Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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Cause and Effect.

We say it is "explanation"; but it is only in "description" that we are in advance of the older stages of knowledge and science.  We describe better, we explain just as little as our predecessors.  We have discovered a manifold succession where the naive man and investigator of older cultures saw only two things, "cause" and "effect," as it was said; we have per fected the conception of becoming, but have not got a knowledge of what is above and behind the conception.  The series of "causes" stands before us much more complete in every case; we conclude that this and that must first precede in order that that other may follow but we have not grasped anything thereby.  The peculiarity, for example, in every chemical process seems a "miracle," the same as before, just like all locomotion; nobody has "explained" impulse.  How could we ever explain!  We operate only with things which do not exist, with lines, surfaces, bodies, atoms, divisible times, divisible spaces - how can explanation ever be possible when we first make everything a conception, our conception!  It is sufficient to regard science as the exactest humanising of things that is possible; we always learn to describe ourselves more accurately by describing things and their successions.  Cause and effect: there is probably never any such duality; in fact there is a continuum before us, from which we isolate a few portions; just as we always observe a motion as isolated points, and therefore do not properly see it, but infer it.  The abruptness with which many effects take place leads us into error; it is however only an abruptness for us.  There is an infinite multitude of processes in that abrupt moment which escape us.  An intellect which could see cause and effect as a continuum, which could see the flux of events not according to our mode of perception, as things arbitrarily separated and broken would throw aside the conception of cause and effect, and would deny all conditionality.  
 

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