Thursday 3 February 2011

To be real is to have causal power

A little question: what is reality? Or, how do we decide something is real?

Arthur Peacocke, in Information and the Nature of Reality (page 254), quotes the dictum attributed to Samuel Alexander, that
To be real is to have causal power
Seems pretty good to me, a good working-definition to be going on with anyway. Notice that it allows information as well as 'things' like love to be real.

It is a definition for the information age. Does it even allow matter to be real? Can a rock, by itself, cause anything?


Simon D'Alfonso said...

I am thinking that causal power means having the potential to be involved in a causal relation.

A rock can be potentially involved in a causal relation if it is thrown and breaks a window.

That's my take on it anyway.

David Chapman said...

Yes, OK, that's plausible. I gather (from colleague @steve_walker) we're into 'critical realism' with this.