Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why did the window break?

I read an interesting paragraph on causes, which really makes me question whether anyone who talks about causes of PDS actually knows what s/he means by "cause".

The author asks "Why did the window break?", and offered the following answers

A) "Because the brick hit the window.",
B) "Because Tom threw the brick.",
C) "Because the window glass was brittle."

He also gave the following definition: The English ‘cause’ suggests efficient causation, some factor present in a situation that actually brings about a change

This makes me think that causes can be classified

1) Into EVENTS or STATES. Event: Brick hit the window or Tom threw the brick. States: Glass was brittle.

2) Into HOW CLOSE TO "breaking the window". For example, The brick hitting the glass is a more direct cause than Tom throwing the brick.

3) Into WHETHER THEY ARE SUFFICIENT to "breaking the window". Some causes are a necessary but not sufficient conditions for the change "window breaks". For example, the glass needs to be brittle for it to break, but you need some extra i.e. the brick hitting the glass.

So "Why do people stutter?"

1 comment:

Law Student said...

From a legal standpoint, it gets more complicated. The brick, as you say, is more the cause than Tom throwing it is,...but Tom's throwing it becomes the intervening superceding cause, without which the window would not have broken. Said another way..."but for" Tom's throwing...the brick wouldn't have broken anything. Bricks don't spontaneously fly at windows. So...the brick is off the hook. Tom is the actual and proximate cause of the breaking glass.

The glass may be brittle, but it cannot be a cause of it breaking, no more than being unfortunate enough to find yourself standing in front of an approaching bullet from the gun of one intending to shoot a cause of your being shot. You can argue it this way: Brittle glass is to blame for the broken glass; however, "but for" the throwing of the brick, brittle glass would never break (presumably, of course). Thus, the brittle glass is off the hook.

Sorry...I know this wasn't the point of your post...but I couldn't resist. *laugh*

So...why do people stutter? Well, one could say that people stutter due to one of three things (to follow your pattern):

1. Because the "voice box" locks up
2. Because the speaker talks
3. Because the person has a speaking problem

Number one can't be right (legally again) because even though the voice box locks up...there is an intervening, superceding cause of the speaker actually speaking...that removes liability from the voice box. Voice boxes don't lock up, but for someone attempting to use it.

Likewise, number 3 can't be correct because, although the speaking problem results in stuttering, no stutter would occur, but for the speaking of the person attempting to talk. Therefore, the speaking problem is relieved of liability.

Maybe the legal standpoint is not the best approach. *laugh*