How it became so consequential isn't immediately obvious as you start reading what philosophers have had to say about Causation, as they don't usually begin by wondering what causes us to take the actions we do, such as striking a match to light a candle, instead they begin with what knowledge we can have of the material nature of issues such as what causes the candle wick to catch fire, or what causes metal to melt, or causes the sun to rise, all of which are informed by observations of empirical and scientific understanding (AKA: Entry level Knowledge). Some theories of Causation begin to take on an ominous air, as their seemingly innocuous, sometimes even silly, notions about what causes metal to melt, or the sun to rise, move swiftly from empirical observations, to ethical judgments, and even demands for political action (as noted earlier of Neil deGrasse-Tyson using his authority on scientific knowledge to justify demanding political action be taken), and it's by a number of mis-integrations and even disintegrations of causal relations between different forms of knowledge, that our accepted ideas of Causation, can cause all too real social and political turmoil in our day-to-day lives.
|Scientism—a Hallmark of the Dialectic, a Weapon of the Left (pg 14)|
The consequences of theories of causation gain in intensity through how they do or don't attend to the lowest and highest considerations of causation, as modernists tend to deliberately ignore and even ridicule those aspects that come closest to Identity (what Is) and Telos ( direction, intent) - which, ignored or not, aims and becomes the aim of their thoughts, which in a thousand different ways are insinuated into the popular opinions that we typically think with. That telos affects whether such patterns of thought will tend to lift you up into the broad light of day, or drive you down into the narrow darkness of an endless night of facts shorn from truth.
Pre-modern philosophers like Aristotle, began considering causation by observing the physical nature and effects of what was visible around them, and in a number of his works, including his physics (yes, still worth reading), he confined his observations, as Newton would do long after him with Gravity, to describing the effects of causality that he could see, without claiming to either fully understand or deny what he couldn't see in it. His ideas of Actuality and Potency, intuited principles of what was most likely happening just beyond the visible surface, from those particulars that could be observed occurring, which enabled something such as the hardened state that a metal like bronze holds as its normal Actuality, to also have the Potency - the potential - to change by melting into a liquid form under significantly high temperatures. The high level language he used to describe those features is still remarkably applicable to, or at least doesn't outright contradict, the very much more detailed molecular & chemical knowledge of today, which he lacked (though some modern physicists do think that ol' Aristotle's Act and Potency was more on target than he himself could've imagined).
Importantly, Aristotle didn't attempt to pass off either his ignorance or what doubts he might've had about what he couldn't be certain of as 'knowledge', that was suitable for guiding or declaring what else could be known, and the reason why was that the purpose of his philosophizing was to attempt to describe what was in fact True, rather than concocting a popular narrative that might be made socially or politically... useful.
The Sophists, OTOH, then as now, are primarily concerned with concocting narratives that ape philosophy's love of wisdom, by making a sensational use of a 'critical dialectic', which they pass off as being equivalent or superior to philosophy. Aristotle dismantled those sophistries elsewhere in his Metaphysics, but it was the nature of their imitation of appearances, that he remarked on here, as:
"...So too there are certain properties peculiar to being [Existence, Reality] as such, and it is about these that the philosopher has to investigate the truth.-An indication of this may be mentioned: dialecticians and sophists assume the same guise as the philosopher, for sophistic is Wisdom which exists only in semblance, and dialecticians embrace all things in their dialectic, and being is common to all things; but evidently their dialectic embraces these subjects because these are proper to philosophy.-For sophistic and dialectic turn on the same class of things as philosophy, but this differs from dialectic in the nature of the faculty required and from sophistic in respect of the purpose of the philosophic life. Dialectic is merely critical where philosophy claims to know, and sophistic is what appears to be philosophy but is not....."The Sophists 'critical dialectic' consists of raising arbitrary doubts out of thin air, with which they claim to have actually captured that Wisdom which philosophers more modestly pursue. From there, the Sophists sling their doubts wildly around until they're formed into supposed paradoxes for startling listeners into paying attention to their claims to know 'the truth' about issues, which could claim both that Change isn't possible, and just as easily that 'Change!' is all there is, without in either case ever actually explaining what they truly mean by any part of that.
Where philosophers seek first to know what IS, and from there pursue what they can intuit is truthfully compatible with that in order to enlarge understanding, the Sophists assert & sow doubts in order to deny what IS, so as to claim that anything could be, or could be anything other than what it is, in order to cause discord and encourage action, so as to, as Marx infamously declared that:
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it"Despite how absurd such claims (rightfully) appear to be to most sensible people, we need to resist the urge to brush their sophistries off as 'Eggheaded gibberish that's of no concern to me!', because the danger of these sophistries, and to the society they spread through, comes from thinking that they have and can have no impact on your life, as that is nearly as far from the truth as the sophistries themselves are.
For decades we've made the mistake of laughing off the absurdities that've been taught on our college campuses as merely pointy-headed foolishness, while ignoring the fact that generations of American youth have been taught to take those claims and ideals seriously, which has left us particularly vulnerable to being swept up in the downstream effects of these absurdities, as they've flipped our Corporate HR Dept's, and financial rating schemes, around to imposing those 'pointy headed absurdities' of DEI, through the exceedingly pointy end of dangerously powerful policies and laws which are maiming our children's lives in our schools, and across the workplace and society as a whole.
The Sophist's 'Critical Dialectic', whether in classical Greece, the opening of Modernity, or today's Post-Modern America, is to propose that we (uncritically) ingest whichever set of doubts they've proposed as being of value, while ignoring what their sum total actually amounts to: causeless doubts which have no substance. When they're successful at peddling such beliefs, their dialectic begins to function as a philosophical acid, dissolving whichever knowledge of the prevailing wisdom is being targeted by them, in order to carry out its primary purpose - transforming that meaning (especially that which aids you in conceiving of and living a good life), into meaning nothing to you. Of course where there is no meaning, no vision, '...the people perish', and many sophists see in that perishing the opportunity ('don't let a crisis go to waste') to pursue and capture the power which they intend to fully utilize for however long their '15 minutes' of infamy might be made to last.