In my metaphysics class yesterday we spoke of causation and how Hume didn’t believe that events or things cause other events or things because you can’t really ‘see’ a cause. You can observe one billiard ball hitting another, and the other rolling down a hill, but there’s no ‘spark of causation’ that illuminates the interaction. We’re just guessing based on past experience that it’s a regularity that will continue.
In Immortality, Kundera states that one of his favourite phrases is “At the very moment that-“. I love this phrase too, because you can connect two seemingly unrelated events in a seemingly casual fashion.”At the very moment that the billiard ball rolled down the hill, a leaf fell from a tree.”
When you think about it, at any one point in time it’s likely that a leaf is falling from a tree. With all the trees in the world, in different places and different climates, there’s probably never a no-leaf-falling-second. Right now, a leaf falls. Ad finitum.
And so, if you were to describe every event that ever occurs using Kundera’s “At the very moment that” formula, in theory you could relate every single occurrence to leaf-falling.
At the very moment that I type these words, a leaf is falling from a tree.
At the very moment that our eyes connected, a leaf fell from a tree.
At the very moment that she came face to face with her soul, a leaf fell from a tree.
Because on the Humean conception you can’t ‘see’ cause (which is technically just an epistemic objection rather than an ontological one but don’t mind me…) who’s to say that leaves aren’t the cause of everything?
I was walking the streets of Glebe the other week, having a conversation with a friend about cultural relativism. “If there’s a culture that believes they have to bang their heads against the rocks every night in order for the sun to rise, it’s my moral duty to tell them to stop,” he argued. I replied, only half-ironically, “But if they’ve been banging their heads against rocks since the start of time, who’s to say they’re not causing the sun to rise? We’ve never observed a sunrise that hasn’t been accompanied by their rock-head-banging, so how could you causally distinguish the two? What if you tell them to stop and the sun never rises again?”
My point is, leaves are always falling and the world is always spinning and you are always breathing and everything is interconnected and if the world happened any other way who knows where we’d be. But the leaves continue to fall. And we continue to be. Maybe one causes the other and maybe it doesn’t. But it’s just a thought..
And as I finish writing this, a leaf falls from a tree…