Physical objects do seem to operate on other physical objects while all operating under physical properties, i.e. chemical bonds, momentum, mass, energy, etc.

A chemical reacts with other chemicals to derive a chemical.

Motion combines with motion to create different motion.

If we could map reality to a formal system, then we'd see that all of the predicates of an effect statement are all those contained within the premises that deduce this statement.

However, that task is highly non-constructive, hand wavy.

So, is there a logical reason for, if so, causal agents sharing properties with the effects?

  • chemistry is the science that studies the behavior of matter from the point of view of their chemical elements and properties; thus, no wonder that the description that chemistry gives us about reality is made of chemicals reacting with other chemicals to derive chemicals. The same for dynamics, the science of motion. Commented Feb 9 at 12:42
  • And yes, regarding motion Analytical mechanics is a formalism that describes physical reality in terms of conservation laws. Commented Feb 9 at 13:07
  • Apart from falsifiable science, according to the medieval scholastic philosophical maxim Never deny, seldom affirm, always distinguish referenced in today's another post, one cannot deny that conceivably there're probably some common relevant thus conserved properties in causation otherwise how they can even be related and known, yet usually efficient cause and its effect can always be distinguished in verifiable reality causing often non-affirmative conclusions even assuming reality could be completely mapped to a (non-recursive) formal system... Commented Feb 9 at 23:36

3 Answers 3


According to current mainstream theories of physics, the following are always strictly conserved: mass/energy, charge, momentum and angular momentum. There is a logical reason for that: Noether's theorem shows that such conservation laws arise from physical symmetries.

You seem to be suggesting a different type of conservation- namely that of types of properties. For instance mixing two colours results in a colour, mixing two tastes results in a taste, mixing sounds results in a sound. That is not a universal law, as properties can change during interactions. For example, you might mix two liquids which interact to form a solid.

  • None of those symmetries are unbroken, therefore the conservation "laws" are also not unbroken. See pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.93.25.14256 Time crystals for instance spontaneously violate mass/energy conservation. And mass/energy conservation is not even defined under steep time gradients like near a singularity.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Feb 10 at 19:37
  • The question, however, does not ask what properties are preserved in physics. It asks what properties are preserved in causation. Commented Feb 15 at 4:39

'Causality' is really just a way of constructing narratives, and we tend to like doing that about subjects. Physics often has situations where multiple outcomes could happen, like systems with high sensitivity to initial conditions especially those sensitive enough to be affected by quantum measurement outcomes. And many processes test what the 'subject' of a causal narrative is, for instance in thermodynamics we use the idealisation of an 'isolated system' but fields outside the system and from inside it are interacting (eg external gravity waves could influence the limit of scale of quantum-coherence, eg of qubits in quantum computing), and ultimately all matter and energy was once together at a quantum scale meaning entanglement could have impacts we don't understand yet across the universe - both these kind of effects and others challenge the reductionist paradigm and push the need for holism in physics. More on the problems with causal thinking: Is the idea of a causal chain physical (or even scientific)? Consider your use of 'acts on'; we say Earth obits the Sun, but they orbit their combined centre of gravity, that is just very close to ghe middle of the Sun; or consider chemical buffering where a set of chemical reactions help provide stability at a given pH, very crucial in living systems (ie it's not just one chemical 'acting' on another but a dynamic equilibrium).

As Marco has said, the modern fundamental paradigm in physics is not causality, but conserved quantities that are invariant with rest-frame, which are another way of saying continuous symmetries under transformation. In philosophy the idea of Real Patterns can help us deal with phenomena that emerge from fundamental dynamics, but develop persistence across time that makes it useful to deal with system-specific dynamics instead of always looking to the lowest level structure. We then work on getting different levels of analysis to 'talk to' each other, which idea is usefully conveyed by saying it's not helpful to consider all literature to be 'reducible' to alphabets but alphabets help us understand different narratives in a shared way. Discussed here: Is the idea that "Everything is energy" even coherent?

The idea of axiomatising physics is called Hilbert's Sixth Problem, and it is considered to have been proven impossible by Godel's Incompleteness theorems. Stephen Hawking gave a great lecture on this, Gödel and the end of physics. I would point to how 'hidden' or suppressed dynamics and degrees of freedom within systems, mean you can never be sure you have a full description of a system, and a reformulation in terms of the missed factors. See Cartwright's How The Laws of Physics Lie.


Probabilities (causality odds) are a conserved quantity, from an information science standpoint.

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