events?
Rosenberg calls his ontology an event ontology: what is the structure of an event? It seems that there is at least one agent in all events except of the level-zero events (for example: each event is a kind of trope)? What does it mean to speak about events without (or independent of) temporal structure?
What individuates events? The causal role?
Does someone know an author or an essay that is an introduction in event ontology as Rosenberg proposes? I remember that he thinks that his ontology is not extraordinary.
 

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Canute said:
I think you're right. You assume the existence of ontologically fundamental individuals. This is problematic, not least because of the old paradox of the one and the many. To me what is ontologically primitive is beyond science as it is currently defined, and in a certain sense beyond reason. Although Rosenberg stays pretty much in line with Chalmers' views he forgets that for Chalmers there is something that exists that is beyond science, and which Colin McGinn suggests exists/existed 'prior' to spacetime and thus in some sense exists beyond it. If they are right then it would seem reasonable to conjecture that properties are underlain by something with no space or time related properties, and which therefore does not exist in the usual sense of the word.

The possibility that this is true undermines Rosenberg's thesis big time imho. He leaves all such questions begging, which is why I feel that his hypothesis is metaphically naive, inasmuch as I understand it. It's ok to say that metaphysics is not physics, even if it is not true according to many people, but he writes as if he is unaware of all these issues, and so builds his thesis on the same old 'scientific' assumptions, not realising that in adopting them he is doing metaphysics, not physics.
I'm not clear what you're trying to say here, since all of your apparent objections are not in keeping with what is actually said in the book. You seem to think that Rosenberg is endorsing some sort of substance ontology, when he explicitly frames and develops it as an event ontology. Perhaps the word 'individual' has been a source of confusion, but Rosenberg only employs this word to convey a sense of unity or wholeness, not a sense of an object or substance. Natural individuals are defined as pure property complexes. By definition, there is nothing left once one has subtracted away all the properties of an individual, and there is no non-property 'thing' that has properties; properties are all there is.

Rosenberg has also argued that only effective properties are the objects of study for empirical science. Receptive properties and carriers (a term to be introduced in chapter 12), the other aspects of causation, are thus not amenable to empirical observation and so are in a sense 'beyond' science (although, if such things exist, there may be ways of inferring things about them). We haven't broached carriers yet, but the treatment of effective and receptive properties in this chapter makes it very explicit that only one of them is the sort of thing that empirical science can, and should, study.

Nor does Rosenberg hold that spacetime is a fundamental entity; rather, he holds that spacetime emerges from the structure of the world's causal mesh. He has an explicit treatment of this issue in chapter 10, where he speculates how it could be that causal facts ground spaciotemporal facts.

Nor is Rosenberg attempting to do physics, or under the illusion that he is doing physics. Certainly he wishes to weave the physical facts seamlessly into a wider set of metaphysical facts, but that is hardly a goal to be taken to task for. But the content of this book is all very explicitly a metaphysical proposal. Again, the outright identification of effective properties with physical properties should make this obvious. If the physical facts are just the facts about effective properties, and if there are aspects of causation in addition to the effective properties (receptive properties and carriers), it follows that these additional aspects of causation are non-physical.

In short, if you feel your objections have undermined some thesis about how reality works, it is not Rosenberg's. You are arguing against some metaphysical proposal other than the one put forth in this book.
 

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StatusX said:
I haven't read the chapter yet, but I've gone through this thread, and I was just wondering: what about time? Isn't the fact that causation is assymetric in time a defining attribute?
It is for ordinary notions of causal responsibility, but not for causal significance. On Rosenberg's model, causal significance need not be temporal or asymmetric. Causal relations that are asymmetric in time are thus viewed as a special case of a more general kind of causal relation. (If this has not been made sufficiently clear in this thread, I advise reading chapter 9 before thinking about these issues further.)

Of course, that is not to imply that the asymmetric character of temporal causal relations is not an important and widespread kind of causation that needs to be accounted for. Rosenberg goes into more detail about how it could be that asymmetric, temporal causation arises from the more general features of his framework in chapter 10.

How is this handled by constraints on a space of possibilities? For example, there are always two equally valid solutions to Maxwell's equations, a retarded solution where the fields at a given point are determined by the charge at points around it at earlier times (t-r/c, where r is the distance to the charge), and an advanced solution (t+r/c). We've weeded down the possibility space to these two options, but what makes the advanced solutions unphysical? I doubt it is just an ad hoc assumption, since causality seems to be buried in the postulates of QM, even if locality isn't (eg, there seems to be no way to take advantage of non-locality to transmit information faster than the speed of light, and thus backwards in time).
Before I address the question, I should point out that in the language of this chapter, the space of possibilities and the constraints on that possibility space apply only to effective properties themselves. That is, the space of possibilities refers to the space of different determinate values or states an effective property could take on, and constraint on that space is just the process of eliminating various possibilities until only one is left.

Applying this to your example, there is no duality in the possibility space; if we assume that we are given a determinate value for the field at one point in space and time, and that this determinate value fixues the values for the other points in time to also be determinate, then the process of causal constraint has already been completed. There is only one possible joint state for the three values at the three points in spacetime, once we assume that one of those values is, in fact, determinate. (There is more to say here, specifically about epistemic and metaphysical determination, which will be discussed in chapter 10.)

The question you ask is an interesting one, but is separate from questions about causal constraint on a space of possibilities, as those terms are used in the book. Your question has more to do with how we can characterize this scenario as an instance of asymmetric causation (from past to future, or future to past?), if at all (both? neither?).

Rosenberg characterizes asymmetric causal relations in terms of individuals' independently possible states. Suppose we have two effective individuals, A and B, that are bound together by a common receptivity and thus exert causal constraint on eachother. Recall that we define an individual's independently possible states as those states which are possible for it to instantiate, given its own internal causal relations. So when A and B constrain eachother, what they are constraining are eachothers' independently possible states. Suppose that A has only one independently possible state, and that B has three. In this case, A is already determinate and cannot be constrained any further; on the other hand, B has multiple independently possible states, and thus can receive further constraint. Thus, there is a 'flow' of constraint from A onto B, but not from B onto A. This is an asymmetric causal relation.

How does this relate to time? The short answer is that Rosenberg conceives of time as nothing more than the orderings of asymmetric causal relations. If A precedes B in time, it is precisely because A is determinate when considered independently of the causal nexus it forms with B. There's more on this in chapter 10.

There is more to say here-- the concepts of epistemic and metaphysical determination seem particularly pertinent-- but again, we'd be better served to cover the material in chapter 10 in depth before giving a more in-depth treatment.
 
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hypnagogue

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Good questions, Tychic. I believe 'event ontology' is primarily meant as a contrast to 'substance ontology'; that is, event ontologies disavow the notion of substance, or of a reified object/thing that has properties but is not identical to those properties. However, I haven't seen an extended treatment focusing on these terms myself, and couldn't scare up a good source on google, so my understanding has mostly been gleaned from contextual clues. To address your questions:

Tychic said:
What is more primitive, properties or events? Rosenberg calls his ontology an event ontology: what is the structure of an event?
From pg. 170:

The resulting ontology is an event ontology in which the actualization of an individual is the fundamental natural event and in which individuals may be internally linked into processes. Individuals themselves are pure property complexes (i.e., there are no enduring substances).
From this it follows that properties are more primitive / fundamental than events, since events are just operations of causal constraint upon properties.

It seems that there is at least one agent in all events except of the level-zero events (for example: each event is a kind of trope)?
Be careful with your wording. It appears you're equating the words "agent" and "individual." That might be fine in normal discourse, but the word "individual" has a special meaning in this framework. An agent is some sort of cognitive system, but not all natural individuals are cognitive systems.

Also, note that "level-zero events" is an oxymoron in the context of this theory. The most basic kind of event is the actualization of a natural individual, and individuals cannot be actualized at level-zero, by definition.

What does it mean to speak about events without (or independent of) temporal structure?
This is a difficult issue to wrap one's head around. But I don't think this is so much an issue of events being independent of temportal structure, as it is one of precedence. Do events occur in a fundamental background of temporal structure, or is temporal structure actually constructued from the relationships of events themselves? Rosenberg opts for the latter. This would be an interesting topic to revisit in more detail for chapter 10.

What individuates events? The causal role?
Natural individuals are individuated by means of their receptive structures; distinct instances of receptivity delineate distinct natural individuals. Events are the actualization of such individuals (i.e., the process of their becoming determinate). So events are individuated because they are operations on individuated sets of properties.

Does someone know an author or an essay that is an introduction in event ontology as Rosenberg proposes? I remember that he thinks that his ontology is not extraordinary.
I can't find a reference that deals with event ontology specifically, but this Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on events might be helpful.
 
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Sorry, but I'am in a kind of vicious circle here:
hypnagogue said:
Do events occur in a fundamental background of temporal structure, or is temporal structure actually constructued from the relationships of events themselves? Rosenberg opts for the latter.
Could we consider space and time as efective properties, or they appear as a construction in the operating of events?
 

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antfm said:
Could we consider space and time as efective properties, or they appear as a construction in the operating of events?
I don't know if there's anything logically prohibiting one from thinking of space and time as kinds of effective properties, but that's not the route Rosenberg takes. He prefers to think of space and time as emerging from the structure of causal relations that obtain among individuals. Again, this is covered in chapter 10, so we should abstain from going into too much detail in this thread. I hope to have a thread for chapter 10 up some time today or, at worst, tomorrow.
 
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Thanks, Hypnagogue. That helps.
I recall that already Schopenhauer reduced the complicated ontology of Kant categories to just these three: space, time and causality. In this way, I think, Rosenberg goes an important step further, "reducing" it all to a mesh of causal structure, anything else emerging from that. I think it'll very interesting to read the developement of his theory in next chapters.
 
Canute said:
It is clear from physics, as far as I can tell, especially in work on M-theory, that time and space are not fundamental.
MACROSCOPIC time and space.


If this is so then phenomena having spacetime related properties are not fundamental either. If so then causally significant properties must adhere to something that is transcendent.
Huh ? If causally significant properties adhere to S+T, that just makes them one step less fundamental. What do you mean by transcedent ?

This would have to be something inconceivable, like a wavicle, since we cannot observe of infer it, thus making the situation seem paradoxical.
W/P duality is conceivable and inferrable.

How can causal properties exist in the abscence of anything to be properties of? It looks like a paradox. But this paradox is more apparent than real. It is caused by a misconception of time and space, the same misconception that causes motion to appear paradoxical.
Properties are properties of individuals, which are space-time loci, which are
bundles of relations. IMO

We tend to forget, as we conceive of photons travelling through time and space along their probable pathways in the two-slits experiment, that when we are not observing a photon it is not just in every place at once with some finite probability, it is also in every time at once with some finite probability.
Neither is true. WF's can be non-zero at every point, but they don't have to be. In a TSE , an unobserved photon will have 0 amplitude at points of destructive interference.
 

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hypnagogue said:
I hope to have a thread for chapter 10 up some time today or, at worst, tomorrow.
Actually, it looks like I won't be able to get a summary up until Sunday or Monday. In the meantime, discussion on chapter 10 can begin in the posted thread.
 
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Events and Event Individuation

Thank you, Hypnagogue, for your help. After reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on events I think that Rosenberg takes up the idea of an event as a property exemplification. There are

… theories that construe events as property exemplifications, i.e., exemplifications of properties by objects at times [Kim 1966, Martin 1969, Goldman 1970, Taylor 1985]. On such theories, events are individual entities.
He would perhaps modify this theses and think of property exemplifications
- not necessarily at times (because effective properties and causation can be prior to time) but
- by individuals (objects can be misunderstood) – but not in the case of level-one events (it was an error in my last posting to talk about level-zero events) and
- by causal laws of higher levels of nature

About the individuating of events you write:

hypnagogue said:
Natural individuals are individuated by means of their receptive structures; distinct instances of receptivity delineate distinct natural individuals. Events are the actualization of such individuals (i.e., the process of their becoming determinate). So events are individuated because they are operations on individuated sets of properties.
I think that is not enough for individuation. There could be individuals that cannot be discerned by their receptive binding which is an intrinsic property. Could it be the case that the causal web which is responsible for space and time (see chapter 10) will do the rest of the work of individuation?
 

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Tychic said:
Thank you, Hypnagogue, for your help. After reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on events I think that Rosenberg takes up the idea of an event as a property exemplification.
I haven't read that entire SEP entry on events myself, but the snippet you posted doesn't seem to quite capture the spirit of Rosenberg's proposal. He defines events as property/individual actualization, not property exemplification. The former is defined in terms of relations of causal significance, while the latter need not be. On a more coarse grained level of analysis, I can see how the two concepts could be construed as similar. But Rosenberg's defintion of events as property or individual actualization is tied intimately to the particular novel theory he develops, so I think it's best to regard this as a new construal of events altogether. (Although comparing and contrasting this account of events with others could be a useful exercise.)

He would perhaps modify this theses and think of property exemplifications
- not necessarily at times (because effective properties and causation can be prior to time) but
- by individuals (objects can be misunderstood) – but not in the case of level-one events (it was an error in my last posting to talk about level-zero events) and
- by causal laws of higher levels of nature
Complete level-one individuals count as property actualizations. (I'm not sure if they'd count as property emplifications for technical reasons, but we shouldn't be concerning ourselves with that anyway.) Did you mean level-zero individuals?

I think that is not enough for individuation. There could be individuals that cannot be discerned by their receptive binding which is an intrinsic property.
What do you mean when you say "cannot be discerned"? On an epistemic level, you might be right; if anything like Rosenberg's theory of causation is true, it might be impossible in at least some cases to discern the character of a thing's receptive structure.

But that's a problem of epistemology. On a metaphysical level, I don't see any dilemma, and it's the metaphysics that is relevant here.

Could it be the case that the causal web which is responsible for space and time (see chapter 10) will do the rest of the work of individuation?
That causal web is the same one that does the work of individuation in this theory. Rosenberg envisions the world's receptive structure both as doing the work of individuation and as underlying the structure of spacetime.
 
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Concerning intrinsically indiscernible entities you, Hynagogue, write

hypnagogue said:
What do you mean when you say "cannot be discerned"? On an epistemic level, you might be right; if anything like Rosenberg's theory of causation is true, it might be impossible in at least some cases to discern the character of a thing's receptive structure.

But that's a problem of epistemology. On a metaphysical level, I don't see any dilemma, and it's the metaphysics that is relevant here.
I understand your solution like this: There is no metaphysical problem to discern qualitative identical individuals because qualitative identical bundles of properties either are indeterminate and exist in the possibility space or are determinate and distinguishable via causal relations.

A world with two qualitative identical spheres as supposed by Max Black would be reconstructed by Rosenberg as a world with only one individual that corresponds to the usual concept of a sphere. The difference between two spheres exists only if the two spheres are bounded in a causal web. This example suggests that something is wrong with bundle theories of individuals.
Perhaps the concrete things have some ontological autonomy and are more than a bundle of effective and receptive properties. The bundle of concrete properties is introduced as the hit of the ingression/actualisation in chapter 10.

Rosenberg p. 212-3 said:
For what follows, it will be important to avoid identifying an individual’s nature with the hit, which is simply the tip of its ingression
The nature of an occurrent individual should be thought of as spread or stretched along the length of its ingression. Equivalently, ingressions should be thought of as schematic ways of explicitly drawing out components in the nature of an individual, where these components have various degrees of context independence. In this way, natures are taken to be complex entities containing indefinite, context-independent components, as well as definite, actual states with a complete context. The indefinite elements contain the individual’s potentials. As we move up an ingression, away from the hit, we traverse an expanding well of potential and a decreasing weight of context. As we move down an ingression, toward the hit, we traverse a shrinking well of potential and an increasing weight of context.
If the hit is more primitive as the nature of the individual because it is concrete, the solution that there is only one sphere in the Black scenario does not work. Is it necessary for Rosenberg to deny a concrete two sphere world or does he have other possibilities?
 
Sorry for digging up this thread. I've tried to follow along with this discussion but have some questions regarding "effective" versus "receptive" properties.

Consider for a moment a simple solenoid actuated switch which has 2 circuits, 1) a main switch which is either connected or disconnected and 2) a solenoid controlled by an electromagnet which actuates the main switch. Note that both of these two circuits has 2 connection points, so there are 4 connection points altogether. My question is, "Can we make the following observation?"

- The main switch is unaffected by the flow of electricity through it, therefore the main switch has no receptive properties with respect to the electricity through it and electricity has no effective properties on this main switch.

- The solenoid is affected by the flow of electricity through it, therefore the main switch has receptive properties with respect to electricity through the solenoid and electricity has effective properties on the solenoid.

Or have I mistaken the definitions Gregg is trying to make here?
 

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ThoughtExperiment said:
Sorry for digging up this thread. I've tried to follow along with this discussion but have some questions regarding "effective" versus "receptive" properties.
No problem. Please feel free to jump in and comment or question wherever you'd like.

Consider for a moment a simple solenoid actuated switch which has 2 circuits, 1) a main switch which is either connected or disconnected and 2) a solenoid controlled by an electromagnet which actuates the main switch. Note that both of these two circuits has 2 connection points, so there are 4 connection points altogether. My question is, "Can we make the following observation?"

- The main switch is unaffected by the flow of electricity through it, therefore the main switch has no receptive properties with respect to the electricity through it and electricity has no effective properties on this main switch.

- The solenoid is affected by the flow of electricity through it, therefore the main switch has receptive properties with respect to electricity through the solenoid and electricity has effective properties on the solenoid.
I don't know if one could immediately draw those conclusions. If you haven't yet, you should read the summary for chapter 10, which discusses the causal theory in more detail and with more rigor. In particular, the distinction made there between immediate and mediate causal interactions could come into play here. From this discussion in chapter 10, it follows that observing that two systems or sets of properties are causally responsive to eachother is not sufficient grounds to conclude that they share a receptive connection by which they place immediate causal constraints on eachother.

The question of ascertaining what receptive connections actually exist in nature looms large for Rosenberg's framework. They are not the sort of things that can be directly empirically observed. At best, their existence could be deduced from observation of patterns of interaction between effective properties, given proper theoretical considerations. Even then, it's not immediately clear how we could go about making such deductions with confidence.

Rosenberg offers more theoretical support for his notion of receptivity in chapter 13, and goes on to suggest some general physical conditions that might be empirically indicative of a receptivity's existence in chapter 14. The discussion in chapter 14 suggests a few types of physical systems whose components or properties might be directly bound together by a receptive connection. These are either fundamental physical entities (like a fundamental particle), or systems whose states are sensitive to a kind of global constraint structure (like quantum coherent systems, or rich feedback systems such as the thalamocortical circuit in the human brain), or certain kinds of temporal processes. (I'll save the details here for the summary of chapter 14.) If we go by these criteria, your solenoid would not seem to be the kind of system whose gross behavior would be governed by a global constraint structure supported by an instance of receptivity. More likely, the only natural individuals involved would be the fundamental physical entities comprising the solenoid and their immediate, local interactions over time. In effect, the causal story would probably wind up looking very similar to the usual reductive physical accounts one would expect.
 
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