Brief notes on the Theory of Causation

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The Sankhya Metaphysics, especially its doctrine of prakrti, rests mainly on its theory of causation which is known as satkarya-vada.

It is a theory as to the relation of an effect (karya) to its material cause. The specific question discussed here is this: does an effect originally exist in the material cause prior to its production, i.e. appearance as an effect?

The Bauddhas and the Nyaya-Vaisesikas answer this question in the negative. According to them, the effect cannot be said to exist before it is produced by some cause.

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If the effect already existed in the material cause prior to its production, there is no sense in our speaking of it as being caused or produced in any way. Further, we cannot explain why the activity of any efficient cause is necessary for the production of the effect.

If the pot already existed in the clay, why should the potter exert himself and use his implements to produce it?

Moreover, if the effect were already in its material cause, it would logically follow that the effect is indistinguishable from the cause, and that we should use the same name for both the pot and the clay, and also that the same purpose would be served by a pot and a lump of clay.

It cannot be said that there is a distinction of form between the effect and its material cause, for then we have to admit that there is something in the effect which is not to be found in its cause and, therefore, the effect does not really exist in the cause.

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This theory that the effect does not exist in the material cause prior to its production is known as asatkarya- vada (i.e. the view that the karya or the effect is as at or non­existent before its production). It is also called arambhavada. i.e. the theory of the beginning of the effect a new.

The Sankhyas repudiate this theory of causation and establish their view of satkarya-vada, namely, that the effect exists in the material cause even before it is produced.

This view is based on the following grounds:

(a) if the effect were really non-existent the material cause, then no amount of effort on the part of any agent could bring it into existence. Can any man turn blue into red, or sugar into salt?

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Hence, when an effect is produced from some material cause, we are to say that it pre-exists in the cause and is onlv manifested by certain favourable conditions, as when oil is produced by pressing seeds. The activity of efficient causes, like the potter and his tools, is necessary to manifest the effect, pot, which exists implicitly in the clay.

(b) There is an invariable relation between a material cause and its effect. A material cause can produce only that effect with which it is causally related. It cannot produce an effect which is in no way related to it.

But it cannot be related to what does not exist. Hence the effect must exist in the material cause before it is actually produced.

(c) We see that only certain effects can be produced from certain causes. Curd can be got only out of milk and a cloth only out of threads. This shows that the effect somehow exists in the cause.

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Had it not been so, any effect could be produced from any cause; the potter would not have taken clay to produce pots, instead of taking milk or threads or any other thing.

(d) The fact that only a potent cause can produce a desired effect goes to show that the effect must be potentially containing d in the cause. The potent cause of an effect is that which possesses some power that is definitely related to the effect.

But the power cannot be related to the effect, if the latter does not exist in some form. This means that the effect exists in the cause in an unmanifested form before its production or manifestation.

(e) If the effect be really non-existent in the cause, then we have to say that, when it is produced, the non-existent comes into existence, i.e. something comes out of nothing, which is absurd.

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(g) Lastly, we see that the effect is not different from, but essentially identical with, the material cause. If, therefore, the cause exists, the effect also must exist. In fact, the effect and the cause are explicit and implicit states of the same substance.

A cloth is not really different from the threads, of which it is made; a statue is the same as its material cause, stone, with a new shape and form; the weight of a table is the same as that of the pieces of wood used in it.

The conclusion drawn by the Sankhya from all this is that the effect exists in the material cause even before its production or appearance. This is the heory of satkarya-vada (i.e. the view that the effect is existent before its appearance).

The theory of satkarya-vada has got two different forms, namely, parinama-vada and vivarta-vada.

According to the former, when effect is produced, there is a real transformation (parinama) of the cause into the effect, e.g. the production of a pot from clay or of curd from milk.

The Sahkhya is in favour of this view as a further specification of the theory of satkarya-vada. The second, who is accepted by the Advaita Vedantins, holds that the change of the cause into the effect is merely apparent.

When we see a snake in a rope, it is not the case that the rope is really transformed into a snake; what happens is that the rope only appears as, but is not really, a snake.

So also, God or Brahman does not become really transformed into the world while we may wrongly think that He undergoes change and becomes the world.

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