A Dynamical Account of Emergence

Cybernetics and Human Knowing 15 (3-4):75-86 (2008)

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
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