Saturday, June 12, 2010

Whewell on Succession of Cause and Effect

The common maxim, that the effect follows the cause, has arisen from the practice of considering, as examples of cause and effect, not instantaneous forces or causes, and the instantaneous changes which they produce; but taking, instead of this latter, the cumulative effects produced in the course of time, and compared with like results occurring without the action of the cause. Thus, if we alter the length of a clock-pendulum, this change produces, as its effect, a subsequent change of rate in the clock: because the rate is measured by the accumulated effects of the pendulum's gravity, before and after the change. But the pendulum produces its mechanical effect upon the escapement, at the moment of its contact, and each wheel upon the next, at the moment of its contact.

William Whewell, History of Scientific Ideas, p. 191

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