Thursday, July 29, 2010

Causality and Action at a Distance

Causality cannot be conceived of as a touching of "substances" where one thing alters the other through physical transfer. There is no question that proximity affects the likelihood that one state will follow another. Nonetheless, to assume physical contact is required is incorrect as action at a distance seems to be possible under certain circumstances. Rather, causality must be conceived as a mere observation that one experiential state follows another.

If we consider the simple case of our sun rising to a ritual drum beat, we are tempted to conclude the view of causality that I propose is flawed. The sun does not rise because we beat our drums before dawn. However, for an outside observer to draw such a corollary is not unreasonable! To assume it cannot be the case because the drums do not "touch" the sun would be far more unreasonable. The falsehood of the causal relation between sun rise and drums becomes apparent only once the ritual drum beat ceases and the sun still rises.

Determination of causality requires the possibility of "flipping a switch" (i.e. the possibility of falsifying a theory). If a phenomenon can be decoupled from another, there is no causal relationship. If it can't, then causation is determined regardless of the informational distance between the phenomena.

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