Tuesday, October 23, 2007

5.1361 We cannot infer the events of the future from those of the present.

Belief in the causal nexus is superstition.

Wittgenstein explains the second sentence thus: “I didn’t mean to say that the belief in the causal nexus was one amongst superstitions but rather that superstition is nothing else than the belief in the causal nexus.” (Letters to Ogden, p. 31) The prime superstition is belief in a causal nexus that allows us to infer future from present, state of affairs from state of affairs. The belief that we can know the world a priori. Metaphysics is superstition. Since logic is the weapon to be used against metaphysics, logic is the means to fight idolatry. The way to salvation is logic. Or is it this: superstition is the belief that everything is connected causally to everything else?

Stokhof (pp. 99-100): “Wittgenstein’s remarks on causality should not be interpreted as claiming there is no such thing as a causal relationship in the first place. What is denied is that causality is an internal relation between situations.”

This is tricky though. Schopenhauer and Kant seem to find the idea of causality without a causal nexus to be inconceivable or incomprehensible. It is all very well to say that Wittgenstein is not denying causality. Indeed he is not explicitly doing so. But what sense of causal regularity is left? On p. 77 Schopenhauer calls the law of causality the sole form of the understanding. It might be relevant that on p. 116 he criticizes Kant for identifying perception with sensation and thus for holding that “perception is something quite direct and brought about entirely without the assistance of the causal nexus” (his italics). As a result, on p. 117, Schopenhauer says that for Kant the origin of empirical intuitive perception is left wholly unexplained and so is “given as it were by a miracle.” Is this Wittgenstein’s view?

Compare Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil “On the Prejudices of Philosophers” §21 (p. 219 Everyman, 1992, Basic Writings of Nietzsche, edited by W. Kaufmann): “It is we alone who have devised cause, sequence, for-each-other, relativity, constraint, number, law, freedom, motive, and purpose; and when we project and mix this symbol world into things as if it existed “in itself,” we act once more as we have always acted—mythologically.”

On p. 133 Frascolla interprets Wittgenstein’s remarks here about causality as a rejection of some of Schopenhauer’s views. For instance, Schopenhauer’s idea that “motivation is causality seen from the inside” (Frascolla p. 133), and that the relation cause-effect can be assimilated to the relation premise-consequence. On Frascolla’s reading of Schopenhauer, one could know one’s own future actions (with certainty) if one knew one’s own motivational dispositions or character. Hence, one might say, one’s will would not be free. But this leaves out the fact that Schopenhauer believes that two people of the same character will do different things in different circumstances, and we cannot know in what circumstances we will find ourselves in the future, surely. Also, Schopenhauer identifies the causal nexus with the world as representation, which he regards as little more real than a dream. Rejecting belief in it as superstition is something he might endorse.

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