Interior dialogue on unmoved movers

A: So your claim is that God and human freedom are known in the same argument.

B: More or less. Both are unmoved movers, though God is one simply and the human will only in some way.

A: But all this means is that you believe in the independence of both the human will and God from causality. But everything is part and parcel of the universal web of cause and effect.

B: Whoa. I never thought I’d hear someone claim that.

A: What?

B: You’re claiming that everything has a cause, and I’ve only ever heard that in parodies of cosmological arguments. You never expect someone actually believes premises in parody arguments: it’s like I’ve just heard someone argue for the existence of a perfect island or something.

A: I didn’t say “Everything has a cause”.

B: What else could you have meant by saying that there was nothing exempt from the “universal web of cause and effect”? Let’s leave aside the well-trod problem of how one would ever get such a web at all – my claim is that some things are unmoved movers or uncaused causes, and you claim this is false. So every cause is an effect.

A: What’s wrong with that?

B: You can’t mean that “being a cause” means “being an effect”, right?

A: No. The connection between them isn’t analytic. Things that cause need energy and all energy comes from energy. It’s a conserved quantity.

B: When you agree that “The connection between them isn’t analytic” you mean it would be contradictory to say that causes are effects as though the two could mean the same thing, or that the same thing could be both cause and effect in the same respect?

A: Yes. Energy is a cause and an effect at different times, obviously.

B: So if any given moment of energy is an effect, say, then won’t all of it be an effect?

A: Yes, but all of it will be a cause too.

B: So all of it will be both cause an effect?

A: Right, like I’ve said from the beginning. It’s like this: if you have all the integers then each one will be both greater and less than something, and so you could consider all of them either as a totality of “greater than” things or a totality of “less than” things, just like if you have all energy, then you can view the totality either as all causes or all effects.

B: But you also said it was obvious that energy is cause and effect at different times. How can the totality of energy be both cause and effect at different times?

A: Well, why can’t it be the same as the number example? If all integers can be considered as greater than, all energy can considered as earlier than, i.e. as a cause.

B: So “all energy is causal of something” in the same way that “every number is greater than another” and “all energy is an effect” in the same way that “every number is less than another”.

A: Right.

B: But how are we getting this idea of energy? You’d agree that by definition its some ability to do work, I suppose.

A: Sure. There are a lot of different things that could, say, lift a kilogram weight a meter off the ground, and I say that all of them have the same energy.

B: So energy is a cause by definition, but you wouldn’t say it is an effect by definition.

A: Not by definition, but there has to be some story of how the thing became able to lift something a meter off the ground. Maybe it had to be put in the right position first (potential energy) maybe it had to be put in motion first (kinetic energy) maybe it had to come together with the right structure of atomic bonds (chemical energy). All this stuff doesn’t just happen.

B: These don’t seem equal: energy is a cause by definition and so a priori, it’s an effect only by enumerating its types a posteriori. 

A: Sure, and if you come up with something else I’d be happy to hear about it.

B: Sure, but for the moment I just want to point out a way in which the energy-number analogy isn’t apt. Each number is necessarily greater and lesser than another, but energy is only necessarily a cause and not an effect. So energy doesn’t seem to work as a proof for why every cause is an effect.

A: Well, like I said, if you have any other sort of energy I’d be happy to hear about it.

B: My claim is that there is a logical impossibility in every cause being an effect, not that it contradicts experience. I think this is the only sort of argument I could give: uncaused causes can’t be experienced, we can only know that they are there without knowing what they are.

A: Nothing you said made much sense to me.

B: All right. So you say “you’d be happy to hear about” any energy source that wasn’t an effect. I assume that neither of us is open to hearing about an energy source that cannot do work, i.e. that is not a cause?

A: Right.

B: But this means that an analysis of energy as such allows for the possibility of an uncaused cause?

A: I guess, but why posit things that we have no experience of and which are unnecessary to explain what we’re looking at?

B: All sorts of things we don’t experience are necessary to explain things we are looking at! If we simply experienced the causes of everything that happened, who would need science?

A: That’s nit-picky. Sciences have to be about things we are able to experience.

B: Would a spiritual cause be experienced since we have some experience of causes, or not experienced because we have no possible sensation of a spirit?

A: Again, I don’t really know what you’re saying. If some spirit had an effect in the world then we could certainly sense and measure it.

B: Why? Measurements of the sensible world relate only to other things in the sensible world. We have no reason to suspect they could pick up on any other sort of cause.

A: Sure, you’d see things moving by magic with no reason at all.

B: That might be a possibility, but I don’t see why that would be the normal way of activity. If spirits want to use the world as a sort of instrumental cause then we’d expect them to want to preserve the integrity of the instrument they are working with. When I use a hammer, I want everything belonging to it as hammer to remain intact. If the sensible world works by laws, presumably anything using the sense world would want these laws to stay in place. It might even need them to stay in place.

A: Sure, It’s possible. But what is it beyond an unverifiable hypothesis?

B: Well, if it were impossible for all causes to be effects, then at least one uncaused cause would be necessary, right?

A: Sure. But so far all we have is that it’s not necessary that all causes are effects.

B: So whatever we’re doing has to be the sort of discourse that ca decide what is logically possible for impossible. It can’t just be a matter of the verifiable or non-verifiable.

A: I suppose, though again I’m not sure what you’re talking about.




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