Let there be two hypothetical, irreducible objects A and B, both possess a changeable property P. If A and B interact, their property P is effected.

How do I distinguish between entities and interaction in logical sense, when someone asks what was the cause of change in P ? Which is correct cause : A ?, B ?, both ?, or Interaction between them ?

1 Answer 1


This will depend on what kind of entities enter into causal relations. The standard account has it that it's events that are causally related. If so, A and B are ill-suited for the role, and A and B's interaction looks better.

For example, A and B are two Star Trek action figures, and P is being in mint condition. A and B crash violently into each other, say, in a car trunk, and as a result are no longer in mint condition. The standard account would have it that it's A and B's violently crashing into each other that has caused this.

  • True colloquially, but formally false. Unless we elevate "interaction" or events metaphysically to the status of effective causal agent, we can't formally say that the crash per se caused changes in A and B. After all, any physical change is an interaction where there is mutual action and effected change.
    – danielm
    Nov 21, 2012 at 16:40
  • 1
    Talking of causal agents is, I think, misleading. The mainstream position in debates about causation is that it is events (or, for others, states of affairs, situations, and the like) that cause one another. The very existence of agent causation is contested; but what is uncontestedly false is that it is the only (formally correct in your sense) type of causation.
    – Schiphol
    Nov 21, 2012 at 16:49

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