Contemporaneity Between Cause and Effect

Since the existence of the effect is essentially linked to the existence of the cause, the cause is necessary for the effect and the effect must be contemporaneous with the cause so that its being and existence the linked to that cause. This is the law of contemporaneity between the cause and the effect. Two arguments were forwarded to prove that it is possible for the effect to continue after its cause ceases to exist.

(1) The first argument, put forward by theologians, rests on two idea. The first is that things need causes in order to come into existence; after its coming into being, a thing has no need for a cause.

However, as pointed out earlier, a thing's need for a cause is not for its coming into existence, but because its existence is essentially linked to its specific cause.

The second notion is that the law of contemporaneity between the cause and the effect is not consistent with a certain group of phenomena in the universe. For example, a building erected by builders continues to exist even after all of them are gone and are no more alive. Al-Sadr states that in all such examples, the error lies in identifying the real causes.

(2) The other theory, suggested by the modem science of mechanics, assert that in the light of the laws of motion continuity of motion does not require a cause. According to the first law of motion, a body continues to move with a uniform velocity in a straight line, after an impulse is imparted to it, unless disturbed by an external force.

According to al-Sadr such an assertion leads to an immediate cancellation of the principle of causality. If it were possible for motion to continue without a cause, then it would also be possible for it to occur without a cause and for things to begin existing without a cause.

The reason is that continuity of motion always involves a new coming into existence.

According to al-Sadr, the experiments which suggest the first law of motion do not actually show that the external force is cause of motion. It is possible, he says, that the real cause of ethereal is something that had existed all along; external causes act the force within the body and prepare it as cause (Muslim have believed that all accidental motion, including the mechanical motion of bodies, is produced by a force within bodies). As a result, al-Sadr finds the law of inertia to be incompatible with the law of causality.

It is amazing that the author should consider the first law of motion as incompatible with the principle of causality. But that is because he, in the tradition of Mulla Sadra, considers motion as a continual renewal of existence, a continual recreation. Mechanics, on the other hand, considers rest as well as uniform motion in a straight line as unchanged states. Only acceleration is considered a change of state that requires an external cause or force. Also, Mulla Sadra considers circular motion as the most perfect kind of motion (and, it may be remarked, such a conception of motion can have unfortunate consequences for any civilization that adopts it). There is no reason why simple mechanical motion should necessarily be considered a continual renewal of existence and no reason why the first law of motion should be logically incompatible with the principle of causality.

One wishes that al-Sadr had treated some concepts of traditional Muslim philosophy with the same critical scrutiny with which he treats the dialectics. It is the view of some historians of science that certain misconceptions about motion inherited by Muslim philosophy and science from Aristotle were responsible for the failure of Muslim scientists to develop the science of mechanics, which was developed by the West only after it discarded the misconceptions of Greek philosophy regarding motion.

On the whole, it may bestated that the arguments advanced by the author in favour of contemporaneity of cause and effect are not very convincing. At the end of the chapter he draws a theological conclusion from the above discussion. The causal chain which relates relational entities cannot be infinite or circular; for in that case all the parts of the chain will be effects. Hence the world proceeds from a being necessary in essence, self-sufficient and not requiring a cause. Every cause except the first cause is a cause-effect, and hence needs a cause.

The first cause, being a pure cause, does not require a cause prior to it, for a thing does not require a cause qua cause but as an effect qua effect.