So I understand the physicists framing of casuality as follows: given an initial value of a system, say a cart on a piece of land. I add a fictitious (and privileged) initial condition, say a push. Then I say I calculate the force on the cart. And then I make statements like if I hadn't pushed the cart, it wouldn't have moved. Cause precedes effect, blah blah blah.

What blew me away was in "Part Two, Chapter one - Examination of Conditions" of the book the fundamental wisdom of the middle way - Jay L Garfield, Nagarjuna argues against such privileged fiction and concludes in dependent arising of phenomena.

Let me elaborate a bit. If I equally privilege both the cart and myself I would conclude I was able because the cart was there simultaneously as was I and we interacted with a push.

In a more mathematical language rather than viewing causality as something as irrelevant as the entire hypersurface. Instead in Buddhism causality was viewed to make sense given I am an experimentalist as part of the hypersurface I can only conclude the above paragraph. This leads to simultaneity of cause and effect or dependent arising of phenomena.

Why was the latter view ignored in the west?

2 Answers 2


On the contrary, causes-simultaneous-with-their-effects have not been ignored in the "West," but Kant says:

The principle of the connection of causality among phenomena is limited in our formula to the succession thereof, although in practice we find that the principle applies also when the phenomena exist together in the same time, and that cause and effect may be simultaneous. For example, there is heat in a room, which does not exist in the open air. I look about for the cause, and find it to be the fire, Now the fire as the cause is simultaneous with its effect, the heat of the room. In this case, then, there is no succession as regards time, between cause and effect, but they are simultaneous; and still the law holds good. The greater part of operating causes in nature are simultaneous with their effects, and the succession in time of the latter is produced only becau se the cause cannot achieve the total of its effect in one moment. But at the moment when the effect first arises, it is always simultaneous with the causality of its cause, because, if the cause had but a moment before ceased to be, the effect could not have arisen. Here it must be specially remembered that we must consider the order of time and not the lapse thereof. The relation remains, even though no time has elapsed. The time between the causality of the cause and its immediate effect may entirely vanish, and the cause and effect be thus simultaneous, but the relation of the one to the other remains always determinable according to time. If, for example, I consider a leaden ball, which lies upon a cushion and makes a hollow in it, as a cause, then it is simultaneous with the effect. But I distinguish the two through the relation of time of the dynamical connection of both. For if I lay the ball upon the cushion, then the hollow follows upon the before smooth surface; but supposing the cushion has, from some cause or another, a hollow, there does not thereupon follow a leaden ball.

He goes on to talk of the community of substances in the phenomenal world, which is more than simultaneous but is even interlocking. Nowadays we have things like four-dimensionalism (all causes are eternally (timewise higher-dimensionally) simultaneous with their effects, among other things) on the side of philosophical speculation and quantum field theory on the side of scientific practice, so I would wonder how grounded the question, "Why has the theory of intercausality been ignored in the West?" really is?

  • Ah I wasn't aware of this Commented May 2 at 12:01

Some causes and effects do indeed reciprocate. When the cue ball hits a red in snooker, the impact of the cue ball causes the effect of increasing the momentum of the red, but the impact also reduces the momentum of the cue ball by the same amount. If you ask what caused the red to move, the answer is the impact of the cue ball. If you ask what caused the cue ball to decelerate, the answer is the impact of the red. There is nothing mystical about it. Other interactions are not quite so symmetrical in appearance. If you flick on a light switch with your finger, the room floods with light. There is no simultaneous two-way effect there.

  • "If you flick on a light switch with your finger, the room floods with light. There is no simultaneous two-way effect there." - sure there is, your hand is affected by the energy and momentum of the switch in the same way that one ball hitting another ball is affected.
    – TKoL
    Commented Apr 30 at 16:53
  • @TKoL sure, I agree with that, but the overall arrangement isn't symmetric if you take the flicking finger as the trigger of the room being flooded with light. You have to unpack what seems to be happening and break it down into the component parts. Commented Apr 30 at 18:43
  • When you consider all of the actions it took to install the light and the electrical system and everything, I think it balances out
    – TKoL
    Commented Apr 30 at 19:13

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