Chapter 9: The Theory of Causal Significance

In summary, the discussion on causation in the problems of consciousness has led to questions about its nature and how it affects our understanding of the world. Physics provides powerful methods for predicting and describing physical phenomena, but it does not fully explain causation. Philosophical accounts of causation have also been inadequate, with attempts to assign causal responsibility being subjective and interest-relative. A more objective approach is needed, which focuses on the causal significance of phenomena in nature. This is defined as the constraint that their existence adds to the space of possible ways the world could be. Causal significance arises from effective and receptive properties, with physics studying the former and the latter allowing for the placement of causal constraints. This more general theory of causation challenges our traditional notions
  • #36
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.
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #37
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?
 
  • #38
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.
 
  • #39
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?
 
  • #40
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?
 
  • #41
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 each other is not sufficient grounds to conclude that they share a receptive connection by which they place immediate causal constraints on each other.

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.
 
Last edited:

Similar threads

  • Set Theory, Logic, Probability, Statistics
Replies
2
Views
1K
  • Quantum Interpretations and Foundations
6
Replies
175
Views
6K
Replies
2
Views
3K
  • Programming and Computer Science
Replies
4
Views
1K
Replies
11
Views
3K
  • Programming and Computer Science
Replies
7
Views
1K
  • Quantum Interpretations and Foundations
Replies
14
Views
4K
  • Quantum Interpretations and Foundations
Replies
2
Views
1K
  • Beyond the Standard Models
Replies
9
Views
697
Replies
1
Views
702
Back
Top