Friday, November 30, 2007

6.32 The law of causality is not a law, but rather the form of a law.

Mounce (see pp. 75-76) says that the law of causality is the law of sufficient reason, i.e. the idea that everything has a cause. This, as he reads Wittgenstein, is not a law because it tells us nothing about the world. So far as two events can be distinguished, they must have some difference, and this difference can always be regarded as causally relevant. Saying “everything has a cause” then is not really reporting on a contingent generality but insisting a priori that every event will be interpreted as caused, as it can be.

Black (p. 345) points out that at 2.033 and 2.151 Wittgenstein links form with possibility. If he is talking about the possibility of a certain kind of empirical generalization then, Black thinks, this fits with 6.321-6.34, but not with 6.36.

My original comment: What is the law of causality? No event without a cause? But then what is an event? How are we to divide time up into events? Perhaps this is why this is not really a law. It says, in effect, no x without a y. And that is the form of a law, i.e., as Russell says in his footnote to the Ogden translation, “not the form of one particular law, but of any law of a certain sort.” I take it that “B. R.” here refers to Russell.

Black (p. 345) says that by 6.36 “the ‘law of causality’ has been emptied of any determinate meaning.”

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