Some deep discussion of causality and metaphysics. My refutation of this “First Cause” argument for God appears in the comments under “Sword of Apollo.”
[Note: Jacob T. Brunton is philosophically sophisticated and usually argues civilly. These characteristics led me to give him the benefit of every doubt when it came to intellectual honesty. I am not one who is quick to judge such a person an incorrigible evader or intellectually dishonest, since I think that there are many deep, yet honest errors that smart people can make in thinking about philosophy. But through argument with Mr. Brunton on multiple occasions, I have been given the evidence to conclude, beyond any doubt, that he is not honest in his philosophical viewpoints; especially in his regard for the Bible.
My past discussions with Mr. Brunton can still be informative to others, and so I will leave them as they are. But he will no longer be allowed to comment on this blog, and I will make no further comments in direct response to him on any blog. — 6-27-2013]
Thanks for explaining that you were refuting the argument. In your comment, you posted exactly the logical response which I took and which everyone should have taken.
I’m not an ARI fan, and I do think that so-called open objectivism is more sensible than rejecting a priori anything which seems to disagree with Ayn Rand. However, there is no place for theists in a rational world, and there is definitely no room for them in the intellectual realm of objectivism. We already have too many terrible misrepresentations of Rand’s brilliant philosophy in the popular culture; for example, Paul Ryan has the audacity to say that he is a Rand follower????!?!?!?!?! He’s anti-choice, pro-big&abusive government, and pro-faith. NOTHING he does or says is objectivist, and it only confuses people who don’t know anything about Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I wish that irrational people who misunderstand objectivism would stop identifying with it, and bloggers like the one you linked truly make me sad.
‘Thanks for explaining that you were refuting the argument. In your comment, you posted exactly the logical response which I took and which everyone should have taken.’
Glad to be appreciated.
‘I’m not an ARI fan, and I do think that so-called open objectivism is more sensible than rejecting a priori anything which seems to disagree with Ayn Rand.’
The “closed system” view of Objectivism is not about “rejecting a priori anything which seems to disagree with Ayn Rand,” or about denying further philosophical insights. Any Objectivist, properly so-called, comes to agreement with Rand’s principles through first-hand observation and analysis. (See: The Proper Intellectual Attitude of an Objectivist.) Rather, the “closed system” is about clarity, honesty and justice in philosophy. (See: Ayn Rand on David Kelley.)
First off, my apologies for coming to the conversation 6 years late. I just found your blog.
Would it be accurate to say that the efficient cause of an action explains why one specific action occurred as opposed to another action, while the primary cause explains why an action occurred as opposed to no action at all? I.e., the fact that the domino was pushed from the back explains why it fell forward, as opposed to remaining stationary or falling in some other direction. While the fact that a domino exists explains why standing or falling (or anything else a domino might do) is even possible. I’m considering this in light of Brunton’s statement below:
“If there is a series of logically linked events (a cause and effect chain), then that series must have a beginning in order to exist. If there is no beginning to such a series, then such a series cannot exist – because the very nature of such a series is that it is comprised of events which depend upon each other in causal relationships. In such a series, each event owes its existence to the event prior to it in the causal chain. No initiatory event means no consequent events… which means no series of events” (emphasis mine).
Brunton is correct that the event in question wouldn’t happen absent the specific prior events, but in its place would be some other event, determined by the nature of the acting entity and the new circumstances. So instead of “no series of events” there would just be a different series of events. Causation would still happen. The non-existence of action isn’t an option on the table.
Is that an accurate summary of Objectivist causality?
That’s not how I would distinguish efficient cause from primary cause. By “primary cause,” I take it you mean the fundamental causality that is a corollary of the Axiom of Identity. I’ll refer to this as the “fundamental cause,” because I think that calling it “primary cause” introduces an ambiguity between temporal and conceptual primacy.
I would say that the efficient cause is one part of the fundamental cause, when the effect–the action–is a physical one. The fundamental cause of an action is the nature of the entity that acts, along with the nature of its relationship with other entities, with which it interacts. This is very broad, and includes everything about the nature of the acting entity and its interactions with other entities.
The efficient cause is the part of the fundamental cause that pertains to the interactions with other entities. For example, if a billiard ball is struck by another one and rolls, and we ask, “Why did the billiard ball roll?” we can give an answer in terms of the whole fundamental cause. Or we can break it up into three of Aristotle’s four causes: material, formal, and efficient. In terms of the whole fundamental cause, we would say: “Because it reacted as its nature as a billiard ball dictates, when struck by another such ball on a billiard table.”
In terms of the efficient cause, we would say that the billiard ball rolled because it was struck by another one. Here we omit the intrinsic nature of the ball itself that leads it to respond in precisely this way: the materials it is composed of and their arrangement (material and formal cause).
In terms of the formal cause, we would say that the billiard ball rolled because it was round, (as opposed to cubical.) In terms of the material cause, we would say that the ball rolled because it was made of solid plastic, (as opposed to a highly shock-sensitive explosive.)
Yes, but prior to human beings, positing any other set of events would be an illegitimate rewriting of reality. And even with humans in the picture, this reasoning doesn’t make it correct to say that the efficient cause is the sole “specifying cause,” whereas the fundamental cause is what makes an action occur as opposed to no action at all. If a given entity had a different material composition or arrangement of those materials, this would also lead to a different specific reaction by that entity. Any change to the entity’s physical nature would produce a corresponding change in the entity’s physical reaction.
That is very thorough and I think I understood all of it. Thank you. Here is a more succinct way to get at what I am asking: In OPAR, Peikoff says that existence and identity are two aspects of the same fact. The primary aspect is that something exists as opposed to not existing, and the corollary aspect is that something exists as opposed to something else. It *is* vs. *it* is. (This is from memory. My copy of OPAR is thousands of miles away, otherwise I would use an exact quote.) My question is, does it make sense to separate out aspects of causation in the same way? Into “action vs. no action,” and “this action vs. that action”? That is what I took you to be doing in your response to Brunton. He argued that a series must have a beginning in order to exist, as if existence itself is the product of a series of actions instead of the other way around.