I. A Short History of Near-Effectology
"Accident is a surprise arranged by nature."
Questions that will be considered:
What did great minds think about "accidents" and "effects?"
Is the accident vital for something to happen?
How did philosophical thoughts influence the course of history?
Philosophy in the ancient sense referred to the desire of men to find out the truth through contemplation, critical discussion, and the search for wisdom. It was the sublime art of satisfying intellectual curiosity, which ultimately arrived, after much inquiry and debates, at a system of ideas and principles. It was a science of a deep, reflective thinking destined to purify and free the mind and soul. It was the refined love of discovering the true nature of reality and of knowing what life was about. It was a glorious struggle of the most brilliant minds to find the role of humans in the universe.
The ancient philosophers knew that accidents in life have changing and lasting effects. Abundant seeds of Effectology can be found in the ancient idea of karma, a common belief in reincarnation shared by many Oriental religions.
In Sanskrit, karma means action that connects humans with nature and rules their spirituality in present and future lives. In fact, each person inherits his class and social or economic status from his previous life. Karma generates effects, or consequences, considered the fruits of any action. Good activity leads to nirvana and rebirth. Bad actions push one away from that happiness. In karma, there is a close connection between an action and its effect.
In Buddhism, to be active is a cause in itself, and being around others is to react to their activity. To be passive is to balance rightfully all the created energy.
The Taoist doctrine of ancient philosophy (fourth century B.C.) taught that all things were in a state of a perpetual "self-transformation" because of a "mutual causation." More precisely, each thing produces its opposite in order to complete a cycle of evolution from the beginning to the end, only to begin again.
In ancient Greece, Pythagoras (580 B.C.500 B.C.) was probably the first philosopher to combine the skill of precise mathematical science with a deep religious belief. He believed that the soul's salvation was trapped in a mortal body. He came up with the concept of the cosmos and its harmonic concept described in a mathematical senseand he came close to showing the cause and effect of many celestial occurrences. Since 500 B.C., the entire Pythagorean system of thinking stood the test of time, enduring to the present day. This shows that not too much has changed in terms of human curiosity, feelings, desire for truth, and the unavoidable fear of death.
Heraclitus of Ephesus lived in the same era as Pythagoras, and he agreed that the world is under constant change, nothing remains the same. He spoke of the fluidity and irreversibility of things in nature, and he launched an entire philosophy with his statement, "You cannot step twice into the same river."
Aristotle (384322) made a distinction between ordinary motions, such as a free fall, and motion per accidens, like an object hit and moved. Natural motions, like circular motions for celestial objects and rectilinear motions for terrestrial objects, are due to accidental motion of objects forced to move from their resting state. The effect of accidental motion results in another motion that keeps on going in perpetuity.
In the fourth century B.C., the Stoics believed that all incidents in nature were mastered by God, and that they were elements of destiny. I add that an "incident" is a happening in connection to other occurrences, and it always depends on something.
Archimedes (287212 ) was renowned for his logic and his engineering mind. He was aware that all matter was in motion and all objects were in relative balance with each other. The life of this great mathematician was cut short by the sword of a conquering Roman soldier who found him solving a problem written in the sand. Of course he never anticipated an accident like this would end his life.
Lucretius (9955 B.C.) included a third cause of movement of atoms in addition to weight and impact. He called it the "unpredictable movement." He further speculated that humans have an inborn will power. He came close to anticipating the power of accidental force and its effect in nature and life. But taking too many hallucinating drugs to enhance his poetry, he committed suicide, the ultimate self-inflicting accident.
Avicenna (9801037), the great philosopher of medieval Islam, investigated the necessity of cause that may (or may not) produce an effect in determining the existence of something. He also speculated on the infinity of such causes coexisting with their effects to form a finite chain, because they exist. Avicenna experienced many accidents in his life, and he died poisoned by his servant.
Peter of Spain (12101277) was probably the most learned man of any period in history. He displays many exceptional virtues. Peter was a physician, logician, philosopher, and, finally, a pope. Under the new name of Petrus Hispanus, he was destined to revolutionize the thinking of his time. Yet, his brilliant knowledge and noble intentions were abruptly terminated when the ceiling of his new office collapsed and killed him.
In fact, many philosophers went back and forth with their theories just because accidents dictated them to change their thinking. In all cases their lives depended on an unfortunate but omnipotent accident, which they little-considered in their philosophies.
Thomas Aquinas (12241274), the Catholic philosopher, was very aware of the natural creation and its existence, as the cause and its effects. By moving back and forth, these two "doers" were proof that God exists as the ultimate creator of all existing things. For that reason, Aquinas believed that accidents never exist by themselves, only in some substance.
Skipping hundreds of years of incredible philosophical activity and amazing theories, in which accidents and effects found no place, we find that science began to play a chief role in all discoveries. By definition, science was, and still is, a precise method of explaining why things are the way they are. Its main role is to replace guesses, regardless of how educated they are. Since ancient times, mathematics has been the ultimate authority. Amazingly, it was not until 1489 A.D. that the important symbols "+" and "-" came into use and boosted that field of knowledge.
At an incredible rate, scientific revelations became a reference system for philosophical thinking. Because science in general and mathematics in particular exclude an observer with a flexible judgment, most of the scientists of the Middle Ages were also philosophers, fulfilling a dual role.
And thus, we arrive at the revolutionary Nicolas Copernicus (14731543), the brilliant Polish astronomer and clergyman, who believed that all planets moved in the universe in perfect circles, including the Earth around the sun. His philosophical theory was much debated by the Church, and it found many followers willing to challenge the teachings of the Bible.
Giordano Bruno (15481600), the heretic Italian philosopher, wanted to substantiate the Egyptian belief of universal animation. He argued with theology about the ever expanding universe and its continuous motion. Animanism, the belief that all objects and phenomena have consciences and souls, kept everything moving, including the Earth, and this belief put Bruno in conflict with the merciless Inquisition. Bruno became the propagator of a new cosmology: he explained the Earth's cyclic rotations around the sun, which ultimately brought him a demonic reputation and its deadly effect. Refusing to take back his ideas of an infinite universe with innumerable moving worlds, an affront to the Scriptures, he was burned at the stake.
However advanced their theories were, these two visionaries did not mention the role of accidents. Yet, their concepts were themselves unwanted accidents in the eyes of the Church. Because of such accidents of rethinking, the world's mentality began to change rapidly from the theology to science.
Johannes Kepler (15711630), the founder of modern astronomy, entitled his revolutionary book A New Astronomy Based on Causation; in it, he explained the concept of physical forces. René Descartes (15961650) came very close to Effectology when he stipulated that a continued existence in motion exists in all bodies. He believed that any moving force comes from God, who is the primary, universal, and effectual cause of any motion. Descartes also defined the meaning of "idea" in his Rules for Direction of the Mind. He believed an idea was formed in one's brain by things outside the body, which acted upon it. He did not say, however, that those "things" had an accidental impact that affected the mind's thinking.
Thomas Hobbes (15881679) analyzed the meaning of "substance," and he defined "body" in terms of accidents that are mathematically tractable in mechanics and geometry. He concluded that place cannot be an accident of bodies. Accident to him was "the manner by which any body is conceived." However, Hobbes believed that all happenings are a subjective framework related to the "phantasms" of the individual, whose sensations were inflicted by the motions of the bodies. Vague about the importance of accidents, Hobbes was keen to focus on "action" and "motion" as necessities of existence.
Philosopher Soko Yamaga (16221685) explained the universe as the result of the "Yin" and "Yang" movements, which are the passive and active elements engaged with no beginning or end. His was a provocative and deep thought, because something must cause the elements to be either in rest or in motion. I name that causean accident.
Baruch/Benedict Spinoza (16321677) stated in his "ethic" that, "From a given determinate cause an effect necessarily follows; and, on the other hand, if no determinate cause be given, it is impossible that an effect can follow." He was aware that no chain of causation would reveal the first and last cause, because there is always another cause behind that. However, Spinoza flatly denied the existing role of accidents as a necessity in nature.
Isaac Newton (16421727), an ordained priest in the Church of England, demonstrated the laws of motion and gravity and stated, "To the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes." According to his third law of physics, "to every action there is always an equal reaction." And "Any object that is disturbed, it disturbs the motion of another object, but in opposite direction." As a mathematician, he referred to logical causes, and accidents were not to be included in correct calculations.
Wilhelm Leibniz (16461716) concluded that any effect taken in its totality is quantitatively equal to its entire cause. He came up with two rules of "impact." He also studied the relation between an effect and its "cause," but he limited it to speculative deductions. His final creed rested in God's harmonious creation of each substance.
David Hume (17111776) paid attention to the inferences between objects and causal relations, but only in abstract terms of cause and effect. Concluding that anything might cause anything, he saw no necessary relation between a cause and effect. Hume's skepticism stopped him from further investigating a subject that could be so close to Effectology.
The great Immanuel Kant (17241804) was also very interested in how forces act against each other. He concluded that "
in all communications of motion, action and reaction must always be equal." He also talked about the effects of his own actions and the effectiveness of reason. Obviously he did not have Effectology in mind, but he engaged in provocative thoughts about it.
Thomas Brown (17781820) was a Scottish philosopher who approached "cause and effect" as an intuitive belief. To him, a cause was "that which immediately preceded any changes, and which, existing at any time in similar circumstances, has been always, and will be always, immediately followed by a similar change." He stopped short in elaborating on various causes which generate unpredictable effects.
Friederich Hegel (17701831), the brilliant German idealist, timidly tried to prove philosophical reasons which may justify the heavenly planets and other heavenly bodies. He never considered that everything was logically arranged in limitless space ruled by cosmic transformations. Without trying to put new words in Hegel's work, I believe that he regarded the natural effects of the newly created bodies as being the forces that maintain universal balance.
The rapid progress in the chemistry and physics fields brought remarkable discoveries that proved the similarity between microcosms and the macrocosm. Michael Farady (17911867), one of the geniuses of science without a formal education, demonstrated that the creation of electric currents was the result of lines of magnetic force intersecting with one another. For the first time, an abstract energy was put into action, and the conservation of energy was possible. This was a demonstration of Effectology at its best: induced accidental magnetic forces produced the effect of electricity.
Chauncey Wright (18301875) was an American philosopher and mathematician who made acute observations on cosmic activity. He believed in the doing and undoing of celestial activity, as well as in the principle of countermovement based on action and counter-action. According to Wright, some events are caused by the parallelogram of force, which sounds to me very much like an accident in the happening.
Karl Marx (18181883) was well known for his revolutionary socialist and economic ideas. He saw physical movements produced by contradictions, and by the clashes of opposite forces, which he applied to historical events. No doubt, he was right about those human forces when they erupted as revolts of the unhappy masses of people in search of a better life. They were social accidents at their best.
Ironically, it was the leader of the Russian nihilism, Nicolai Chernyshevski (18281889), who concluded that man's actions are strictly subjected to the law of causality, which oblige him to act in different ways and change his behaviors. The idea of useless and senseless existence put him in Siberian exile for 25 years. Friederich Nietzche (18441900) strongly argued that: "You need chaos within, to give birth to a dancing star."
Jules Lachelier (18321918) was a French idealist who came up with a very real "law of efficient causes." With it, he tried to explain the mechanical linkages between events in nature that reflect the logical relations in thought. He never answered how a phenomenon occurs or how objects interact to form complex phenomena, but he intuitively approached the "law of final causes."
Wilhelm Wundt (18321920) was a renowned German thinker and the founder of the first psychological laboratory. His strongest views were the result of personal accident when, at age of 24, he became so ill that his doctors refused to treat him. For weeks, the young Wundt was between life and death, a time when he re-shaped his religious and philosophical ideas.
Vladimir Ilych Lenin (18701924) was a Marxist dialectician who saw the basis of all changes as a creation of "self-movement of matter" generated by the struggle of opposing forces. A devoted Marxist, he creatively applied the "study of contradiction in the very essence of objects" to the Bolshevik revolution. During this bloody civil war, it was not the pristine ideas of "dialectical materialism" that won the war for the Communists. It was the countless favorable military, social and economic accidents that made them victorious.
Richard Wahle (18571935) was the Austrian professor who came up with a solid "philosophy of occurrence" that produced "really operative, powerful substantial primitive factors." He agreed that those factors are unknown, but effective enough for us to sense them. Wolfgang Kohler (18871967) almost touched the idea of Effectology by claiming that men, even animals, can have a feeling that causes a particular event, or about what may come out of a particular line of action.
Adolf Hitler (18891945) was neither a philosopher, nor a scientist, but he certainly understood the power of historical accident since he himself was a product of it. The German dictator strongly believed that "Everything has a cause, nothing comes by chance."
Many important philosophers from the past did not belong to rigid academic institutions, and some defied them. In the philosophical field, any change in opinion may be due to an accident or a shocking experience, as well as in new scientific discoveries, political movements, etc. Many philosophers ended up contradicting themselvesSõren Kierkegaard (18131855) went so far as to publish books under pseudonyms in order to attack his own previously written works.
One must remember that the great Spinoza made a living by grinding optical lenses. He remained faithful to his ideas rather than accepting teaching positions, including one at Heidelberg University. Aware that a professorship would put a stop to his independent thinking, Spinoza preferred laboring with his hands to make his living. Eventually, the dust from polishing glass caused his premature death. Similar tragic accidents were experienced by other philosophers and prophets.
Severinus Boethius (480524 A.D.) was the last Roman philosopher as well as the magistrate of the emperor Theodoric. He wrote and translated important books that influenced the thinking of the Middle Ages, yet he was a victim of a brutal accident that he could not control. Even holding the position of a prime minister of the empire, Boethius was accused of trying to revive the power of the Roman Senate and of negotiating in secret with Byzantium. The revered philosopher was arrested, exiled, and executed. Just like Socrates, who was forced to drink poison in order to save his honor in the face of treason charges, Boethius experienced firsthand the power of an accident.
With the same twist of fate, Buddha died of starvation, Jesus was crucified, Mohammed was beaten up by his Arab deniers, Hegel died of cholera, and Feuerbach became a beggar. These tragic examples demonstrate that even glorious lives can be suddenly turned around, even terminated, by an accident.
It is a sad fact of life that most philosophers lived under torturous conditions. Often depressed, socially outcast and hoping for acceptance, short of money and looking for honorable jobs, they had disastrous relationships with women. Most of them were suffering from ill health, which was probably a natural bodily reaction to their tumultuous and inquisitive brains, and they retired to reflective seclusion. Many died young, went insane, or even committed suicide, after living short and miserable lives. These were the men whom we now cherish for their brilliant minds.