Causation/emergence LO3740
Fri, 17 Nov 95 15:45:37 EST

Explanations of emergence often demonize causation, but that's a
dangerous rhetorical strategy. I came across the following
explanation of causation, which I will commit to memory.
It is from John R. Searle, "The Mystery of Consciousness (part 1)"
NY Review of Books, 2 Nov 95. (Searle's two-part essay is essential
for understanding the current debate on consciousness.)

"...If brain processes cause consciousness, then it seems to many
people that there must be two different things, brain processes as
causes, and conscious states as effects, and this seems to imply
dualism. This second mistake derives in part from a flawed conception
of causation. In our official theories of causation we typically
suppose that all causal relations must be between discrete events
ordered sequentially in time. For example, the shooting caused the
death of the victim.

"Certainly, many cause and effect relations are like that, but by no
means all. Look around you at the objects in your vicinity and think
of the causal explanations of the fact that the table exerts pressure
on the rug. This is explained by the force of gravity, but gravity is
not an event. Or think of the solidity of the table. It is explained
causally by the behavior of the molecules of which the table is
composed. But the solidity of the table is not an extra event, it is
just a feature of the table. Such examples of non-event causation
give us appropriate models for understanding the relation between my
present state of consciousness and the underlying neurobiological
processes that cause it. Lower-level processes in the brain cause my
present state of consciousness, but that state is not a separate
entity from my brain; rather it is just a feature of my brain at the
present time. By the way, this analysis -- that brain processes CAUSE
consciousness but that consciousness is A FEATURE OF the brain
provides us with a solution to the traditional mind-body problem, a
solution which avoids both dualism and materialism, at least as they
are traditionally conceived."