Arrangement and the Properties of Parts Manifest in Wholes


The assumption that wholes have properties, specifically causally efficacious properties, which the sum of its parts seem to lack, lends support to the argument that wholes are something more than the sum of their parts. The properties of the whole are taken to be the result of the particular arrangement of the whole’s parts. The rearrangement of parts makes new properties emerge for a particular whole. This creates hierarchical ontological levels of properties in an object. My purpose in this paper will be to undermine the preceding lines of thought as valid support for wholes being “over and above” the sums of their parts. I begin by pointing out that the costs of a theory where arrangement entails new, unique and distinct properties for a whole carry two unattractive commitments: a reliance on a scientifically disproved version of early Emergentism and causal redundancy. I, then, present an alternative theory to explain the relationship between the properties of wholes and arrangement: my contention will be that the properties that we attribute to wholes are actually the manifestation of preexisting, but heretofore unmanifested, properties of parts, which manifest only when a specific part comes in contact with another specific part in a particular arrangement. I argue that the properties of a part are all we need to give a complete account for the properties of a whole.



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