Tidying up the kitchen recently, I turned on the radio and a 10 hour BBC dramatisation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace was on (here)!
During the short part I had the time to listen to, I heard this:
It is beyond the power of the human intellect to encompass all the causes of any phenomenon. But the impulse to search into causes is inherent in man’s very nature. And so the human intellect, without investigating the multiplicity and complexity of circumstances conditioning an event, any one of which taken separately may seem to be the reason for it, snatches at the first most comprehensible approximation to a cause and says ‘There is the cause’……
There is, and can be, no cause of an historical event save the one cause of all causes (i.e. God). But there are laws governing events: some we are ignorant of, others we are groping our way to. The discovery of these laws becomes possible only when we finally give up looking for causes.
A bit more on this topic, causation and complexity, in relation to Tolstoy’s War and Peace can be found on the Oxfam blog, From Poverty To Power.