1. Welcome to Religious Forums, a friendly forum to discuss all religions in a friendly surrounding.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Our modern chat room. No add-ons or extensions required, just login and start chatting!
    • Access to private conversations with other members.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Contingency and Sufficient Reason

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Meow Mix, Jun 25, 2021.

  1. Meow Mix

    Meow Mix Curious Kitty

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,423
    Ratings:
    +2,415
    Religion:
    Nontheist
    Why does my mouse have flamingos on it?

    This innocuous question vexes me more than I'd like to admit, and it doesn't have anything to do with my (admittedly awesome) aesthetic taste.

    I think most of us would agree that the fact that my mouse has flamingos on it is a contingent fact in that it's probably not ontologically necessary for it to have flamingos on it. (By the way, is it flamingoes?)

    Ostensibly, my mouse is so fantastic because on the day I ordered a mouse online, there was a limited selection, and this one caught my eye. But if either of these explain why my mouse has flamingos on it (that it was available where I looked, and that I wanted it), it seems that those facts are also contingent, and so would require some explanation.

    Ok, so why was it available when I looked? Maybe it was because birds were hot during that season, so some kind of cultural explanation. Maybe the manufacturer had extra pink dye they wanted to get rid of, I don't know. Whatever the case, it seems like that explanation will also be contingent.

    Looks like it's regression time: what is the ultimate source of contingency for my mouse's hot pink birds?

    If I think about it a lot, I narrow it down to a sort of trilemma; but worryingly, it seems like the PSR (Principle of Sufficient Reason) doesn't survive any of the three options.

    1. Regressing back through a chain of contingent explanations/facts, there is some ultimate foundation of a necessary explanation/fact.
    2. There is just an infinite chain of contingent explanations/facts, each explaining the next, but requiring explanation from another contingent fact before it.
    3. There is a regression of contingent facts until we get back to some primordial fact with no explanation: true randomness.

    None of these seem good for the PSR. If I start with (1), I immediately wonder if this is true: it seems to me that a necessary explanation for something is a necessary cause, and it seems to me that a necessary cause has necessary effects. But then the thing that the necessary explanation explains is also necessary, and anything that it explains is also necessary, and so on: we never arrive to any contingency at all, and we reach the (possible, I suppose; but unpalatable) conclusion that there are necessarily birds on my mouse; and nothing requires any explanation at all so the PSR is impotent!

    If I move on to (2), I can't help but feel like the PSR is never satisfied. If there's an infinite regression of contingent causes, we never really satisfy why that entire infinite chain is the way that it is (a meta-contingency, if you will). That seems like a problem.

    If I move on to (3), this is just an outright admission to throwing the PSR in the garbage. If there's just some random cause for a chain of contingencies that doesn't itself have a cause ("true randomness"), then obviously there's not ultimately an explanation for the meta-contingency of that chain of causes.

    Where am I going with this? I really don't know. Maybe you have something to add.
     
    • Funny Funny x 1
  2. Meerkat

    Meerkat He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy.

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    2,059
    Ratings:
    +1,364
    Religion:
    Dharmic
    Necessity and sufficiency - Wikipedia

    Have you looked at the distinction between sufficient and necessary conditions?
    For example, an excess of pink dye wouldn't be a sufficient condition for your mouse example.
     
    #2 Meerkat, Jun 25, 2021
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2021
    • Useful Useful x 1
  3. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2006
    Messages:
    17,907
    Ratings:
    +8,474
    Religion:
    Philosophical Taoist/Christian
    A collection of marbles clattering down an inclined plane filled with protruding pegs.

    As each marble encounters a peg, it bounces and falls to the right or left of the peg, depending on it's angle of approach, and it's spin, and the smoothness of the peg, and then continues on to the next encounter with another peg.

    But, occasionally, a marble will meet a peg from such an approach, and with none of just such a spin as to render these determining factors too insignificant to cause the marble to fall to the right or to the left of the peg.

    What then? ... Chance.

    Chance is not a significant force in our cause/effect universe, but it IS a factor. It does occur. And what it means is that the marble, in this particular 'zero sum trajectory influence' instance, can fall to either side of the peg with equal likelihood.
    ___

    The situation with your flamingo clad mouse in not a 'zero sum likelihood of influence' representation. But it is clear that the influences are so slight that they cannot, individually, be held accountable for the result (by your own reckoning). And even collectively they would seem to be quite slight in terms of their influence on the outcome.

    They did, however, influence the outcome; even though they did so only slightly. And it was enough, apparently, because there were no other, stronger, influencing factors to override them.

    And if this explanation still does not satisfy you, keep in mind that chance is a fundamental, though very slight, factor influencing the outcomes in our cause/effect universe. In fact, it's so fundamental that the universe could not have come to exist, as it does, without it. Nor would you or I.
     
    • Useful Useful x 1
  4. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Messages:
    12,238
    Ratings:
    +11,141
    Religion:
    none
    For the first half of this post I was imagining a rodent transporting pink birds :oops:
     
    • Funny Funny x 4
  5. Meow Mix

    Meow Mix Curious Kitty

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,423
    Ratings:
    +2,415
    Religion:
    Nontheist
    You're so right about this, good call. It feels like the question just needs to be amended though, but perhaps I need to give it more thought.
     
  6. Meow Mix

    Meow Mix Curious Kitty

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,423
    Ratings:
    +2,415
    Religion:
    Nontheist
    This made my morning ^.^
     
    • Friendly Friendly x 1
  7. Brian2

    Brian2 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2020
    Messages:
    3,359
    Ratings:
    +580
    Religion:
    Christian
    I looked up Flamingo mouse on google. Flamingos, no "e", are on some models of Logitech mouses (or is it mice). Why they are there is no doubt a deeper question, or less deep, depending on your pov.
    But the flamingo has a heavy bill which is held upside down in the water to filter feed on small organisms. The mice in question do sort of look like the part of the bill that is bent and held upside down,,,,,,,,,if you have a mind to see it that way.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Meow Mix

    Meow Mix Curious Kitty

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,423
    Ratings:
    +2,415
    Religion:
    Nontheist
    Have had a busy morning but I thought more on this. I think the rest of the post still proceeds if the example explanations are just set up better, elucidated more, perhaps chosen carefully to avoid cloudy examples, etc. to get the reader to start thinking about the regress.

    Agree?
     
  9. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2017
    Messages:
    20,665
    Ratings:
    +24,680
    Religion:
    Non-theist
    I had to look at your avatar to make sure it wasn't a mouse with flamingos. It took me a while to figure out what mouse you were talking about.

    Anyway, I get a case of hives whenever anyone starts talking about contingent and necessary events or conditions. It betrays, to me, an adherence to the philosophy of Aristotle that should be done away with.

    The concept of contingency (that some event might not have happened) is closely related to that of causality (how one event leads to another). But what is causality and how does it connect to contingency?

    Well, causality is different than logical (or mathematical) implication. A number being composite does not 'cause' it to have non-trivial factors. It isn't a causality relationship; it is a mathematical one.

    So, in my understanding, for an event A to cause an event B means that if A is a set of initial conditions, the natural laws deduce that B will happen at a later time (although causality in QFT is a bit different, talking about future light cones).

    Crucial in this is that causality requires time and natural laws.

    So, to say that B is caused means there is some A such that A causes B. In that case, we can also say that B is contingent on A.

    Are there events that are not caused?

    The answer is straightforward: yes. There are events B (most quantum events) such that there is no previous event A such that the natural laws starting with initial conditions A lead to B happening later.

    Such uncaused events are common. But, I think you would agree, such events are also contingent. And this shows where your recursion breaks down: there are contingent events that are uncaused.

    Now, of course, you can focus on causality in your analysis instead of contingency. But if you do that, all you find is that there are events that are uncaused. But that is, again, clear from the above.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2018
    Messages:
    12,496
    Ratings:
    +11,893
    Religion:
    RC (culturally at least)
    It looks as if you may need to get out more.;) But if this is just the sort of thing you think about when you are lying in the bath, that's understandable.

    The intriguing thing is that some marketer thought putting flamingoes on mice would appeal to a certain sort of person........and they seem to have been right.:eek:

    I don't think we understand enough about the workings of the human mind to assign a reason for why the marketer thought of this, or why it appealed to you more than the others on offer. Though I'm tempted to see femininity at work. I'm not sure many men of my acquaintance would have selected the pink flamingo option.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Meerkat

    Meerkat He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy.

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    2,059
    Ratings:
    +1,364
    Religion:
    Dharmic
    Possibly, though I think asking how and why things happen is invariably complicated, and even more so with man-made systems. When I was working as an information analyst in the health service I would use multiple cause diagrams, these can be a useful visual way of analysing causes and conditions.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Meow Mix

    Meow Mix Curious Kitty

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,423
    Ratings:
    +2,415
    Religion:
    Nontheist
    An uncaused contingent cause was option #3 in my list, and I had not revealed that this, I think, is probably a good source of contingency.

    But this ignores the problem it presents to the PSR, which I was trying to highlight.

    My post was position-neutral to just try to cover all the options and pre-empt possible responses basically: it’s a puzzle for people that claim the PSR is unassailable.
     
    #12 Meow Mix, Jun 25, 2021
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2021
  13. Meow Mix

    Meow Mix Curious Kitty

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,423
    Ratings:
    +2,415
    Religion:
    Nontheist
    The flamingo mouse thing was just a vehicle to make the real point, which was that if contingency exists, I can’t think of how to salvage the PSR.

    The mouse is cute though.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Friendly Friendly x 1
  14. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2018
    Messages:
    12,496
    Ratings:
    +11,893
    Religion:
    RC (culturally at least)
    Yes, I see that. But on the serious point, I have nothing to add to the discussion you have been having with Poly and Meerkat.
     
Loading...