Free Sample Essay on the Popular View of Causation

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A common man is not reflective to inquire the cause of a phenomenon. Common people are superstitious in their beliefs.

When they seek to know the cause of a phenomenon they do not take a scientific view of causation. A scientific view of causation is most dependable whereas popular view of causation is unreliable and even vague at times.

In explaining natural phenomena sometimes common people attribute some supernatural cause. But science does not accept any supernatural agency or explanation.

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There is nothing called supernatural in scientific framework. For anything that occurs in nature is a natural phenomenon and every natural phenomenon can have only some natural cause whether we know it or not.

To discover or explain the cause of a phenomenon in a scientific way is to add to human knowledge or information. Thus to explain phenomena in a scientific way is the need of man’s intellectual quest. So it is better to guard against the popular view of causation. Now let us explain some popular views of causation and see how these explanations are incomplete and partial.

We have already discussed in this chapter that the idea of cause is extremely complex. It is not that easy to locate the cause of a phenomenon; for what we call a cause involves many factors or conditions.

We have also discussed how cause is the sum total of conditions. There are positive as well as negative conditions. For various reasons sometimes only one condition or at times even a negative condition is chosen from the set of conditions and is given the status of a cause. That is popularly done in absence of a reflective mind.

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Often the last condition which appeared just before the occurrence of the effect is considered to be the cause. In a football match who at last scored the lone goal for the victory of the team, is considered to be the cause of the victory.

Left to himself he could not have scored the goal. It is because the entire team of players joined together he could score the goal. Thus he is just a condition like all other players.

Similarly sometime a negative condition is selected and elevated to the rank of a cause. For example, the cause of death of a snake-Bitten patient is attributed to the absence of a doctor. Again often the condition which looks very conspicuous is treated to be the whole cause.

Thus for example, suppose a man slips his foot while climbing a ladder and is ultimately killed. The slipping is said to be the sole cause for his death. But actually slipping of the foot is just one of the several conditions which jointly led to the death of the man. Sometimes an unnecessary or wholly unconnected factor is chosen as the cause.

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Thus for instance, the failure of a student in the examination is attributed to calling him from behind when he was setting out of his house for the examination. Likewise hooting of an owl is considered to be the cause of death of the head of the family.

These antecedents have nothing to do with the effects. We have already discussed that taking any antecedent to be the cause and in the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoe. Sometimes a supernatural agency is brought in to explain the cause of a phenomenon. Many gullible people believe that godmen can bring out things from thin air.

Astrologers ascribe the position of stars and planets to be the cause of the important events of a person’s life. But these are all popular ways of thinking of a cause of a phenomenon in absence of reflective mind. The popular way of treatment of cause is thus wholly unsatisfactory. It is not only incomplete but unsound as well.

Agent and patient:

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In the context of cause sometimes a distinction is made between the agent and the patient. Agent is that which acts and the patient is that which is acted upon. Anything that acts is the agent and the thing that is acted upon is the patient. Injection given to a person is the agent and the human organism upon which it acts or has its action is said to be the patient.

But such a distinction is scientifically unsound because it is based on the supposition that the agent being the source of energy is active and the patient is passive or devoid of any energy. But things that are apparently passive are really the store house of potential energy.

This potential energy is as much responsible for the production of the effect as the agent which manifests kinetic energy. In other words in the above example both the injection and human organism are equally responsible for any effect to occur.

The agent and the patient are important conditions and they together constitute the cause for any effect to take place.

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The patient is not passive but also has an essential role in the concept of the cause. So the distinction is scientifically unsound. Mill, therefore, rightly observes, “the distinction between agent and patient is merely verbal, patients are always agents”

Moving power and collocation:

Moving power is the force which impels or incites the action. Collocation is arrangement of circumstances for the production of the effect. For example when a battery is affixed to the machine of a watch all the parts start functioning.

Here the battery is called the moving power as it forces the parts to perform their respective functions, while the machine where parts are systematically arranged is the collocation.

The effect i.e. the functioning of the watch as a whole is jointly produced by the moving power and the collocation. But neither the moving power (battery) nor the collocation (the machine of the watch) can produce the effect single handedly. Both are necessary for the required purpose i.e. showing time.

But popularly speaking moving power alone is considered to be the cause. But this is unscientific. For scientifically speaking both moving power and collocation are necessary factors of the cause.

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