The Word “cause” is used in everyday life as well as in science. The laymen use the idea of cause to have an immediate answer to some problem.

For him what makes a thing occur is the cause and what is made to occur due to something is the effect. When there is some event or action, man wants to known the doer or the agent of that action.

Sometimes he also seeks an explanation about how something has happened. To know the agent or the process of an action is considered to know its cause. In science it is somewhat a fundamental axiom that everything that occurs in nature does not just occur.

Whatever occurs in nature occurs only under some condition. To find out the cause of a phenomenon is to know the conditions that lead to its occurrence.


Either in Science or in common sense, the law of causation states that every event has a cause. The occurrence of everything is due to or on account of a cause. Whatever happens has a cause. In the words of Mill “Every phenomenon which has a beginning must have a cause”. Bain in the like manner says, “Every event that happens is definitely connected with some prior event, which happening, it happens and which is failing, it fails”.

It means whatever phenomenon happens is definitely connected with some prior event. The presence of this prior event causes the occurrence or happening of the phenomenon and its absence to its non-occurrence.

The presence of some prior event is indispensable for the occurrence of a new phenomenon because there cannot be any beginning out of nothing. “Ex nihilo nihil fit” which means nothing comes out of nothing. Bain therefore rightly observes “no change arises out of vacuity or stillness”

The idea of cause has been construed differently by different philosophers. There is also a popular as well as a scientific view of causation.


The popular view of cause in many cases is partial and sometimes even superstitious. Causation is also an important concept in scientific explanation.

The scientific view of cause as it was held in the past has undergone revision in modern science. Keeping all these facts in view we shall discuss some commonly accepted characteristics of causation.

i) Causal relation holds between pair of events on the basis of our experience. Causal connection is discovered empirically. A causal relation is that a given phenomenon is uniformly and invariably attended by another phenomenon.

We experience, either through observation or through experiment, regular association of one kind of phenomena with another kind of circumstance. On the basis of this observation we establish a causal connection between pairs of phenomena.


We find that fire is invariably associated with smoke or water freezes and solidifies when temperature becomes zero degree or less.

This characteristic behaviour of phenomena gives the idea of a causal relation between pairs of events. Since we uniformly observe fire to be associated with smoke we take fire to be the cause of smoke.

In case of a causal connection when we observe one phenomenon, we expect to find the other. When we observe smoke we expect fire to be there.

ii) Cause always precedes the effect. Causal relation between two phenomenons is a temporal relation.


There is invariable succession between two events which are causally connected. Even there can be simultaneous causation. But under no circumstance the effect can precede the cause nor can the cause follow the effect. Sometimes there can be co-effects of a single cause also.

iii) Cause and effect are relative concepts. A phenomenon car; be the cause in relation to its invariably following event, the effect, and the effect in relation to its invariably preceding phenomenon, the cause. Flood can be the effect of excessive continuous rain.

Thus in this example continuous rain is the cause and flood is the effect. But flood can be the cause of crop failure. If there is failure of crops due to flood, then flood can be taken us its cause. Hence there is no phenomenon which is an absolute cause.

iv) Cause can be taken as the necessary and sufficient condition for the occurrence of the effect. But the word “cause” is sometimes used either in the sense of necessary condition or sufficient condition. So it is useful to know the difference between the two concepts.


A necessary condition is the circumstance in absence of which the effect cannot occur. A sufficient condition is a circumstance in whose presence the effect must take place. For example, oxygen is a necessary condition for the occurrence of combustion, for without it combustion cannot take place.

But it is not a sufficient condition for oxygen may be present without combustion occurring. Failure of heart is a sufficient condition for the death of a person. For if someone’s heart stops functioning then that is sufficient for the death of the person.

v) Causation is an empirical relation but not a logical implication. If it is said that there is a causal connection between two events C1 and C2, say, for example, between mosquito-bite and malaria it does not mean that C2 necessarily follows from C1 Rather their relation is discovered after a lot of scientific investigation.

So causal connection between two events is inductively established on the basis of experience, either by observation or experiment.


Hence causal relation is a posteriori but not a priori. After repeated observation of the invariant association between two phenomena and after discovering their characteristic connection, a causal relation between them is established. So the effect does not logically follow from the cause but empirically and inductively associated with the cause.

vi) Causal connection is not a relation between two isolated events, but there is generality in such a relation. Two events to be causally connected means they are generally and uniformly connected.

That means each occurrence of an event being produced from a cause is a simple instance of a causal law which is a general principle. That general principle holds that such circumstances always follow from such phenomenon.

If I put my finger on fire and get hot-sensation it is not a single case of this sort. But it is an instance of the causal connection that fire, when touched, gives hot sensation.

That means there is a general causal relation between fire and hot sensation. It signifies that this relation is an invariant one for it will happen at any time, at any place and to any person. This generality between two events as cause and effect is the result of the law of uniformity of nature.