Screening-off and Causal Completeness
Elliott Sober, Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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