“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Thursday, July 14, 2011

All right, let's talk causality and God

...I've been thinking about it all summer and the process guys and the OOO guys and such are thinking about it, mostly at Tom Sparrow's, what a great post. Again, I simply paste my response: 

I have a slightly different take again than some of the commenters, thanks for this post. Formal causation and vicarious for me are part of the same deal. That's why "modern" science since 1500 ish has been so keen to eliminate all but efficient and material cause. But quantum theory necessitates a revisting of formal causation. When you can shoot an electron through the hole in a doughnut of electromagnetism, and it respond as if it were within the doughnut, it is probably responding to the shape, the form, the aesthetics of the field. Likewise fruit flies smell the quantum signature of molecules, not the actual volatile molecules themselves. Nonlocality implies that something very deep about our world is formal, not efficient, or material--that is, aesthetic.

So I vote for reviving formal causation, downplaying material or even eliminating it (I think "matter" is only what a unique thing looks like when it's being used/exploited/worked on by some other thing), and seriously downplaying efficiency, which is only an emergent property of formal relationships.

Then unlike Levi I vote final causes off the boat altogether. If there's no top or bottom object there just is no final cause. Once you've gotten down to "goal-like" rather than "actually final" you've lost what is special about final causes. "Goal-like" behavior is only "goal-like" for some other entity. In other words, it's not a deep property of things.

Thus formal cause just is vicarious, in a world without matter per se or telos. Another term for formal cause is "aesthetic dimension."

And so in conclusion, God for me is irrelevant. He or she just as well might or might not exist. I have no problem either way. I think OOO articulates this position, which I call non-theism to distinguish it from theism, but also from atheism, which still has some skin in the theism game.

1 comment:

0thouartthat0 said...

Tim, quantum phenomena are evidence of formal causality in nature, but so is the entire biological world. Perhaps Darwin downplayed the significance of form on the species level (since form was just an artifact of natural selection), but individual living organisms cannot be understood absent some account of formal causation. Varela and Thompson's autopoietic approach does this nicely, I think. As for final causes, I don’t think the “as if,” teleonomic approach is sufficient, since it leaves us right back where Kant got stuck in the CoJ: a dualism between regulative and constitutive principles. Not very realist if you ask me!