Physicalism, Emergence and Downward Causation

Axiomathes 21 (1):33-56 (2011)
Abstract
The development of a defensible and fecund notion of emergence has been dogged by a number of threshold issues neatly highlighted in a recent paper by Jaegwon Kim. We argue that physicalist assumptions confuse and vitiate the whole project. In particular, his contention that emergence entails supervenience is contradicted by his own argument that the ‘microstructure’ of an object belongs to the whole object, not to its constituents. And his argument against the possibility of downward causation is question-begging and makes false assumptions about causal sufficiency. We argue, on the contrary, for a rejection of the deeply entrenched assumption, shared by physicalists and Cartesians alike, that what basically exists are things (entities, substances). Our best physics tells us that there are no basic particulars, only fields in process. We need an ontology which gives priority to organization, which is inherently relational. Reflection upon the fact that all biological creatures are far-from-equilibrium systems, whose very persistence depend upon their interactions with their environment, reveals incoherence in the notion of an ‘emergence base’
Keywords Physicalism  Supervenience  Emergence  Reduction  Processes  Downward causation
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    References found in this work BETA
    Mark H. Bickhard (2000). Emergence. In P.B. Andersen, Claus Emmeche, N.O. Finnemann & P.V. Christiansen (eds.), Downward Causation. University of Aarhus Press. 322-348.
    Mark H. Bickhard (1993). Representational Content in Humans and Machines. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 5:285-33.

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    Citations of this work BETA
    Stephen Pratten (2013). Critical Realism and the Process Account of Emergence. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 43 (3):251-279.
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