Submit :
News                      Photos                     Just In                     Debate Topic                     Latest News                    Articles                    Local News                    Blog Posts                     Pictures                    Reviews                    Recipes                    
The concept of causality
What causes things to happen? An attempt to achieve a satisfactory explanation, therefore, must involve us in a consideration of the nature of causality.

THIS ABSTRUSE problem lies at the heart of science and its philosophy and has been the subject of much philosophical discussion. In the social sciences the idea of causality is particularly complicated because of the degree to which human beings are free-acting units. I do not intend to follow this interesting problem further than to provide a brief outline of what appears to be one of the more fruitful ways of looking at causality.

Perhaps we can understand the scientist's concept of causality by examining the way in which he thinks about his material. Scientists are forever trying to construct simplified models of reality. These models are intellectual constructs in which the scientist assumes certain constant relations between different parts of his machine. He then tries to fit the parts of his machine together in a way which reproduces reality.

Usually, the scientist's model is only a partial representation of reality and the results which the scientist predicts through his understanding of how his theoretical model works sometimes are not borne out by his observations in real life. The scientists, for example, set up a model of how the universe worked. This placed the earth in the centre and made the sun circulate round it.

The model explained certain regularities they had observed in the movement of heavenly bodies but left other regularities unexplained. When Copernicus rearranged the model and placed the sun at the centre of the planetary system, the new model explained both the regularities which had been explained by the old model and the regularities it had not explained. The new model was thus more satisfactory since its heuristic or explanatory value was greater.Social scientists are trying to do exactly the same sort of thing. They examine some aspect of reality and try to isolate what appear to them to be the relevant enduring relationships between its different components. These relationships are then expressed in a logically consistent paradigm.

This paradigm is tested against reality, and the degree to which it can be used to predict reality gives some measure of its utility as a heuristic device. The social scientist prefers to work with an imperfect paradigm the logical construction of which he understands, rather than with one which may for in fact reproduce reality more accurately but of whose composition he is uncertain. It should emerge from this that the social scientist?s concept of causality differs considerably from the commonsense view. He does not see an effect B arising from here some known cause A but rather phenomena A, B, C, D, F, and so on back to A, all related to each other in particular ways, these relationships being such that a change in say E will modify the relationships of F to F and to D, hence F to G, and D to C, G to H, and C and so on.

Email Id
Verification Code
Email me on reply to my comment
Email me when other CJs comment on this article
Sign in to set your preference
merinews for RTI activists

Not finding what you are looking for? Search here.