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Published December 2004 | public
Journal Article Open

Causal processes and interactions: What are they and what are they good for?


Concerning any object of philosophical analysis, we can ask several questions, including the two posed in the title of this paper. Despite difficulties in formulating a precise criterion to distinguish causal processes from pseudoprocesses, and causal interactions from mere spatiotemporal intersections, I argue that Salmon answered the first of these questions with extraordinary clarity. The second question, by contrast, has received very little attention. I will present two problems: in the first, it seems that Salmon has provided exactly the conceptual resources needed to solve the problem; in the second, it is difficult to see how causal processes and interactions may be used to shed any light. In general, the way to carry Salmon's program forward will be to demonstrate that these resources can be made to do real philosophical work.

Additional Information

Copyright 2004 by the Philosophy of Science Association. Reprinted with permission. I would like to thank all of those in attendance at the 2002 PSA meeting whose comments both in the session, and in the bar afterward helped me to refine the ideas in this paper. I am especially indebted to Peter Machamer for a spirited debate about birth control pills. I also wish to thank my cosymposiasts Phil Dowe and Larry Sklar; Adolf Gr├╝nbaum for sharing his personal recollections of Wes Salmon; Paul Humphreys for organizing the symposium; and Merrilee Salmon for giving her blessing to the event. Finally, I would like to thank Wes himself for years of guidance, inspiration, and just plain great philosophy.


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