Talk:Causa sui

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Cause of Itself[edit]

<Commenting on the following phrase in Causa suiCausa sui (meaning 'cause of itself' in Latin) denotes something, which is generated within itself.>


From Parkinson's Ethics; ISBN: 0460873474; p. 260note2—Cause of Itself:

To modern readers, the notion of a 'cause of itself' may seem strange, and indeed self-contradictory. We tend to think of a cause as preceding its effect in time, from which it would follow that a 'cause of itself' must exist before it exists. However, it later becomes clear in the Ethics {chain} that Spinoza does not think of causes in this way; rather, he thinks of the relation between cause and effect as logical {inseparable}, not temporal. For him, the cause of X is the reason for X, in the sense in which a triangle's being isosceles is the reason for its base angles being equal. This doctrine is encapsulated in his phrase "cause seu ratio' (cause, or, reason); 1P11. In effect, then, a 'cause of itself' is that whose existence is self- explanatory.


Conceived through Itself[edit]

<Commenting on the following phrase in Causa suiThis concept was central to the works of Spinoza.>

From Conceived through itself:

A cow gives suck to its calf; I conceive of the cow by saying "she needs a calf to give suck to; likewise I conceive of the calf by saying it needs the mother cow to give it suck. But if I say both are inseparable parts (modes) of ONE infinite organism (G-D), I conceive the ONE "only through itself." The cash value of thinking (positing) it thus, is that I cannot abuse the cow without harming the calf, and vice versa, because they are bound-up in an organic interdependence. The same applies to the abuse any mode—idolatry. {See indivisible.}

From Richard Popkin's Spinoza; ISBN: 1851683399; p. 80—Conceived through itself:

There has been a long tradition in philosophy and in Judeo-Christian theology of trying to explain the world in terms of what its causes may be, tracing it back to being an effect from an all-powerful deity. Spinoza's reading abolishes any distinction between the cause and the effect. Whatever is, is G-d (small d) (1P14) and is in G-D (1P15).

Yesselman 21:34, 2 January 2006 (UTC)

Galen Strawson's article dealing with causa sui and the subsequent necessity to be such in order to be ultimately responsible for one's actions [1]. Thought this might be an interesting addition.

There is a more concise way of putting the point: in order to be ultimately responsible, one would have to be causa sui - the ultimate cause or origin of oneself, or at least of some crucial part of one’s mental nature. But nothing can be ultimately causa sui in any respect at all. Even if the property of being causa sui is allowed to belong unintelligibly to God, it cannot plausibly be supposed to be possessed by ordinary finite human beings. (Luck Swallows Everything, Galen Strawson)

Causa Sui and the Logic of Self-Causation[edit]

Essentially, this concept comes down to how one views the mathematically topological characteristics of the dimension that we call 'Time'.

For instance, one could view the global topology of time as being an infinite 'line' where negative infinity is infinitely far into the past, and positive infinity is infinitely far into the future. The upshot of this view is that the universe must be infinitely old, and it took an infinite amount of time for time to progress to the present moment (some would say that it is impossible for an infinite amount of time to have passed, but I would argue that - depending on one's understanding of infinity, where it is meant to be possible to use Mathematical logic to carry out calculations with different infinities - that it IS theoretically possible for the universe to be infinitely old, and also, at the same time, infinitely young). This, of course, discounts a lot of what the Big Bang theory tells us (save for the fact that we do not have, and may very well never have, a complete 'Theory of Everything'). According to this viewpoint, the Poincare Recurrence Time is what causes the Universe to undergo 'Big Bangs' (at time intervals which, in some way, must be predetermined by Nature). Thus, at some point in the future, the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not hold locally (though it must hold globally). I do not believe that modern day cosmologists would agree with this viewpoint of time BUT we should entertain it as a possibility. It is an open question, according to this viewpoint, as to whether time is an illusion. If one were a determinist, one would say that the present universe could be the result of some previous 'iteration' of the universe BUT the time dimension/coordinate does NOT get reset - thus time is an objective 'marker' of the ocurrence of physical events. Thus, one would argue that the Universe is only going through one iteration. The 'Big Bang' might not correspond to the 'beginnning of Time' itself (which doesn't exist) but just to a localised (within the Observable Universe) oscillation of mass-energy. I'm not sure what the Hawking-Hartletree proposal would have to say in relation to all of this.

ALTERNATIVELY, one could view time as a circle (globally) with causes ultimately being 'Timeless' in the sense that they are linked in the chain of causality to each other, in a potentially haphazard way, predetermined by prior causes BUT that it doesn't make sense to speak of one event as the 'cause' of another event (beyond notions of 'regularity causation') because everything is just stuck within the (circular) chain of causality. (In both the linear and circular case, things just 'are' and Time could be considered illusory as the future is already predetermined). Of course, because time is a circle, we can speak of the causes of events Being themselves (as per the Ouroborous idea) BUT, I fear, you may have to conjure up extra dimensions to explain why events are ordered the way that they are (IF you are NOT satisfied with the answer that the universe 'just is' the way it is as a brute fact). Note: the Big obstacle to the universe being self-caused is the reversal of the Second Law of Thermodynamics AS the universe is due to end in Heat Death (eventually).

In both models, 'Time' may be an illusion in the sense that the chain of causality exists (whether it is linear or ultimately circular), and reality has some type of uniform/regular structure (see the 'regularity theory of causation'). There is an interesting question about whether the 'Arrow of Time' is discernible when the Universe becomes an 'entropy soup'. If the universe were to reach a 'maximal entropy state' (if such a state is possible), when fluctuations from the maximal entropy could cause apparent reversals in time's arrow. Not sure whether this is viable, but still a theoretical possibility.

Other topologies may be possible. Further, within String Theory, there is speculative theorising in relation to the 'Calabi-Yau' manifold which might also have some bearing on explaining why the laws of physics are the way they are.

This is my understanding of what Spinoza may have had in mind when speaking of the 'Causa Sui'. The substance out of which the universe is formed may be Self-Caused (in the circular time sense) or Always-Existent (in the infinite time sense). Which is what the term 'Causa Sui' may mean. Now, what gave this substance the distribution in space time that it has (or the 'form' it has) is an open question. Either it exists as it is due to its being a 'brute fact', or further dimensions may come into play in some way.

Just standing on the shoulders of giants... PS - These viewpoints all seem to presuppose that free will doesn't exist, which is said to be Spinoza's position. This position (of no free will) seems logically valid, but that does not necessarily imply that it is true (though it would be quite absurd if it were not true - which might be an argument for free will, namely, that free will's existence would be absurd). ASavantDude (talk) 15:12, 31 December 2016 (UTC)