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The causal-mechanical model of scientific explanation suggests that an explanation of an event E traces:
(i) the processes and interactions that make up the event itself
(ii) AND the causal processes and interactions leading up to the event E

Salmon suggests that causal processes can be distinguished from non-causal processes by looking for 'mark transmissions', i.e. a causal process is one that is able to transmit a mark in a continuous way.

  • e.g. if a dent is made on the bumper of a car, this dent will be transmitted throughout space and time, even in the absence of further interactions with whatever caused the dent. A moving automobile is therefore a 'mark transmitter' and thus a causal process.

Note that the C-M model relies heavily on counterfactuals; the movement, for example, of an undented car would also be a mark transmitter/ causal process, because if one were to mark the car, the mark would be transmitted through space and time.

Solves some of the problems that arise from the D-N approach, but not all (e.g. how can one introduce the concept of mark transmission to explain Bob's lack of pregnancy?). It also seems a bit strange to introduce something like mark transmission in the first place (seems a bit irrelevant).

Problems with the causal-mechanical model:

  • Action at a distance - i.e. how is mark transmission relevant to Newton's explanations of concepts like gravity? GOOD. I AGREE. BUT ACTION AT A DISTANCE HAS ALMOST ALWAYS BEEN UNPOPULAR. NEWTON HATED IT. AND OUR CURRENT MOST FUNDAMENTAL THEORIES, GENERAL RELATIVITY AND QUANTUM MECHANICS, CAN BE FORMULATED WITHOUT IT. JASON
  • High-level explanations in science - i.e. our explanations of the behaviour of gaseous systems are often 'high-level' in that they do not refer to each of the individual gas particles, but rather they generalise over the entirety of the system. How can we reconcile this with the idea of mark transmission?

Relevance to consciousness:

  • to what extent is the causal-mechanical approach to scientific explanation relevant to the study of consciousness, especially given the 'mark transmission' is very difficult to pin down in this context? Is mark transmission even possible in this circumstance?
  • if mark transmission is not possible, how does this separate the study of consciousness from other branches of scientific enquiry where C-M models are applicable? Does it mean that the study of consciousness is somehow more abstract, and less physical than other branches of science?

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