Is weak emergence just in the mind?

Minds and Machines 18 (4):443-459 (2008)
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Abstract

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

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Mark Bedau
Reed College

Citations of this work

Metaphysical emergence: Weak and Strong.Jessica Wilson - 2015 - In Tomasz Bigaj & Christian Wüthrich (eds.), Metaphysics in Contemporary Physics. Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities. pp. 251-306.
Emergence without limits: The case of phonons.Alexander Franklin & Eleanor Knox - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 64:68-78.
An explication of emergence.Elanor Taylor - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (3):653-669.

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References found in this work

Making sense of emergence.Jaegwon Kim - 1999 - Philosophical Studies 95 (1-2):3-36.
The Rise and Fall of British Emergentism.Brian P. Mclaughlin - 1992 - In Ansgar Beckermann, Hans Flohr & Jaegwon Kim (eds.), Emergence or Reduction?: Essays on the Prospects of Nonreductive Physicalism. New York: W. de Gruyter. pp. 49-93.
Weak emergence.Mark A. Bedau - 1997 - Philosophical Perspectives 11:375-399.

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