Causation & Ethics
We determine causes by Ethics, rather than any type of science.
A man drinks some vodka, and soon after starts a fight in the pub, concerning a political point.
If we investigate the cause of the fight, we’ll find many differing answers.
- The man claims the vodka was the cause, and he should stop drinking vodka.
- The barman claims the man was the cause of the fight.
- The man’s friends note that a number of fights have started due to politics, and conclude that people should stop discussing politics.
People point and blame things which they want to change. The man blames the vodka in order to not blame himself. His friends have a similar tactic, but offer a tantalizing solution which promises to stop many fights in the future. The barman just wants to not deal with that guy again.
We have no hope here of isolating a ‘real’ cause, or even a complete list of causes. If we want to list the complete causes, we would have to start with the Big Bang. Backing up a bit, and focussing only on things which affect the bar-fight, we still find innumerable causes. The song on the radio that morning could conceivably have affected the outcome, or some piece of news which was later discussed. Despite the fact that any of these things could have stopped the fight by not happening, we cannot take them seriously as causes, because we cannot blame them, and causation is all about moral responsibility.
Blaming things we can’t change typically represents a call to not change anything. Blaming the rain for a car-crash means we should simply accept this, and other car crashes in the future.