What is Causation?

Essay by Armi89University, Bachelor'sA-, November 2008

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Causation is vital in science and scientists operate with an intuitive knowledge of it. Causation is not the simple uninformative 'one thing causes another to happen', but more importantly what it takes for one thing to cause another. There is occasionally difficulty with using causality because we associate active elements of the world with being causes, rather than passive elements. For example, if a ball is thrown at a window and the window breaks we tend to believe that the ball has caused the window to break. However the lack of strength of the window is also part of the cause of the window breaking. Temporal confusion also exists, with uncertainty over how far back the cause should be in time. Using the above example, where the ball is seen as the cause (or one of them), but looking further back the person throwing the ball was the cause and further back the person's parents are the cause because they created the person and this process can be carried all the way back to the big bang.

Furthermore there are challenges as to whether causation exists, and different views on how causation should be proved.

Two of the major philosophical doctrines which influence causation within science are those of Induction and Refutationism. In mathematics deductive methods have been used for millennia to prove the correctness of solutions. However these methods only give us correct conclusions because they are self-contained, operate with a limited set of definitions and starting points and apply rules of logic that guarantee method validity.

However in empirical science this is impossible because real world assertions do not start from set starting points, and the observations that are made are often incomplete and potentially inaccurate. This meant that the early modern empiricists had to promote a new...