Cause and Effect. — We say it is “explanation”; but it is only in “description” that we are in advance of the older stages of knowledge and science. We describe better, — we explain just as little as our predecessors. We have discovered a manifold succession where the naive man and investigator of older cultures saw only two things, “cause” and “effect”, as it was said ; we have perfected the conception of becoming, but have not got a knowledge of what is above and behind the conception. The series of “causes” stands before us much more complete in every case; we conclude that this and that must first precede in order that that other may follow — but we have not grasped anything thereby. The peculiarity, for example, in every chemical process seems a “miracle”, the same as before, just like all locomotion; nobody has “explained” impulse. How could we ever explain! We operate only with things which do not exist, with lines, surfaces, bodies, atoms, divisible times, divisible spaces — how can explanation ever be possible when we first make everything a conception, our conception! It is sufficient to regard science as the exactest humanizing of things that is possible; we always learn to describe ourselves more accurately by describing things and their successions. Cause and effect: there is probably never any such duality; in fact there is a continuum before us, from which we isolate a few portions ; — just as we always observe a motion as isolated points, and therefore do not properly see it, but infer it. The abruptness with which many effects take place leads us into error; it is however only an abruptness for us. There is an infinite multitude of processes in that abrupt moment which escape us. An intellect which could see cause and effect as a continuum, which could see the flux of events not according to our mode of perception, as things arbitrarily separated and broken — would throw aside the conception of cause and effect, and would deny all conditionality.
Gay Science paragraph 112
Showing the succession of things ever more clearly is what’s named explanation: no more than that!
Notebook 35, May – July 1885, paragraph 52