Notes on time and causality

A collection of philosophical essays on the subject of causality, determinism and time in general

On the concept of the world and of determinism as the “default” worldview

The things we know (i.e. assume are true) shape our worldview. But a worldview is not the same as the world - in the world, there would always be things that clash with our worldview. Sometimes when that happens (when we perceive new things that we did not expect) we adjust our thinking so as to take these things into account. But if there is no way to adjust our thinking we just ignore the things that don’t fit into our worldview as if they do not exist. If there is an event (or even a whole aspect of reality) that does not uphold to our worldview we would not be merely unable to make sense of that event or aspect (as seeing an event without being able to make sense of it would indicate that we can theoretically comprehend it by merely adjusting our thinking), we would not be able to perceive it in any way, even if it happens before our very eyes.

1. Mental images of the particular shape the mental images of the general. Having the image of `A ⇒  B` in our head, when we search for a new image, we will search for it only in the space which is not occupied by `A`-s and `B`-s so the new image would be supplementary to `A`-s and `B`-s, like a jigsaw puzzle and hence our whole worldview.

The only way to prevent that is to assume that the world is unknowable in a first place (i.e. that it is unlawful by its nature). However, we can only do that to an extend - assuming that something is not lawful is simply a dead-end in terms of thinking about it - it just halts our ability to perceive and process. This is why we (mostly) assume otherwise.

When applied to large-scale thinking, this assumption establishes determinism as the “default” worldview and makes us contain non-deterministic phenomena in a system which is inherently deterministic: the mental image that represents “the world”.

1. The mental image of the world (let's call it `M`) is the central dogma, controlling the world is the central goal.

(Where the goal (“controlling the world”) is encoded in the defining characteristic of the mental image (determinism)).

In deterministic systems, non-deterministic events can be only explained by “hidden variables” theories, that basically say that the only reason why you didn’t predict something is that you are not good enough and you don’t know enough - this is a good stance to adopt for evolutionary reasons, as it constantly pushes us to analyze and systematize everything around us, but it’s bad when we take it too seriously.

It would be pretty weird if the world was deterministic - we perceive the world using mental images and mental images are just subjective representations, established with an aim for the survival of our species so being able to model the objective world deterministically using our subjective mental images would not make much sense.

True, we are able to model some aspects of the world some of the time, with some precision but being able to model the world itself would only be possible if someone created this world especially for us. I, personally, don’t find that plausible, so my opinion is that the equivalence between the mental images in our mind and the world is an illusion. - the only reason mental images, among which is M exists is to satisfy our urges. If there were a state in which our urges are really satisfied, time for us would freeze and we would reach some kind of perfection due to which our world (M) will just disappear. But that perfection is unattainable and that is not due to limitations of the physical world, but due to the limitations of our inner world, of ourselves as “non-gods”.

You can view God as a being that possesses what Kant calls “active intuition” i.e. who’s thoughts are, by themselves, reality, as opposed to the thoughts of normal organisms that don’t alter reality in any way. This is why God is, by definition only one and unique. This is why she is by definition immortal - not only because, as a supreme being, she would be capable of not dying, but because her death does not make sense unless the world itself dies with her. Simply put God’s mental image (M) is the real world (W) and the M of each human being bears some resemblance to W, as far as we can view this person as created by God in Her image.

In the many ways in which we are not God, we can say that M is not the same as W, although they are often observed as similar. M is deterministic, i.e. it is lawful and in a way that is always observable, while W is not. Mistaking M for W (or rather not recognizing that they are different) can lead us to the conclusion that W is deterministic too i.e. that everything that we perceive that is not lawful is some kind of illusion. The truth is the exact opposite - unpredictability is actually reality’s defining characteristic, that differentiates it from dreams - when we are not observing anything unpredictable, this means that we are perceiving the world against a preestablished set of images i.e. dogmatically. And perceiving the world empirically is essentially the same as seeing its unpredictable side. This goes to show that M and W are not only slightly different (e.g. when one is contained in the other) - they don’t overlap at all. And that is not because they are not at all similar, but simply because they follow two different, I’d say opposing, principles.

2. The real world (let's call it `W`) is our source of empirical knowledge.

(the development of physics is a perfect illustration of this - although it was a discipline that had determinism as a given from its inception, physics is slowly moving from completely deterministic (classical physics) to probabilistic models (quantum mechanics).

The principle that is behind M is, of course, the same principle that is behind all other mental images - the principle of causality. To discover what the principle of W is, let’s start by examining the concept of a mental image again. If we think about it, we will realize that mental images are not so much descriptions of some particular substance or material but a description of a class of arrangement of the substance (and causality, describes how these arrangement change). However, given a set of arrangements of some atoms, molecules, or any other elements, there would be some arrangements that can be classified as instances of mental images and (and that follow the principle of causality) and some that cannot, where the second type of arrangements are only much more probable to exists (e.g. 99.9 per cent of the random arrangements of bricks are not buildings), but much more probable to develop into (given enough time an ordered arrangement of bricks will eventually crumble to an unordered one). This is just a paraphrase of the second law of thermodynamics, stating that the entropy of a given closed system increases over time.

3. If `M` is based on information based on the principle of *causality*. We may say that `W`'s defining characteristic is the somewhat reverse concept of *entropy*. 

The real, objective world (W) tends to naturally go against any kind of mental appropriation and therefore against the principle of causality - as entropy in the world increases, the ability of observers to predict the way in which it would develop decreases i.e. for them there are less and fewer things happening and moreover all mental images become obsolete.

The entropy of our human world (M) rarely decreases, M is ordered and predictable, but only because we ourselves make it so (if I were to sit down and just observe in a world without life and other individuals then there will be nothing much to observe). What we do creates order and makes causality work. This is when we circle back to my most essential propositions and try to amend it

4 "Causality is in the eye of the beholder i.e. `A ⇒ B` is not a fact about the world, but a mental image." It may seem that we are using cause and effect to understand order, but we actually use it to act and through our actions, create order.