146 The Principle that the Cause is greater than its Effect A. C. LLOYD Transmission theory o f causation here is a mediaeval dogma that a cause must be greater than or equal to its effect. It is widely known, even to those unfamiliar with the Schoolmen, from its use in one of Descartes' proofs of the existence of God (Discours de la méthode, 4e ptie ; Meditatio III). Only a perfect being, Descartes argued, can be responsible for our possessing the idea of perfection, for any other cause (such as our parents) would necessarily be inferior to this effect. The peculiar theory (of esse objectivum) which makes 'idea of perfection' function like 'perfect idea' does not affect the dogma in question. It is easy to conceive and may be difficult not to conceive that simply by lying in a cold bath someone can heat the water at most to his own body temperature. If this conception is generalised we have a notion of causation as the transferring or transmitting of some property from one thing to another. It is the notion which accounts for the Scholastic principle in Descartes' thinking. This can be inferred from his own
Phronesis – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1976
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