What is 'causally closed' and does it imply materialism?

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What is 'causally closed' and does it imply materialism?
 

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  • #2
baywax
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What is 'causally closed' and does it imply materialism?
Thanks for the puzzle:

Here's something very related,

Causal Closure Over Observables
September 23rd, 2006 — Peter
One of the assumptions of materialism is that the physical world is completely causally closed. Even though this proposition is well supported by evidence some would doubt it (perhaps reasoning that causal closure is broken only in rare cases, and thus explaining why it hasn’t been revealed by our scientific investigations). What is impossible to doubt, however, is that the universe of observable phenomena is casually closed. And if we define as physical that which is observable, which not a radical suggestion, this in turn implies that the physical world is completely casually closed.
excerpt from:

http://onphilosophy.wordpress.com/2006/09/23/

The conclusion goes like this,

From this reasoning we conclude that, by our notions of observable and cause, the observable world must be completely causally closed. And if we define as material that which is observable then the material world is also completely causally closed. Some may object, saying that there are no material causes for observable conscious states, and hence that we can’t claim the observable is identical with material. This would be a problem if we allowed all conscious experience to count as observable, however, as presented here, we can take as observable to mean only those phenomena observed with our outward-directed senses, and the causal closure holds just as well. And from that we could deduce by observing other people that our conscious states really do have a basis in the material / observable, or that they are unobservable by our outward-directed senses but have no causal powers (they are epiphenomenal). And if we reject epiphenomenalism (see here) then we can conclude that the mind really is identical with some material phenomena.
 
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  • #3
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What is impossible to doubt, however, is that the universe of observable phenomena is casually closed.
Is this really so firmly established?

What about things such as gravity, the discrepancy between qm and general relativity, dark matter, black holes, consciousness, and anything else we dont understand?
 
  • #4
baywax
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Is this really so firmly established?

What about things such as gravity, the discrepancy between qm and general relativity, dark matter, black holes, consciousness, and anything else we dont understand?
The author has slightly addressed your concern here

perhaps reasoning that causal closure is broken only in rare cases, and thus explaining why it hasn’t been revealed by our scientific investigations.....
because we haven't been able to explain, observe or otherwise understand certain events in the universe dosn't mean they won't be understood at a later date through better technology or process.

I have to say that you have brought up my contention with the theory.

Let's say gravity is X and mass is A and the effects of gravity are B.

We observe A and we observe B and these two observables lead us to a conclusion of X yet we cannot observe X. Is X material or what?
 
  • #5
UMB
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What makes you think that there is something to gravity over and above its effects? Or, in other words, what makes you say that we can't observe gravity? Certainly I seem to observe gravity all the time, not directly, but indirectly by unconsciously postulating that there is something that explain the similarity in the way things fall. So I observe a similarity, which we call "gravity", by observing individual effects.
 
  • #6
baywax
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Certainly I seem to observe gravity all the time, not directly, but indirectly
That's an assumption of X not an observation of X.
 
  • #7
UMB
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All observation are "assumptions" to some extent. For example, we observe individual atoms only by observing the readout of an electron micoscope. We are thus making an assumption that the readout tracks what is really going on at the atomic level, an assumption that is justified by theory. Likewise we observe gravity through our obvservations of a similarity (analogous to observations of readout) which is supported by a theory of gravity (analogous to our theory concerning how electron microscope works).
 
  • #8
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because we haven't been able to explain, observe or otherwise understand certain events in the universe dosn't mean they won't be understood at a later date through better technology or process.
Of course but id rather reason from the situation as it is, and not from some desired situation.

The person on that site argues that things are unobservable because we lack the tools, but this sounds to me like attributing omniscience to future tools and technologies.


Let's say gravity is X and mass is A and the effects of gravity are B.

We observe A and we observe B and these two observables lead us to a conclusion of X yet we cannot observe X. Is X material or what?
Material is described here as 'what is observable', i dont see how the existence of something observable means that anything that caused it is observable aswell?
 
  • #9
baywax
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Material is described here as 'what is observable', i dont see how the existence of something observable means that anything that caused it is observable aswell?

I have to agree about the omniscience concept. Wishful thinking with regard to the future of technology and its abilities is no reason to assume there will be an understanding of the mysteries we are faced with today.

I think its about verification.

When we are able to directly observe a phenomenon it means it's state or its condition is interacting with our own senses. Our senses are systems which we, in turn, are able to verify by observation (of neurons and brain activity).

So, the interaction between our senses and an observable phenomenon is a "confirmation" of the material nature of the interaction. (This does not take into account hallucination, illusion or misperception)


Is there a chance that mass is caused by the apparently unobservable property of "gravity" rather than the opposite?
 
  • #10
I would like very much to digress towards the last post by bay wax. I have pondered Einstein's relativity and come to the conclusion that I am not content with the explanation of spacetime curvature as being entirely due to geometry. I think we have the tools to describe the curve but not the cause. What are your thoughts on this.
 

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