Collapse Volume II, 171–206


On Vicarious Causation


This article gives the outlines of a realist metaphysics, despite the continuing unpopularity of both realism and metaphysics in the continental tradition. Instead of the dull realism of mindless atoms and billiard balls that is usually invoked to spoil all the fun in philosophy, I will defend a weird realism. This model features a world packed full of ghostly real objects signaling to each other from inscrutable depths, unable to touch one another fully. There is an obvious link here with the tradition known as occasionalism, the first to suggest that direct interaction between entities is impossible. There is another clear link with the related sceptical tradition, which also envisions objects as lying side-by-side without direct connection, though here the objects in question are human perceptions rather than independent real things. Yet this article abandons the solution of a lone magical super-entity responsible for all relations (whether God for Malebranche and his Iraqi forerunners, or the human mind for sceptics, empiricists, and idealists), in favor of a vicarious causation deployed locally in every portion of the cosmos. While its strangeness may lead to puzzlement more than resistance, vicarious causation is not some autistic moonbeam entering the window of an asylum. Instead, it is both the launching pad for a rigorous post-Heideggerian philosophy, and a fitting revival of the venerable problem of communication between substances.…