Is it valid to say that if all the conditions for an event E to happen will happen if all the conditions favorable for it to happens namely n1,n2,n3.... are present & all the factors which may hinder the progress or stop event E altogether are absent?

For example, consider the following definition of corrosion:

Corrosion can be defined as the deterioration of material by reaction to its environment. The corrosion occurs because of the natural tendency for most metals to return to their natural state; e.g., iron in the presence of moist air will revert to its natural state, iron oxide. Metals can be corroded by the direct reaction of the metal to a chemical; e.g., zinc will react with dilute sulfuric acid, and magnesium will react with alcohols

Is it valid to say that if all the factors which favors corrosion like moisture for example are present, then corrosion will definitely happen? How?

Further, if we a consider an infinite number of identical systems all of which have all the conditions required for corrosion, is it logically valid to say that all the materials in each system undergo corrosion and will they all undergo corrosion to the same extent? Please explain.

Thanks in advance

  • 2
    This is definitely an interesting question, but is there any chance I might be able to persuade you to develop this just a little bit, and maybe talk about your motivations? (For instance, why would you not anticipate an event given necessary and sufficient conditions for its occurence?) – Joseph Weissman Oct 15 '11 at 17:34
  • @JosephWeissman To tell the truth I couldn't think of an instance where an event did not happen when all the conditions are satisfied. The closest I got was when I considered 2 equivalent events E1 and E2 both of which have exactly the same probability of occurring, but only either E1 or E2 could happen at a time. Since all conditions for both events are satisfied but one of the events do not occur, I reasoned that it is not logically valid to assume that an event would occur just because the conditions are satisfied. – Green Noob Oct 17 '11 at 16:09
  • But when I thought further, I remembered that I have mentioned that there are no inhibitory factors to prevent the event from happening. But in my above example, the existence of an event E1 could be considered as a obstacle for the occurrence of E2 since both of them are equally possible but only one of them can happen at a time. I wanted to see if the StackExchange community would have a better answer. – Green Noob Oct 17 '11 at 16:14

It depends on how precisely you define "conditions favorable for it to happen"; do you mean the "ideal" conditions or just generally "acceptable" conditions? In "ideal" conditions, for example (warm temperature, moist environment, bacterial presence, etc), mold will grow on bread. In "acceptable" conditions, it is obviously not as certain; at the very least, it will not grow as fast or large as mold in an ideal state in the same amount of time. It seems like you are leaning towards the former, in which case it appears you are asking about the validity of causal determinism; i.e., if you were to add up all the factors which cause an event, it's the logically valid to say that the event will happen? In a deterministic system—yes, absolutely.

Given that there is some debate, however, whether our own universe it deterministic or not, you might not be able to say with great surety depending on who you talk to. But generally, for non-quantum level events, I think most people would say yes (theoretically). In practice, of course, it is essentially impossible to set up a system as you describe in your example. I think a better way of conceptualizing it would be to think about it this way:

If you were to flip a coin, and it lands—say—heads. Then you were go back in time to the moment just before you flipped that coin, and you left every variable in the universe precisely the same as it was when you flipped it the first time. Would the coin land heads again? Yes! Theoretically, it would land heads every single time no matter how many times you went back in time pre-flip, because all the factors stayed the same.

Thus, if all the conditions that are favorable to an event are in place, the event will occur, and it will not be able to occur in any other way beyond what is defined by the factors involved in it's execution.

| improve this answer | |

What you are asking about is the nature of causality, which is one of the stickiest problems in philosophy. The literature here is immense; I can only point to a few touchstones.

First, we need to make a distinction between Necessary and Sufficient conditions.

From there, we can go to Aristotle's four causes (material, formal, efficient and formal), and the Medieval extensions thereof.

The most radical theory of causality to follow was that of Hume, which led to an attempted rebuttal by Kant.

Naturally, there are more recent theories, such as those of Russell.

Finally: all of the above is within the framework of Western philosophy; there is an equally large (if not larger) literature in the East, largely in engagement with Buddhist thought (as the Buddhist notion of causality is sometimes known as its "central doctrine".)

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    This is a good compliment to my answer, particularly with NvS conditions. I wish you would offer at least a single line of explanation under each link though, so readers wouldn't have to visit each site just to get the whole picture of what you are trying to convey with your answer. :P – stoicfury Oct 16 '11 at 15:58
  • @stoicfury: I understand the wish, but I'm not about to start summarizing encyclopedia articles, which are already extremely compressed and schematic. There's a limit to spoonfeeding... – Michael Dorfman Oct 16 '11 at 17:02

Corrosion isn't a great example because it is a bulk property of stochastic molecular interactions. There will always be some variability in what happens (perhaps undetectable, if the materials are identical at the atomic level); furthermore, when one says "will", one really means "the probability of failure is so low that one would never expect it to happen if all matter in the universe were placed in this condition over and over again for trillions of years".

At a deeper level, favorability alone is not enough; some processes are intrinsically stochastic as far as we can tell (see questions on QM). For example, the probability of interacting with a neutrino is exceedingly small; you have to scale up the volume of your target immensely in order to have some chance of seeing something.

(At a deeper level yet, see Michael Dorfman's answer about the nature of causality.)

| improve this answer | |
  • Everything in nature is a result of molecular interactions. Nothing will ever occur the same way twice, even something as simple as a coin flip. This is unless of course, you were able to go back in time and relive the event. – MGZero Oct 18 '11 at 20:46
  • @MGZero - Some of them are sufficiently reliable for it to not matter. Bullets do not go through windows without breaking them, for instance. – Rex Kerr Oct 19 '11 at 16:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.