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What does “to cause” mean?

Take an example, It is reported that short-circuit caused fire in city bakery. In this case short-circuit and fire was in a causality, short-circuit is cause and fire is effect. But what is causality? Is cause a necessary or sufficient condition of effect? In this case it seems short-circuit is neither necessary nor sufficient condition of make a fire. But it seems also short-circuit is not entirely irrelevant to the fire.

So my question is what is the proper definition of Causality?


2 Answers 2


Causality as @glebovg states is a very basic understanding of the relation between two objects and the event which takes place based on the interaction. Because you have posted in Philosophy channel i am not sure you do not want the deterministic answer.

Personally i think the more interesting area of causality is found in Psychology

"investigating how people and non-human animals detect or infer causation from sensory information, prior experience and innate knowledge."


Aristotle started it all with the 4 causes. The material cause,the formal cause,the efficient cause and the final cause

This leads down a very interesting rabbit hole in the synchronicity of consciousness and the collective interactions of humans. What is priority in cause. For instance, we all make decisions in our lives and a lot of decisions we know will have a major effect negative or positive. Yet some actions seem minor yet they too have major consequential effects. These effects are all interlaced with and determined in priority to connections we have made to other objects ( living or non living - as is our current understanding in our collective attribution to the warming of this planet, yet we all as a collective continue even in the knowledge of our destructive nature ). This can then lead to perception illusions and the drawings of MC Escher ... if you let it. Mergers into a fringe science, which is always more interesting it seems. http://www.youaretrulyloved.com/enlightenment/the-illusion-of-causality/

Tie these ideas on a time spectrum and dare to introduce the uncertainty principle. This like LSD for people who like to learn.

You however did ask the question in a very deterministic manner, and if you are looking for the scientific interpretation you might want to try the Physics channel http://physics.stackexchange.com

  • 1
    Oh, there are abundant theories. I have a bit disoriented...
    – Popopo
    Nov 15, 2012 at 8:37

Causality is essentially the relationship between cause and effect. Specific definitions depend on the context. For example, in physics, and in particular thermodynamics, we define an arrow of time. In the philosophy of science, one might talk about causality in special relativity. For example, special relativity does not allow communication faster than the speed of light, since this would violate causality because to some inertial observers, information would travel backward in time. In quantum mechanics, one could say that virtual particles (particle-antiparticle pairs) violate causality because they essentially borrow energy from nothing (the vacuum) but this is allow by the time-energy uncertainty principle. In logic, or mathematics we have sufficient and necessary conditions (causes), if satisfied, yield some results (effects or consequences). There are many questions a philosopher could ask. Can two events be causally connected? Is there free will? What is determinism? Is our universe determinist as Laplace thought, or does it just seem that way? Can we rely on science to answer these questions? Hume's answer to the last question would be -- no, due to the problem of induction.

  • I think that "a relationship between cause and effect" is not nearly enough a sufficiently extensive answer. Other than that I see only examples and no sources at all.
    – iphigenie
    Nov 13, 2012 at 23:12
  • Indeed, it is difficult to confirm whether there is a causation between two events. But what I want to know is the proper definition of causality, which seems can be defined via metaphysical methodology. However, unfortunately philosophers haven't made an agreement. They usually uphold themselves' opinion.
    – Popopo
    Nov 15, 2012 at 10:02
  • You might have noticed that in philosophy, definitions vary. Metaphysicians might disagree with moral philosophers, for example. It is often hard to find philosophers who completely agree with each other.
    – glebovg
    Nov 15, 2012 at 15:47

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