[hist-analytic] Eddington, Pseudo-Processes and Epiphenomenalism

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Sun Feb 15 10:01:13 EST 2009


Wesley Salmon in _Scientific Explanation and 
the Causal Structure of the World_, Princeton
1984 incorporated the idea of a "pseudo-process"
into his probabilistic theory of causation. He
relies on Reichenbach (_The Direction of Time_) 
as his source on what pseudo-processes are, etc.
The most accessible information on the topic is:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-process/

There is a lot here on Russell on causation. It's 
a good essay; not sure who wrote it. I've just
completed an essay "Intention, Entrainment and
Pseudo-Processes, which is an attenuated statement
of my larger theory. Probably the most original
aspect of the theory I propose is that a pseudo-
process is not epiphenomenal. This, to the best
of my knowledge has never been suggested before. 
I think the reason is that if a process has an
effect, then that effect becomes incorporated into
the causal process. But this is simply a mistake.
Take any pseudo-process. Observe it, say a moving
shadow. Your observation is the result of its 
effect on you, and yet it is not, itself a causal
process. Part of the issue is the individuation of
processes. But I want to set that aside to make
an historical point.

Reichenbach just might not be the guy to cite on
this matter. Note the above essay out of Stanford
cites Reichenbach, probably because its source is
Salmon. But here is something I discovered only
recently. The description of such processes as we
find it reported by Salmon is almost exactly the
description we find in Eddington (_Nature of the
Physical World_ Ann Arbor, 1958). Actually, these
are the Gifford Lectures. If you turn to pp. 56-
59 you will find a detailed account of what a
pseudo-process is, one that fits Reichenbach
perfectly. I know that these processes were
controversial during the early years of relativity
theory. I made the attempt to find what is
probably the best scientific account, Milton
Rothman ("Things that Go Faster Than Light" in
Scientific American (July 1960). But someone had,
as we used to say, "liberated it." Well, if anyone
has good access to JSTOR or some such and it's easy
to do, could you forward a copy. I'll find it
sometime soon, since SA is a popular journal.

It is interesting that Eddington would never
receive any credit here. 


Steve Bayne
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