The cause, according to many philosophers, means a force that produces an effect.
The search for causes is natural to the human mind, which believes that “nothing happens without reason” (see the principle of sufficient reason in Leibniz). This natural tendency has been themed in metaphysics (search for the origin of the world) as in epistemology (search laws of nature).
There are two types of approach:
The physico-theological proof
It is to go from cause to cause and to infer the existence of a first cause that would be God (Aristotle in particular). The notion of cause is a notion “animist” is sought for a total due.
Since Descartes, science no longer seeks causes, that is to say, the history of a phenomenon, but the laws, that is to say, the consistent and predictable relations between phenomena.
One can distinguish, strictly speaking, the “efficient” cause is that by which an event occurs, and the “final” cause, which is that to which an event happens.
For example, a stone falls because of the wind (the wind is the efficient cause) and arrives on my head to punish me (the punishment is the final cause).
Quotes on causality
- We believe know nothing until you have entered each time the why. In a sense, the question is what something is made and remains there immanent. In another sense, it is the shape and model. In another sense, this is what comes first beginning of change and rest. Finally, this is the end, that is to say the final cause (Aristotle, Physics)
- In all, there must be a cause, or reason assignable, why it exists and why it does not exist (Spinoza, Ethics)
- We can define a case as an object followed by another, and such that all objects similar to the first are marked with similar objects to the latter. Or, in other words: as if the first object had not been, the second never had existed (Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding)
- The concept of cause absolutely requires that A thing is such that another B drift and necessarily following an absolutely universal rule (Kant, Critique of Pure Reason)