Upshot: The differentiation between society being emergent or sui generis seems to correspond to the question of whether the development of interaction, in particular communication, should better be considered bottom-up, top-down or as a sort of circular concurrency of bottom-up and top-down causes. This is reminiscent of the philosophical debate about the implications of the terms emergence and downward causation.
Kim's exclusion argument threatens to show that irreducible constituted objects are epiphenomenal. Kim's arguments are examined and found to be unconvincing; that a constituted cause requires its constituent to be a cause is not an adequate reason to reject the causation of the constituted object (event or property-instance). However, I introduce and argue for, the Causal Power Uniqueness Condition (CPUC). I argue that CPUC and the causal closure of the physical, implies that constituted objects or property-instances are not novel causal (...) powers. (shrink)
Inter-level mechanistic explanations in the sciences have long been a focus of philosophical interest, but attention has recently turned to the compositional character of these explanations which work by explaining higher level entities, whether processes, individuals or properties, using the lower level entities they take to compose them. However, we still have no theoretical account of the constitution or parthood relations between individuals deployed in such explanations, nor any accounts of multiple constitution. My primary focus in this paper is to (...) outline a positive account of the constitution/part-whole relations between individuals posited in inter-level mechanistic explanations that takes constituents in the sciences to be ‘working parts’. Using this account, I then go on to illuminate the nature, and varieties, of multiple constitution that we find in the sciences and provide a starting theoretical framework for multiple constitution as well. (shrink)
The question of the ontological status of social wholes has been formative to the development of key positions and debates within modern social theory. Intrinsic to this is the contested meaning of the concept of emergence and the idea that the collective whole is in some way more than the sum of its parts. This claim, in its contemporary form, gives exaggerated importance to a simple truism of re-description that concerns all wholes. In this paper I argue that a better (...) way to test the ontological status of wholes is to ask whether their causal properties can be reduced to the qualities of their parts. If reduction is possible the ontological status of emergent wholes is diminished. A close analysis of William Wimsatt's definition, conceptualisation, and characterisation of emergent phenomena provides an understanding of the relationship between wholes and their parts and suggests, also, that the properties of collective phenomena of a social kind reduce to the activities of people. Social wholes and their parts reside in the same mode (or level) of organisation. This paper concludes by employing Jaegwon Kim's method of ‘functional reduction’ to demonstrate how to reduce the qualities of wholes to those of their parts. (shrink)
Although Ross & Spurrett (R&S) successfully fend off the threat of Kim's “supervenience argument” by showing that it conflates different notions of causation, their proposal for a dynamic systems answer to the mind-body problem is itself yet another supervenience claim in need of an explanation that justifies it. The same goes for their notion of “multiple supervenience.”.
This essay is a contribution to social ontology, drawing on the work of John Searle and of Hernando de Soto. At the center of the argument is the proposition advanced by de Soto in his Mystery of Capital to the effect that many of the entities which structure our contemporary social reality are entities which exist in virtue of the fact that there are (paper or digital) documents which support their existence. I here develop de Soto’s argument further, focusing specifically (...) on the ontological problems raised by a family of new types of social phenomena – exemplified most dramatically in the domain of finance for example in the form of what are called ‘structured investment vehicles’ – made possible as a result of the employment of computer technology in entity creation. I address also Searle’s most recent work on social ontology, and conclude with an appendix on the theory of documentality advanced by Maurizio Ferraris. (shrink)
The game of life is an excellent framework for metaphysical modeling. It can be used to study ontological categories like space, time, causality, persistence, substance, emergence, and supervenience. It is often said that there are many levels of existence in the game of life. Objects like the glider are said to exist on higher levels. Our goal here is to work out a precise formalization of the thesis that there are various levels of existence in the game of life. To (...) formalize this thesis, we develop a set-theoretic construction of the glider. The method of this construction generalizes to other patterns in the game of life. And it can be extended to more realistic physical systems. The result is a highly general method for the set-theoretical construction of substances. (shrink)
This paper responds to Jaegwon Kim's powerful objection to the very possibility of geninely novel emergent properties. Kim argues that the incoherence of reflexive downward causation means that the causal power of an emergent phenomenon is ultimately reducible to the causal powers of the causal powers of its constituents. I offer a simple argument showing how to claracterize emergent properties in terms of the effects of structural relations on the causal powers of their constituents.
The concept of contextual emergence has been proposed as a non-reductive, yet well- defined relation between different levels of description of physical and other systems. It is illustrated for the transition from statistical mechanics to thermodynamical properties such as temperature. Stability conditions are shown to be crucial for a rigorous implementation of contingent contexts that are required to understand temperature as an emergent property. Are such stability conditions meaningful for contextual emergence beyond physics as well? An affirmative example from cognitive (...) neuroscience addresses the relation between neurobiological and mental levels of description. For a particular class of partitions of the underlying neurobiological phase space, so-called generating partitions, the emergent mental states are stable under the dynamics. In this case, mental descriptions are (i) faithful representations of the neurodynamics and (ii) compatible with one another. (shrink)
Weak emergence is the view that a system’s macro properties can be explained by its micro properties but only in an especially complicated way. This paper explains a version of weak emergence based on the notion of explanatory incompressibility and “crawling the causal web.” Then it examines three reasons why weak emergence might be thought to be just in the mind. The first reason is based on contrasting mere epistemological emergence with a form of ontological emergence that involves irreducible downward (...) causation. The second reason is based on the idea that attributions of emergence are always a reflection of our ignorance of non-emergent explanations. The third reason is based on the charge that complex explanations are anthropocentric. Rather than being just in the mind, weak emergence is seen to involve a distinctive kind of complex, macro-pattern in the mind-independent objective micro-causal structure that exists in nature. The paper ends by addressing two further questions. One concerns whether weak emergence applies only or mainly to computer simulations and computational systems. The other concerns the respect in which weak emergence is dynamic rather than static. (shrink)
Weak emergence has been offered as an explication of the ubiquitous notion of emergence used in complexity science (Bedau 1997). After outlining the problem of emergence and comparing weak emergence with the two other main objectivist approaches to emergence, this paper explains a version of weak emergence and illustrates it with cellular automata. Then it explains the sort of downward causation and explanatory autonomy involved in weak emergence.
This work advances a theory in the metaphysics of phenomenal consciousness, which the author labels “e-physicalism”. Firstly, he endorses a realist stance towards consciousness and physicalist metaphysics. Secondly, he criticises Strong AI and functionalist views, and claims that consciousness has an internal character. Thirdly, he discusses HOT theories, the unity of consciousness, and holds that the “explanatory gap” is not ontological but epistemological. Fourthly, he argues that consciousness is not a supervenient but an emergent property, not reducible and endowed with (...) original causal powers, with respect to the micro-constituents of the conscious entity. Fifthly, he addresses the “zombie argument” and the “supervenience argument” within the e-physicalism framework. Finally, he elaborates on the claim that phenomenal properties are physical and discusses the “knowledge argument”. (shrink)
Emergence seems necessary for any naturalistic account of the world — none of our familiar world existed at the time of the Big Bang, and it does now — and normative emergence is necessary for any naturalistic account of biology and mind — mental phenomena, such as representation, learning, rationality, and so on, are normative. But Jaegwon Kim’s argument appears to render causally efficacious emergence impossible, and Hume’s argument appears to render normative emergence impossible, and, in its general form, it (...) precludes any emergence at all. I argue that both of these barriers can be overcome, and, in fact, that they each constitute reductios of their respective underlying presuppositions. In particular, causally efficacious ontological emergence can be modeled, but only within a process metaphysics, thus avoiding Kim’s argument, and by making use of non-abbreviatory forms of definition, thus avoiding Hume’s argument. I illustrate these points with models of the emergent nature of normative function and of representation. (shrink)
* This paper was to have been written jointly with Don Campbell. His tragic death on May 6, 1996, occurred before we had been able to do much planning for the paper. As a result, this is undoubtedly a very different paper than if Don and I had written it together, and, undoubtedly, not as good a paper. Nevertheless, I believe it maintains at least the spirit of what we had discussed. Clearly, all errors are mine alone.
Emergent properties are intended to be genuine, natural higher level causally efficacious properties irreducible to physical ones. At the same time they are somehow dependent on or 'emergent from' complexes of physical properties, so that the doctrine of emergent properties is not supposed to be returned to dualism. The doctrine faces two challenges: (i) to explain precisely how it is that such properties emerge - what is emergence; (ii) to explain how they sidestep the exclusion problem - how it is (...) that there is room for these properties to be causally efficacious, given the causal completeness of the physical. In this paper I explain how functional properties can meet both challenges. (shrink)
“Ontological emergence” of inherent high-level properties with causal powers is witnessed nowhere. A non-substantialist conception of emergence works much better. It allows downward causation, provided our concept of causality is transformed accordingly.
I develop a variant of the constraint interpretation of the emergence of purely physical (non-biological) entities, focusing on the principle of the non-derivability of actual physical states from possible physical states (physical laws) alone. While this is a necessary condition for any account of emergence, it is not sufficient, for it becomes trivial if not extended to types of constraint that specifically constitute physical entities, namely, those that individuate and differentiate them. Because physical organizations with these features are in fact (...) interdependent sets of such constraints, and because such constraints on physical laws cannot themselves be derived from physical laws, physical organization is emergent. These two complementary types of constraint are components of a complete non-reductive physicalism, comprising a non-reductive materialism and a non-reductive formalism. (shrink)
This is a companion to another paper. Together they rebut two widespread philosophical doctrines about emergence. The first, and main, doctrine is that emergence is incompatible with reduction. The second is that emergence is supervenience; or more exactly, supervenience without reduction.In the other paper, I develop these rebuttals in general terms, emphasising the second rebuttal. Here I discuss the situation in physics, emphasising the first rebuttal. I focus on limiting relations between theories and illustrate my claims with four examples, each (...) of them a model or a framework for modelling, from well-established mathematics or physics.I take emergence as behaviour that is novel and robust relative to some comparison class. I take reduction as, essentially, deduction. The main idea of my first rebuttal will be to perform the deduction after taking a limit of some parameter. Thus my first main claim will be that in my four examples (and many others), we can deduce a novel and robust behaviour, by taking the limit N→∞ of a parameter N.But on the other hand, this does not show that the N=∞ limit is “physically real”, as some authors have alleged. For my second main claim is that in these same examples, there is a weaker, yet still vivid, novel and robust behaviour that occurs before we get to the limit, i.e. for finite N. And it is this weaker behaviour which is physically real.My examples are: the method of arbitrary functions (in probability theory); fractals (in geometry); superselection for infinite systems (in quantum theory); and phase transitions for infinite systems (in statistical mechanics). (shrink)
Throughout the 1990s, Jaegwon Kim developed a line of argument that what purport to be nonreductive forms of physicalism are ultimately untenable, since they cannot accommodate the causal efficacy of mental states. His argument has received a great deal of discussion, much of it critical. We believe that, while the argument needs some tweaking, its basic thrust is sound. In what follows, we will lay out our preferred version of the argument and highlight its essential dependence on a causal-powers metaphysic, (...) a dependence that Kim does not acknowledge in his official presentations of the argument.i We then discuss two recent physicalist strategies for preserving the causal efficacy of the mental in the face of this sort of challenge, strategies that (ostensibly) endorse a causal powers metaphysics of properties while offering distinctive accounts of the physical realization of mental properties. We argue that neither picture can be satisfactorily worked out, and that seeing why they fail strongly suggests that nonreductive physicalism and a causal powers metaphysic are not compatible, as our original argument contends. Since we also believe that robust realism concerning mental causation should not be abandoned, we take the argument of this paper to strongly motivate an account on which the mental is unrealized by and ontologically emergent from the physical. In a final section, we sketch what an ontologically emergentist account of the mental might look like. (shrink)
Strong claims have been made for emergence as a new paradigm for understanding science, consciousness, and religion. Tracing the past history and current definitions of the concept, Clayton assesses the case for emergent phenomena in the natural world and their significance for philosophy and theology. Complex emergent phenomena require irreducible levels of explanation in physics, chemistry and biology. This pattern of emergence suggests a new approach to the problem of consciousness, which is neither reducible to brain states nor proof of (...) a mental substance or soul. Although emergence does not entail classical theism, it is compatible with a variety of religious positions. Clayton concludes with a defence of emergentist panentheism and a Christian constructive theology consistent with the new sciences of emergence. (shrink)
The author responds to criticisms from the four respondents to his “Emergence, Supervenience, and Personal Knowledge,” acknowledging areas where their points have improved the interpretation of science and the interpretation of Polanyi. The discussion focuses on the extent of the “causal decoupling” between parts and emergent wholes, with special attention to the question of whether (and if so, to what degree) brain activity causes thought.
Michael Polanyi was perhaps the most important emergence theorist of the middle of the 20th century. As the key link between the British Emergentists of the 1920s and the explosion of emergence theory in the 1990s, he played a crucial role in resisting reductionist interpretations of science and keeping the concept of emergence alive. Polanyi’s position on emergence is described and its major strengths and weaknesses are analyzed. Using Polanyi as the foundation, the article surveys the major contemporary options in (...) thephilosophy of mind and defends a particular understanding of the relationship of mental properties to brain states. (shrink)
Emergence has traditionally been described as satisfying specific properties, notably nonreducibility of the emergent object or properties to their substrate, novelty, and unpredictability from the properties of the substrate. Sometimes more mysterious properties such as independence from the substrate, separate substances and teleological properties are invoked. I will argue that the latter are both unnecessary and unwarranted. The descriptive properties can be analyzed in more detail in logical terms, but the logical conditions alone do not tell us how to identify (...) the conditions through interactions with the world. In order to do that we need dynamical properties – properties that do something. This paper, then, will be directed at identifying the dynamical conditions necessary and sufficient for emergence. Emergent properties and objects all result or are maintained by dissipative and radically nonholonomic processes. Emergent properties are relatively common in physics, but have been ignored because of the predominant use of Hamiltonian methods assuming energy conservation. Emergent objects are all dissipative systems, which have been recognized as special only in the past fifty years or so. Of interest are autonomous systems, including living and thinking systems. They show functionality and are self governed. (shrink)
The paradigm of Laplacean determinism combines three regulative principles: determinism, predictability, and the explanatory adequacy of universal laws together with purely local conditions. Historically, it applied to celestial mechanics, but it has been expanded into an ideal for scientific theories whose cogency is often not questioned. Laplace’s demon is an idealization of mechanistic scientific method. Its principles together imply reducibility, and rule out holism and emergence. I will argue that Laplacean determinism fails even in the realm of planetary dynamics, and (...) that it does not give suitable criteria for explanatory success except within very well defined and rather exceptional domains. Ironically, the very successes of Laplacean method in the Solar System were made possible only by processes that are not themselves tractable to Laplacean methodology. The results of some of these processes were first observed in 1964, and violate the Lapacean requirements of locality and predictability, opening the door to holism and nonreducibility, i.e., emergence. Despite the falsification of Laplacean methodology, the explanatory resources of holism and emergence remain in scientific limbo, though emergence has been used somewhat indiscriminately in recent scientific literature. I make some remarks at the end about the proper use of emergence in its traditional sense going back to C.D. Broad. (shrink)
Since the origins of the notion of emergence in attempts to recover the content of vitalistic anti-reductionism without its questionable metaphysics, emergence has been treated in terms of logical properties. This approach was doomed to failure, because logical properties are either sui generis or they are constructions from other logical properties. If the former, they do not explain on their own and are inevitably somewhat arbitrary (the problem with the related concept of supervenience, Collier, 1988a), but if the latter, reducibility (...) is assured because logical constructs are reducible, by definition, to their logical components. A satisfactory account of emergence must recognise that it is a dynamical, not a logical property of property of natural systems, and that its basis is dynamical rather than logical composition. Collier (1988a) introduced the concept of cohesion as the closure of the causal relations among the dynamical parts of a dynamical particular that determine its resistance to external and internal fluctuations that might disrupt its integrity. Cohesion is an equivalence relation that partitions a set of dynamical particulars into unified and distinct entities, providing the identity conditions for such particulars. Cohesion blocks reduction of dynamical particulars, and is necessary for dynamical emergence. We will give reasons for thinking that cohesion might be sufficient for emergence as well. (shrink)
The controversy over the notion of emergence has recently re-emerged But a rigorous debate concerning how it might be explained or defined is often lacking Emergence is discussed here under two strict conditions (l) emergents can be predictable from the knowledge about a system's parts, (ll) emergents can be regarded as dependent on, and deternuned by, the system's micro-structure O'Connor's definmon of an emergent property is taken as a starting-point for a new definmon, incorporating Emmeche and colleagues' analysis of dounward (...) causation and Baas' treatment of emergence It is not necessary to assume that this defintaon might provide the solution to the problem of emergence Rather, theoretical pluralism regarding different pragmatically-workable notions of emergence is welcome The reality of emergents is discussed here from the standpoint of Dennet's mild realism. (shrink)
Published in: Edwina Taborsky, ed. (1999): Semiosis. Evolution. Energy: Towards a Reconceptualization of the Sign. Shaker Verlag, Aachen. (pp. 89-108). The book is based on the meeting "Semiosis. Evolution. Energy, Third International Conference on Semiotics", Victoria Collage, University of Toronto, Canada, October 17-19, 1997 (programme and list of papers, see the SEE web page:http://www.library.utoronto.ca/see).
Bibliographical Note Abstract Explaining things - introductory remarks General attitudes and the standard view Requirements for a definition Life as the natural selection of replicators Life as an autopoietic system Life as a semiotic phenomenon Downward causation Implicitly well-defined general objects Emergence as explanatory strategy: the observer reappears Concluding remarks Acknowledgements Notes References Bibliographical note: Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Princeton History of Science Workshop on "Growing Explanations", Princeton University, February 15, 1997; and at the meeting (...) in the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB) in Seattle, USA, July 16-21, 1997. Different parts were published in a modified form as 1) Emmeche (1997): "Autopoietic systems, replicators, and the search for a meaningful biologic definition of life", Ultimate Reality and Meaning 20 (4): 244-264 [the original title was: "Is the definition of life important?"], and 2) Emmeche (1998): "Defining life as a semiotic phenomenon", Cybernetics & Human Knowing 5 (1): 3-17. The present web version below contains the complete argument of both articles. A further thoroughly rewritten version, accessible also for non-specialists, was made in collaboration with Charbel NiÃ±o El-Hani, and translated by him into Portuguese as a contribution to a book (this version can be found at www.nbi.dk/~emmeche/coPubl/99.DefVida.CE.EH.html). (shrink)
The idea of a higher level phenomenon having a downward causal influence on a lower level process or entity has taken a variety of forms. In order to discuss the relation between emergence and downward causation, the specific variety of the thesis of downward causation (DC) must be identified. Based on some ontological theses about inter-level relations, types of causation and the possibility of reduction, three versions of DC are distinguished. Of these, the `Strong' form of DC is held to (...) be in conflict with contemporary science; the `Medium' version of DC may for instance describe thoughts constraining neurophysiological states, while the `Weak' form of DC is physically acceptable but may not in practice be a feasible description of the mind/brain or the cell/molecule relation. All forms have their specific problems, but the Medium and the Weak version seems to be most promising. (shrink)
Jaegwon Kim has argued (Kim 2006a) that the two key issues for emergentism are to give a positive characterization of the emergence relation and to explain the possibility of downward causation. This paper proposes an account of emergence which provides new answers to these two key issues. It is argued that an appropriate emergence relation is characterized by a notion of ‘transformation’, and that the real key issue for emergentism is located elsewhere than the places Kim identifies. The paper builds (...) on Victor Caston’s important work on ancient philosophy of mind (Caston 1997, 2001), but appeals to sources he has not considered. (shrink)
Jaegwon Kim, and others, have recently posed a powerful challenge to both emergentism and non-reductive physicalism by providing arguments that these positons are committed to an untenabie combination of both 'upward' and 'dounward' determination. In section 1, I illuminate how the nature of the realization relation underlies such skeptical arguments However, in section 2, I suggest that such conclusions involve a confusion between the implications of physicalism and those of a related thesis in 'Completeness of Physics' (CoP). I show tht (...) the truth of CoP poses a very serious obstacle to realized properties being efficacious in a physicalist universe and suggest that abandoning CoP offers hope for defending non-reductive physicalism. I then fornulate a schema for a physicalist metaphysics, in section 3, which rejects CoP. This scenario is one where microphysical properties have a few conditional powers that they contribute to individuals when they realize certain properties. In such a situation, I argue, though physicalism holds true there is still plausibly both `upward' and 'downward' determination, where the latter is crucially an underappreciated form of determmation I term 'non- causal'. Ultimately, I conclude that this metaphysical schema offers a coherent account of Strongly ernergent properties that preserves the truth of NRP, albeit in a form that is purged of any committment to CoP. Finally, in section 4, I carefully explore which of Kim's assumptions and arguments this metaphysics undermines. (shrink)