The Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect. 8th century, Japan
Causality denotes a necessary relationship between one
event (called cause) and another event (called effect)
which is the direct consequence of the first.
While this informal understanding suffices in every-
day use, the philosophical analysis of how best to char-
acterize causality extends over millennia.
Western philosophical tradition, discussion stretches
back at least as far as Aristotle, and the topic remains a
staple in contemporary philosophy journals.
Though cause and effect are typically related to
events, candidates include objects, processes, properties,
variables, facts, and states of affairs; which of these
make up the causal relata, and how best to characterize
According to Sowa (2000), up until the twentieth
century, three assumptions described by Max Born in
1949 were dominant in the definition of causality:
1. "Causality postulates that there are laws by which
the occurrence of an entity B of a certain class
depends on the occurrence of an entity A of another
class, where the word entity means any physical
object, phenomenon, situation, or event. A is called
the cause, B the effect.
2. "Antecedence postulates that the cause must be
prior to, or at least simultaneous with, the effect.
3. "Contiguity postulates that cause and effect must be
in spatial contact or connected by a chain of
intermediate things in contact." (Born, 1949, as cited
in Sowa, 2000)
However, according to Sowa (2000), "relativity and
quantum mechanics have forced physicists to abandon
these assumptions as exact statements of what happens
at the most fundamental levels, but they remain valid at
the level of human experience."
In his Posterior Analytics and Metaphysics, Aristotle
wrote, "All causes are beginnings...", "... we have sci-
entific knowledge when we know the cause...", and "...
to know a thing’s nature is to know the reason why it