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I am having a hard time finding an answer to my question. The reason I’m asking it is to figure out if cause and effect could have existed before the universe was created. If anyone has insight on this topic please also give your input.

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  • If the original sum of all galaxies was created, then was it caused to exist? So would not causality precede the origins of the galaxies? If causality was created, would we not be saying that causality was caused? Nov 14, 2023 at 23:58
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    If one has the time and resources, read Hume. He, very Buddhistish (?), was skeptical of causation, calling it (just a/nothing more than a) conjunction of events, a "habit" of nature. This metaphysics, hic sunt dracones/leones; a sidearm will be useful. 😁
    – Hudjefa
    Nov 15, 2023 at 2:59
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    What do you mean by "the universe"? If you mean all that is material, how do you know that there was ever a state "before" that? Also, our models of physics (which includes time) break when approaching the beginning of the Big Bang, so it may not even make sense to ask about "before" the Big Bang. Also, what would it mean for something to not be material? People claim deities are immaterial, but it's just that: a claim. That doesn't mean it makes sense to claim.
    – NotThatGuy
    Nov 15, 2023 at 8:12
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    If we understand the definition of the universe to mean everything we can possibly be aware of, it's not clear what it means to "figure out" something about "before the universe was created".
    – JimmyJames
    Nov 15, 2023 at 19:37
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    I'm with JimmyJames and I also ask, if cause and effect didn't first exist, how would you not be saying your universe was created without cause? In any case, would you mind summarizing what ideas you've already considered and why you accept or refute each? Otherwise, are you not just calling on SE Members to provide a precis of who-knows-how-many published works? Nov 15, 2023 at 22:25

8 Answers 8

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Before the existence of human beings cause and effect did not exist. Because the two are man-made concepts to explain the relation between certain phenomena we observe.

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    So, "before" causes existed, humans caused themselves to believe in them? Nov 15, 2023 at 0:08
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    @KristianBerry I challenge stretching the use of the term “cause and effect” so far that even the creation of concepts becomes a causal effect.
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 15, 2023 at 0:19
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    This answer is at least half false. Identifying "the" cause of an event is an arbitrary selection done by humans. (And some animals.) However, the difference between the set of all causes of an event and the set of all not-causes of that event is an objective fact about reality.
    – g s
    Nov 15, 2023 at 5:49
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    @gs The current laws of physics show everything influencing everything else. There is some, however small, force being exerted on the electrons in my head by the movement of a star in another galaxy. Perhaps this influences the timing (but probably not the content?) of this comment by a fraction of a nanosecond. It is very difficult to say that something is a not-cause of an event unless it is outside of the past light cone of an event. Nov 15, 2023 at 14:11
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    @StevenGubkin No need for difficulty; we can just say that it is false that something is a not-cause of an event unless it is outside of the past light cone of the event. That still leaves the overwhelming (possibly infinite) majority of everything not influencing the event - not just all the comoving yesterdays more than 1 light-day away, but also every comoving tomorrow.
    – g s
    Nov 15, 2023 at 16:25
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In the abstract, the concept of causality/causation is meager enough that we can ask about causes "outside of material experience," but the twist is that without empirical backup, our attempts to answer such questions will come to naught (or worse). Even if we stay on a more general, esoteric level, we will want to differentiate between at least constitutive and modulative causes (component and efficient causes, to put it in Aristotelian terms): the cause-and-effect relation is self-constitutive, hence self-caused in that sense (trivially, though), but it is not a modulation of something else, so it isn't an effect in that sense.

And again, that is to speak in abstractions and generalizations. Particular, concrete, knowable causes and effects seem confined to intratemporal determination; trying to think through sequences of these functions to an infinite pastwise limit seems to collapse into the oblivion of antinomy:

... suppose that every event in the world happens in accordance with the laws of nature; the causality of a cause must itself be an event and necessitates a regress to a still higher cause, and consequently the unceasing prolongation of the series of conditions a parte priori. Operative nature is therefore too large for every conception we can form in the synthesis of cosmical events.

If we admit the existence of spontaneously produced events, that is, of free agency, we are driven, in our search for sufficient reasons, on an unavoidable law of nature and are compelled to appeal to the empirical law of causality, and we find that any such totality of connection in our synthesis is too small for our necessary empirical conception.

So we are to limit our substantive, nontrivial application of the concept of cause-and-effect to questions within the experience of the spatiotemporally material world:

In our Transcendental Analytic, for example, we inferred the principle, "Every event has a cause," from the only condition of the objective possibility of our conception of an event. This is that an event cannot be determined in time, and consequently cannot form a part of experience, unless it stands under this dynamical law. This is the only possible ground of proof; for our conception of an event possesses objective validity, that is, is a true conception, only because the law of causality determines an object to which it can refer. Other arguments in support of this principle have been attempted—such as that from the contingent nature of a phenomenon; but when this argument is considered, we can discover no criterion of contingency, except the fact of an event—of something happening, that is to say, the existence which is preceded by the non-existence of an object, and thus we fall back on the very thing to be proved.

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The cause is always embedded/implanted in the actualization: The principle of cause and effect - although usefull as a tool - is an illusion of how things work. Because of the fact that all things are inter-connected, every effect has as its cause - more or less - everything: so every state (effect) is in such a way that there could be no other way. This means that an actualization is the result of all causes, so the causes are embeded in the actualization, because there can be no other way. My answer then, is that cause and effect are an intellect representation of the unfoldment of reality: it's one single phenomenon perceived as two separate states in time. The causes, the effects and the universe is a unified whole, always.

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All phenomena material or non material arise conditionally and conditions themselves are phenomena. All phenomena are compounded (resulting from combination). There are different types of material phenomena for example - earth , water , fire , air , space etc. Associated non-material phenomena are feelings , perceptions, choices ,consciousness etc.

If we take non-material phenomena such as choices , then we can easily see that we make choices conditionally. In this site the choices of liking and disliking a post depends on certain conditions which you may call cause and effect.

So yes , non-material phenomena are also subject to conditionality (cause and effect) but a phenomena can also occur spontaneously(without external cause).

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Effect is. Cause isn't.

All effects are physical events, material exchanges of energy.

Most causes are also effects to prior causes. But some causes are not. Decisions made by conscious beings are not material. Decisions are not caused effects, but they are nevertheless the causes for the voluntary actions of the being.

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    This would suggest that you can't change your mind on reflection (immaterial thoughts causing immaterial thoughts to change), and that nothing in reality can change what you think (you can't learn anything about reality through observation, a cold wind can't cause you to think to put on a jacket, a brain injury can't affect you thoughts). But all those things seem to happen very frequently. (Never mind the existence of views that say thoughts are material, and questions around what the classification of "not material" even is, since what something isn't doesn't say much about what it is.)
    – NotThatGuy
    Nov 15, 2023 at 13:11
  • Immaterial thoughts cannot be caused at all. Only physical events are caused. We learn by acquiring information about the physical world and turning that information to knowledge. Nov 15, 2023 at 15:38
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Cause and effect are not things if you look at very small amounts of matter. A single nucleus, for example, consists of protons and neutrons in a potential well. The wave functions for the particles extend out beyond the potential well. At any point in time, it is possible that any of the particles may tunnel out of the potential well, and escape the nucleus. This is not 'caused' by anything as far as we can tell.

Bell's Inequality experiments with tangled photons goes a bit further than this. We could assume that the nucleus may have some 'decay process' going on internally even if we cannot see it. Bell's experiment uses pairs of photons that are 'entangled' - they have the same polarisation, though we do not know what polarisation it is. If one photon passes through a polariser, we can say whether the other photon would pass through a similar polariser. If the photons were created with some internal polarisation, then the experiment would return a very particular correlation depending on the angle between the two polarisers. If the photon only assumed a polarisation when the first photon met a polariser, then it can follow a more general distribution. This second, more general distribution is what we see.

On the microscopic scale, causality is a concept of dubious value. We cannot examine the quantum wave functions themselves, so it is hard to do a direct measurement. When we can do something such as in Bell's experiment, it seems to disprove causality. I would stop short here because it is hard if not impossible to prove a negative, but all the evidence we have points one way. Causality is something we see in heavy, complex objects with enough mass to make the quantum effects too tiny to measure. We can also rope in relativity and say which polariser the photon met first is also dependent on your frame of reference.

The same arguments apply when you refer to the Big Bang. When you get down to the Dirac radius and time, every wave function overlaps with every other one. The time and position of the Big Bang may not be a point but a fuzzy thing. Our extrapolation back to a point is a convenient mathematical thing to do, but it may not be quite right. Asking 'what happened before' may be like asking what is north of the North Pole if you keep on going. Maybe everything becomes so bent around time zero that you start coming back the way you came.

This isn't really a philosophical question. Physics has something interesting and useful to contribute.

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If there WAS a Creation, it was preceded by Chaos, in which by definition there was no cause or effect.

If we don't subscribe to that certainty, the only honest answer must be 'we don't know'.

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    – Meanach
    Nov 15, 2023 at 20:55
  • Did that mean 'was…' or rather, 'might have been…' preceded by Chaos? Nov 15, 2023 at 22:18
  • A simple misprint. Thankyou for pointing it out.
    – Laurence
    Nov 16, 2023 at 21:29
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They are bound exclusively to CHANGE. And change can be material but recently also virtual(computer simulation).

Cause and effect or shorter Causality is one of four modes of sufficient Reason which is concept more broader then cause and effect.

When you ask 'Why, what is the Reason behind this?' the answer will depend whether you are dealing with change or not. If you do you will use Causality as an mode of explanation. In this explanation every change that needs to be explained is an effect of some previous change which is considered it's cause and so ad infinitum.

But when you ask

“Why does a triangle with equal angles also have sides of equal length?”

The answer is not of cause/effect relation because there is no change but of reason/consequent. So you can't say "the reason it is that way is because of some previous change".

It’s grounding is not in Causality but in Time&Space.

This ground is called: Reason of Being

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