On the Notion of Cause
Russell (Bertrand)
Source: Russell - A Free Man's Worship
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. In the following paper I wish,
    • first, to maintain that the word " cause " is so inextricably bound up with misleading associations as to make its complete extrusion from the philosophical vocabulary desirable;
    • secondly, to inquire what principle, if any, is employed in science in place of the supposed "law of causality1" which philosophers imagine to be employed;.
    • thirdly, to exhibit certain confusions, especially in regard to teleology and determinism, which appear to me to be connected with erroneous notions as to causality2.
  2. All philosophers, of every school, imagine that causation3 is one of the fundamental axioms or postulates of science, yet, oddly enough, in advanced sciences such as gravitational astronomy, the word " cause " never occurs. Dr. James Ward, in his Naturalism and Agnosticism, makes this a ground of complaint against physics: the business of science, he apparently thinks, should be the discovery of causes, yet physics never even seeks them.
  3. To me it seems that philosophy ought not to assume such legislative functions, and that the reason why physics has ceased to look for causes is that, in fact, there are no such things.
  4. The law of causality4, I believe, like much that passes muster among philosophers, is a relic of a bygone age, surviving, like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no, harm.

Comment:

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