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A Critique of Wolfgang Smith's 'Vertical Causation'

Vertical Causation and Wholeness
25 March 2020
Philosophy of Physics, Vertical Causality, Wholeness
By Wolfgang Smith

Critiqued by Robert Sungenis

Dr. Smith: Vertical causality made its appearance in the context of the measuring

problem in quantum mechanics, where it could be identified by the fact that it acts

“instantaneously.”1 Whereas the previously known modes of causation — subsequently

referred to as “horizontal” — operate in time by way of a transmission through space,

vertical causality operates directly, without the mediation of any such process. That

“instantaneity” or lack of process came thus to be taken, in effect, as the defining

characteristic of vertical causality. But whereas this criterion may serve to identify VC, it

does not tell us whence it acts and what it effects. It is time, now, to broach these deeper

questions: time to delve into the metaphysics of VC, in the hope that this may shed light

as well upon questions of scientific significance. I begin, then, with the definitive claim

that vertical causation is nothing more — and nothing less — than the causation effected

by wholeness.

R. Sungenis: The first problem I see is that Dr. Smith’s ‘vertical causation’ comes into play by

default. That is, since Dr. Smith does not believe, for example, there exists an instantaneous

‘horizontal’ cause for why things in nature react instantaneously over wide margins of space, or

harps on the fact that quantum mechanics cannot find the simultaneous momentum and position

of an electron, this causes him to propose there must exist an instantaneous ‘vertical’ or otherworldly

cause for all that happens in the universe – a default position, if you will. But such otherworldly

causes can only be entertained if there is sufficient evidence that such a cause exists, not

by default. If not, then vertical causation is no better than the horizontal causation it seeks to

escape, especially when we find out later that some of the vehicles Dr. Smith suggests for ‘vertical

causation’ are the paranormal, miracles, astrology, dreams, etc.1 Even Michael Taylor, who wrote

a positive review of Dr. Smith’s, The Vertical Ascent: From Particles to the Tripartite Cosmos

and Beyond, notices the same, saying, “For, if Smith is right, common modern notions such as

material evolution, heliocentrism,2 and even whether there is something in astrology beyond mere

superstition would need to be reinterpreted — not merely on philosophical grounds...