Causal Order and Perceived Temporal Order

Mellor proposes a solution. He uses causation between perception and the world to explain how, at least for subjects such as ourselves, there can appear to be a temporal order that does not involve causation.

Mellor begins by asserting that at least one event C causes another event E.4 Thus, causation is not only an idea in our minds. For example, the whole egg on the table, along with some other event (such as my rolling it), causes the egg to fall to the ground and then shatter. This is the case even if no one observed it happening. Then, following Reichenbach (1928/1958 and 1956), he defines a cause C of event E as any event that increases the likelihood of A happening. “[A]n effect’s chance must be greater than it would have been in the circumstances if its cause had not occurred” (Mellor 1991, 199s). For example:

If C is / roll the egg off the table,

and E is the egg shatters,

then C is a cause of E

iff C increases the likelihood of E.

The event E (the egg shatters) may happen anyway, sitting there on the table. However, the event С (I roll the egg off the table) increases the likelihood of E.

Then, Mellor argues, we have a perception of temporal order.6 He uses this perception of order to explain how temporal order arises:

Suppose I see that one event, e, happens precedes another,/ My seeing this is itself an event, which I shall call S()' represents a perception that p and “<” means “precedes”. But what is S(how do I see that e precedes /?

(Mellor 1991, 194)

Mellor’s answer is illustrated in in Figure 4.4. There is a causal order and an apparent temporal order. The direction of apparent temporal order arises out of the causal order.

Causal Order Explains Temporal Order

Figure 4.4 Causal Order Explains Temporal Order

The perception S(e has two elements or parts: one part SO?) is a perception of e and the other part S((f) is a perception of /. Then, he causally links the two parts:

SO?) is one of the causes of S(/).

That is, one part of the perception is one of the causes of another part of the perception (from Chapter 3, we can think of these as stages or temporal parts). It is this causal order—between the parts of our perception S(

  • • There is a causal relationship between the two parts of the perception.
  • • From this relationship, the perceptual part that is a cause (S(

Furthermore, for each perception, the event that is perceived appears to occur at the same time as—to be simultaneous with—the perception of it:

e seems to be at the same time as S(e)


/seems to be at the same time as S(f)

As a result, because S(e appears to be earlier than/

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