from Will to power


551 (March-June 1888)

Critique of the concept ”cause”.- We have absolutely no experience of a cause; psychologically considered, we derive the entire concept from the subjective conviction that we are causes, namely, that the arm moves–But that is an error. We separate ourselves, the doers, from the deed, and we make use of this pattern everywhere–we seek a doer for every event. What is it we have done? We have misunderstood the feeling of strength, tension, resistance, a muscular feeling that is already the beginning of the act, as the cause, or we have taken the will to do this or that for a cause because the action follows upon it–cause, i. e.,-

There is no such thing as ”cause”; some cases in which it seemed to be given us, and in which we have projected it out of ourselves in order to understand an event, have been shown to be self-deceptions. Our ”understanding of an event” has consisted in our inventing a subject which was made responsible for something that happens and for how it happens. We have combined our feeling of will, our feeling of ”freedom,” our feeling of responsibility and our intention to perform an act, into the concept ”cause”: causa efficiens and causa finalis are fundamentally one.

We believed that an effect was explained when a condition was detected in which the effect was already inherent. In fact, we invent all causes after the schema of the effect: the latter is known to us–Conversely, we are not in a position to predict of any thing what it will ”effect.” The thing, the subject, will, intention–all inherent in the conception ”cause.” We search for things in order to explain why something has changed. Even the atom is this kind of super-added ”thing” and ”primitive subject”–

At length we grasp that things–consequently atoms, too– effect nothing: because they do not exist at all–that the concept of causality is completely useless.– A necessary sequence of states does not imply a causal relationship between them (–that would mean making their effective capacity leap from 1 to 2, to 3, to 4, to 5). There are neither causes nor effects. Linguistically we do not know how to rid ourselves of them. But that does not matter. If I think of the muscle apart from its ”effects”, I negate it–

In summa: an event is neither effected nor does it effect. Causa is a capacity to produce effects that has been super-added to the events–

Interpretation by causality a deception–A ”thing” is the sum of its effects, synthetically united by a concept, an image. In fact, science has emptied the concept causality of its content and retained it as a formula of an equation, in which it has become at bottom a matter of indifference on which side cause is placed and on which side effect. It is asserted that in two complex states (constellations of force) the quanta of force remain constant.

The calculability of an event does not reside in the fact that a rule is adhered to, or that a necessity is obeyed, or that a law of causality has been projected by us into every event: it resides in the recurrence of ”identical cases”.

There is no such thing as a sense of causality, as Kant thinks. One is surprised, one is disturbed, one desires something familiar to hold on to–As soon as we are shown something old in the new’ we are calmed. The supposed instinct for causality is only fear of the unfamiliar and the attempt to discover something familiar in it–a search, not for causes, but for the familiar.



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