tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5914667706219226898.post4010268968898946543..comments2015-09-07T18:07:13.855-07:00Comments on Unshielded Colliders: Could Numbers Be Causes?Jonathan Livengoodhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11361186505929270798noreply@blogger.comBlogger5125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5914667706219226898.post-59957210633523230152012-09-16T10:41:21.706-07:002012-09-16T10:41:21.706-07:00I'm not sure I see the worry yet. Since Pegas...I'm not sure I see the worry yet. Since Pegasus does not exist, it is not an actual cause of anything. However, suppose the <em>structural</em> causes are just as you say: the universal Winged [yes,no] is a structural cause of the universal Flying [yes,no]. That seems plausible. What follows?<br /><br />In the system that I usually work with, causation is a relation between property universals within a single statistical unit. Your Pegasus example is great in that respect. If Pegasus is the statistical unit, then we can consider whether various properties of Pegasus are causes of various other properties of Pegasus. In ordinary cases, we take the statistical units to be big and complicated enough for our purposes. And in those cases, one statistical unit might include lots of what we would ordinarily think of as separate objects. So, I want to know whether we can understand causation between objects in a way that is parasitic on the system I like for other reasons.Jonathan Livengoodhttps://www.blogger.com/profile/11361186505929270798noreply@blogger.comtag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5914667706219226898.post-27310334121402890162012-09-16T10:26:05.460-07:002012-09-16T10:26:05.460-07:00Well, on the theory sketched, two would indeed cou...Well, on the theory sketched, two would indeed count as a cause of every actual cancer, provided two is necessary and necessarily has the properties it has. We should distinguish, however, between having identified a cause of Cancer -- the universal (or whatever your preferred substitute for a universal is) -- and having identified an actual cause of every instance of cancer.<br /><br />Now, maybe you are thinking that just as I suggested there is an event of the number two being even, there could be an event corresponding to the universal Cancer. But I don't know what that event might be. (I'm also admittedly a bit nervous about the suggestion that there is an event of the number two being even, but if that goes away, then a Lewisian account won't work at all.)<br /><br />A further worry that one might entertain is that the properties of things like numbers all hang together in such a way that one cannot even imagine manipulating some of them without manipulating all of them. Maybe that's right. But I suspect it's not. For example, we could imagine two different set theoretic constructions of the numbers that satisfy all of the Peano axioms. The axioms will implicitly give some properties to the numbers, but the set theoretic constructions will also give properties to the numbers. If the number two <em>is</em> the set {0,1}, then it has different properties than it would if it were the set {{0}}. And, of course, if the axioms are independent, then the properties of the object are independent.<br /><br />Anyway, I am willing to bite the bullet and say that any necessarily existing thing that has its properties necessarily is an actual cause of everything else.<br /><br />But keep pushing -- I'm still not sure whether there is a deep problem here or not.Jonathan Livengoodhttps://www.blogger.com/profile/11361186505929270798noreply@blogger.comtag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5914667706219226898.post-68818803783070986342012-09-16T09:20:51.278-07:002012-09-16T09:20:51.278-07:00Interesting! I was wondering about Jonah's poi...Interesting! I was wondering about Jonah's point too, as I was reading.<br /><br />Also, I am curious about this claim: "we might say that an object causes another object if some property of the first causes some property of the second." I wonder about fictional entities: Pegasus has the property of being winged, and in virtue of this property, Pegasus has the property of being able to fly. But Pegasus doesn't exist -- so Preuss and Rasmussen's argument would be in trouble.<br />Greg Frost-Arnoldhttps://www.blogger.com/profile/08563986984421570652noreply@blogger.comtag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5914667706219226898.post-27746165463966248842012-09-14T13:27:23.656-07:002012-09-14T13:27:23.656-07:00apparently the propositions didn't come throug...apparently the propositions didn't come through -- lesson learned: don't surround comments in corner brackets, if the software accepts html.<br /><br />This should say: "2 causes cancer, because the proposition [if 2 is odd, then cancer would be vanquished] is true (it also doesn't cause cancer, right? because the proposition [if 2 is odd, then cancer would not at all be effected] is also true). "Jonah Schupbachhttps://www.blogger.com/profile/10570917524518309635noreply@blogger.comtag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5914667706219226898.post-54928083595658288812012-09-14T13:23:40.705-07:002012-09-14T13:23:40.705-07:00Help me out here Jonathan. What's wrong with t...Help me out here Jonathan. What's wrong with the following. And, if it's right, then why aren't you more worried? ...<br /><br />Whatever properties a number has, it has them necessarily. Whatever 2 is, it is necessarily even. So asking what would happen were we to make 2 odd is quite like asking what would happen if I were a square circle. At best, 2 comes out to be -- as you say -- a cause of everything. For example, we've found another cause of cancer. It's 2! 2 causes cancer, because the proposition is true (it also doesn't cause cancer, right? because the proposition that is also true). <br /><br />At worst, claims that 2 (or any other number) is a cause of anything are just nonsensical / meaningless. I'd like to say that they are worse than false in this case. But looking at the alternative above, it turns out that they are worse than trivially true!Jonah Schupbachhttps://www.blogger.com/profile/10570917524518309635noreply@blogger.com