Screening-off and Causal Completeness


Location: 220 Malloy

Elliott Sober, Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Here are two principles about causation that involve the ideas of screening-off and causal completeness:

(IL)  In a causal chain from C to I to E, the intermediate
 link I will screen-off C from E if I is causally complete.

(CC) Where C is the common cause of E1 and E2, C will screen-off E1 from E2 if C is causally complete.

In this talk I'll clarify each of these principles and then consider what happens to screening-off when the causes one considers are not causally complete.  The main result I'll discuss is the following "no-go theorem" :  in a rather general
setting, if the composite cause C1&C2&…&Cn screens-off one event from another, then each of the n component causes C1, C2, …, Cn
must fail to screen-off. 

Co-sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and the History and Philosophy of Science Graduate Program