Lecture series “Information and Structure”: Prof. Dr. George F.R. Ellis (26.05.2021)

George F.R. Ellis

Mathematics Department, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Aristotle’s four forms of causation are vital in the real world


Most physicists are focused only on efficient causation, and even then they tend to regard it as only happening at the basic physics level. However in the real world, efficient causation applies at each emergent level, for example psychological causation is just as real as physical causation at the microlevel. The emergence of genuine causal powers at higher levels is enabled by a mixture of upwards and downwards causation, where the latter takes place via both material and formal causation. In the social context that is the framework of our lives, all of this is guided by final causation. Additionally there is a further key kind of causation not characterised by Aristotle, namely abstract causation. Taken together with the stochasticity that occurs at molecular and cellular levels, this forms a solid foundation for claims that agency can emerge from physics