Causation is certainly real, but how we come to know this reality is a big mystery. One of the errors of modern science, turned scientism, is the strange belief that a one-sided causation (with effect following faithfully from cause, and with no remainder) is fundamental. The assertion of a one-sided causation is more a philosophical assertion than science. But returning to philosophy to study causation reveals not a fundamental principle, but something other that conforms with David Hume’s critique. Hume noted that the belief in causation did not come from a reason that can only make sense of apparent regularities. Hume felt the belief that turns regularity into an assertion, that effect follows from cause, came from experience. Hume was an empiricist, but he forget to emphasize the importance of reason because one can argue that Hume did not go far enough. Hume did use philosophical reason to evaluate causation, and it must also be that reason evaluates experience. The question of causation must be vetted in reason, and one-sided beliefs that are un-vetted and based on experience can be stereotypical and badly biased.
The mature understanding of causation comes from the interplay of reason and experience, in my view. This understanding cannot come from science working in isolation from philosophy, and it can`t come from philosophy working in isolation as Hume noted. I believe the mature understanding implies that causation is two-sided.
First consider how science might demonstrate the reality of a one-sided causation. An experiment might be conducted, say setting up dominoes to demonstrate a deterministic chain reaction with domino hitting adjacent domino. The chain of dominos can be very elaborate, but the details are unimportant. What is important is that with the falling of the first domino the chain reaction precedes with apparent effect following from cause. “See,” the scientist proclaims, “cause-and-effect is real, and is fundamental.” Wrong! All demonstrations of apparent causation, say the falling dominos, involves setting up a precondition that can be acted upon. It is impossible to separate the precondition from the action. The precondition implies a contrivance that exploits Hume`s causal regularities that are taken for granted. The precondition was planned to provide the noted demonstration. The precondition demonstrates Aristotle`s final cause, and this is now far from Aristotle`s efficient cause where effect follows from cause.
In frustration, we might ask what does science find fundamental? What science discovers are actions, or what are called laws of nature. A typical action may involve a law of nature that comes from a space-time equation. The details are unimportant, but what is important is that most actions work just as well going in reverse-time as forward-time. The laws, except one, are time symmetric. In other words, most actions are two-sided too!
There is one law that stands as an exception to fact that all other laws work just as well in both time directions. It is the asymmetric entropy law, the second law of thermodynamics, that departs from time symmetry. The entropy law says that disorder increases with time passage. This can only happen given an ordered state that falls into a disordered state. The precondition setup for the domino experiment is an ordered state, and the demonstration of one-sided causation is the fall into disorder. The second law comes off as asymmetrical with respect to time, but the second law can be argued to be two-sided just as the domino experiment is found to be two-sided.
Note that the statistical derivation of the second law fails to explain the second law as a fundamental. Statistical derivation is abstraction, but there are deeper issues described by Albert (Time and Chance) and Price (Time’s Arrow and the Archimededs’ Point). The statistical derivation is just a one-sided representation of mindless particles that collide within a closed ensemble. But the representation only hinds the fact that the representation is recognized by a space-time fabric that is able to dissipate heat as order is degraded. The statistical derivation must equivocate the meaning of representation and recognition, just as the apparent causation of dominos falling must ignore the final cause that sets up the domino experiment. In other words, the second law is found two-sided too, and is found representing the polarity given by the extremes of representation and recognition.
Apparent causation represents itself by the forward chain of cause-and-effect, but this representation must meet its recognition otherwise it will never be known. And recognition must come with a precondition that works against the forward flow of time. Recognition is not the same as representation. Mind has the ability to coopt deterministic chains and turn them into tools. Mind can only do this because it has the ability to recognize representations that describe an apparent one-sided causation, but it can`t now be that one-sided causation is fundamental.
All the laws of nature are now found two-sided, and what now holds the two sides together is a middle-term that is beyond law. It is not possible to explain all of realty by a determinism that comes downstream from abstract laws that are forever faithfully following a one-sided causation. That was only a pipe dream.
A.N. Whitehead believed that emotion is the source of apparent causation, and that can now only be because emotion sources the middle-term that holds the two-sided laws together. We would seem to be spirits that are free of law, and free of the puzzle offered by Kant`s third antinomy. Think again! There need only be One spirit that is free, finding agreement with the above two-sided laws and apparent causation so described. That means the rest of us little folks are less than absolutely free.