Motivated by the seeming structure of the sciences, metaphysical emergence combines broadly synchronic dependence coupled with some degree of ontological and causal autonomy. Reflecting the diverse, frequently incompatible interpretations of the notions of dependence and autonomy, however, accounts of emergence diverge into a bewildering variety. Here I argue that much of this apparent diversity is superficial. I first argue, by attention to the problem of higher-level causation, that two and only two strategies for addressing this problem accommodate the (...) genuine emergence of special science entities. These strategies in turn suggest two distinct schema for metaphysical emergence---'Weak' and 'Strong' emergence, respectively. Each schema imposes a condition on the powers of entities taken to be emergent: Strong emergence requires that higher-level features have more token powers than their dependence base features, whereas Weak emergence requires that higher-level features have a proper subset of the token powers of their dependence base features. Importantly, the notion of “power” at issue here is metaphysically neutral, primarily reﬂecting commitment just to the plausible thesis that what causes an entity may bring about are associated with how the entity is---that is, with its features. (shrink)
Spacetime functionalism is the view that spacetime is a functional structure implemented by a more fundamental ontology. Lam and Wüthrich have recently argued that spacetime functionalism helps to solve the epistemological problem of empirical coherence in quantum gravity and suggested that it also (dis)solves the hard problem of spacetime, namely the problem of offering a picture consistent with the emergence of spacetime from a non-spatio-temporal structure. First, I will deny that spacetime functionalism solves the hard problem by showing that (...) it comes in various species, each entailing a different attitude towards, or answer to, the hard problem. Second, I will argue that the existence of an explanatory gap, which grounds the hard problem, has not been correctly taken into account in the literature. (shrink)
This is one of two papers about emergence, reduction and supervenience. It expounds these notions and analyses the general relations between them. The companion paper analyses the situation in physics, especially limiting relations between physical theories. I shall take emergence as behaviour that is novel and robust relative to some comparison class. I shall take reduction as deduction using appropriate auxiliary definitions. And I shall take supervenience as a weakening of reduction, viz. to allow infinitely long definitions. The (...) overall claim of this paper will be that emergence is logically independent both of reduction and of supervenience. In particular, one can have emergence with reduction, as well as without it; and emergence without supervenience, as well as with it. Of the subsidiary claims, the four main ones are: : I defend the traditional Nagelian conception of reduction ; : I deny that the multiple realizability argument causes trouble for reductions, or ``reductionism'' ; : I stress the collapse of supervenience into deduction via Beth's theorem ; : I adapt some examples already in the literature to show supervenience without emergence and vice versa. (shrink)
This paper looks at emergence in physical theories and argues that an appropriate way to understand socalled “emergent protectorates” is via the explanatory apparatus of the renormalization group. It is argued that mathematical singularities play a crucial role in our understanding of at least some well-defined emergent features of the world.
Emergence develops a novel account of diachronic ontological emergence called transformational emergence and locates it in an established historical framework. The author shows how many problems affecting ontological emergence result from a dominant but inappropriate metaphysical tradition and provides a comprehensive assessment of current theories of emergence.
Philosophical accounts of emergence have been explicated in terms of logical relationships between statements (derivation) or static properties (function and realization). Jaegwon Kim is a modern proponent. A property is emergent if it is not explainable by (or reducible to) the properties of lower level components. This approach, I will argue, is unable to make sense of the kinds of emergence that are widespread in scientific explanations of complex systems. The standard philosophical notion of emergence posits the (...) wrong dichotomies, confuses compositional physicalism with explanatory physicalism, and is unable to represent the type of dynamic processes (self-organizing feedback) that both generate emergent properties and express downward causation. (shrink)
‘Space does not exist fundamentally: it emerges from a more fundamental non-spatial structure.’ This intriguing claim appears in various research programs in contemporary physics. Philosophers of physics tend to believe that this claim entails either that spacetime does not exist, or that it is derivatively real. In this article, I introduce and defend a third metaphysical interpretation of the claim: reductionism about space. I argue that, as a result, there is no need to subscribe to fundamentality, layers of reality and (...)emergence in order to analyse the constitution of space by non-spatial entities. It follows that space constitution, if borne out, does not provide empirical evidence in favour of a stratified, Aristotelian in spirit, metaphysics. The view will be described in relation to two particular research programs in contemporary physics: wave function realism and loop quantum gravity. (shrink)
Both the special sciences and ordinary experience suggest that there are metaphysically emergent entities and features: macroscopic goings-on (including mountains, trees, humans, and sculptures, and their characteristic properties) which depend on, yet are distinct from and distinctively efficacious with respect to, lower-level physical configurations and features. These appearances give rise to two key questions. First, what is metaphysical emergence, more precisely? Second, is there any metaphysical emergence, in principle and moreover in fact? Metaphysical Emergence provides clear and (...) systematic answers to these questions. Wilson argues that there are two, and only two, forms of metaphysical emergence of the sort seemingly at issue in the target cases: 'Weak' emergence, whereby a dependent feature has a proper subset of the powers of the feature upon it depends, and 'Strong' emergence, whereby a dependent feature has a power not had by the feature upon which it depends. Weak emergence unifies and illuminates seemingly diverse accounts of non-reductive physicalism; Strong emergence does the same as regards seemingly diverse anti-physicalist views positing fundamental novelty at higher levels of compositional complexity. After defending the in-principle viability of each form of emergence, Wilson considers whether complex systems, ordinary objects, consciousness, and free will are actually metaphysically emergent. She argues that Weak emergence is quite common, and that there is Strong emergence in the important case of free will. (shrink)
David Wallace argues that we should take quantum theory seriously as an account of what the world is like--which means accepting the idea that the universe is constantly branching into new universes. He presents an accessible but rigorous account of the 'Everett interpretation', the best way to make coherent sense of quantum physics.
This paper explores the fundamental ideas that have motivated the idea of emergence and the movement of emergentism. The concept of reduction, which lies at the heart of the emergence idea is explicated, and it is shown how the thesis that emergent properties are irreducible gives a unified account of emergence. The paper goes on to discuss two fundamental unresolved issues for emergentism. The first is that of giving a “positive” characterization of emergence; the second is (...) to give a coherent explanation of how “downward” causation, a central component of emergentism, is able to avoid the problem of overdetermination. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue for a new way of characterizing ontological emergence. I appeal to recent discussions in meta-ontology regarding fundamentality and dependence, and show how emergence can be simply and straightforwardly characterized using these notions. I then argue that many of the standard problems for emergence do not apply to this account: given a clearly specified meta-ontological background, emergence becomes much easier to explicate. If my arguments are successful, they show both a helpful way (...) of thinking about emergence and the potential utility of discussions in meta-ontology when applied to first-order metaphysics. (shrink)
Emergence is a notorious philosophical term of art. A variety of theorists have appropriated it for their purposes ever since George Henry Lewes gave it a philosophical sense in his 1875 Problems of Life and Mind. We might roughly characterize the shared meaning thus: emergent entities (properties or substances) ‘arise’ out of more fundamental entities and yet are ‘novel’ or ‘irreducible’ with respect to them. (For example, it is sometimes said that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain.) (...) Each of the quoted terms is slippery in its own right, and their specifications yield the varied notions of emergence that we discuss below. There has been renewed interest in emergence within discussions of the behavior of complex systems and debates over the reconcilability of mental causation, intentionality, or consciousness with physicalism. (shrink)
Most philosophical accounts of emergence are incompatible with reduction. Most scientists regard a system property as emergent relative to properties of its parts if it depends upon their mode of organization-a view consistent with reduction. Emergence is a failure of aggregativity, in which ``the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts''. Aggregativity requires four conditions, giving powerful tools for analyzing modes of organization. Differently met for different decompositions of the system, and in different degrees, the (...) structural conditions can provide evaluation criteria for choosing decompositions, ``natural kinds'', and detecting functional localization fallacies, approximations, and various biases of vulgar reductionisms. This analysis of emergence and use of these conditions as heuristics is consistent with a broader reductionistic methodology. (shrink)
Historical records show that there was no real concept of probability in Europe before the mid-seventeenth century, although the use of dice and other randomizing objects was commonplace. Ian Hacking presents a philosophical critique of early ideas about probability, induction, and statistical inference and the growth of this new family of ideas in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. Hacking invokes a wide intellectual framework involving the growth of science, economics, and the theology of the period. He argues that the (...) transformations that made it possible for probability concepts to emerge have constrained all subsequent development of probability theory and determine the space within which philosophical debate on the subject is still conducted. First published in 1975, this edition includes an introduction that contextualizes his book in light of developing philosophical trends. Ian Hacking is the winner of the Holberg International Memorial Prize 2009. (shrink)
Though most contemporary philosophers and scientists accept a physicalist view of mind, the recent surge of interest in the problem of consciousness has put the mind /body problem back into play. The physicalists' lack of success in dispelling the air of residual mystery that surrounds the question of how consciousness might be physically explained has led to a proliferation of options. Some offer alternative formulations of physicalism, but others forgo physicalism in favour of views that are more dualistic or that (...) bring in mentalistic features at the ground- floor level of reality as in pan-proto-psychism. My aim here is to give an overview of the recent philosophic discussion to serve as a map in locating issues and options. I will not offer a comprehensive survey of the debate or mark every important variant to be found in the recent literature. I will mark the principal features of the philosophic landscape that one might use as general orientation points in navigating the terrain. I will focus in particular on three central and interrelated ideas: those of emergence, reduction, and nonreductive physicalism. The third of these, which has emerged as more or less the majority view among current philosophers of mind, combines a pluralist view about the diversity of what needs to be explained by science with an underlying metaphysical commitment to the physical as the ultimate basis of all that is real. The view has been challenged from both left and right, on one side from dualists and on the other from hard core reductive materialists. Despite their differences, those critics agree in finding nonreductive physicalism an unacceptable and perhaps even incoherent position. They agree as well in treating reducibility as the essential criterion for physicality; they differ only about whether the criterion can be met. Reductive physicalists argue that it can, and dualists deny it. (shrink)
Recent work by Robert Batterman and Alexander Rueger has brought attention to cases in physics in which governing laws at the base level “break down” and singular limit relations obtain between base- and upper-level theories. As a result, they claim, these are cases with emergent upper-level properties. This paper contends that this inference—from singular limits to explanatory failure, novelty or irreducibility, and then to emergence—is mistaken. The van der Pol nonlinear oscillator is used to show that there can be (...) a full explanation of upper-level properties entirely in base-level terms even when singular limits are present. Whether upper-level properties are emergent depends not on the presence of a singular limit but rather on details of the ampliative approximation methods used. The paper suggests that focusing on explanatory deficiency at the base level is key to understanding emergence in physics. (shrink)
Emergence is much discussed by both philosophers and scientists. But, as noted by Mitchell (2012), there is a significant gulf; philosophers and scientists talk past each other. We contend that this is because philosophers and scientists typically mean different things by emergence, leading us to distinguish being emergence and pattern emergence. While related to distinctions offered by others between, for example, strong/weak emergence or epistemic/ontological emergence (Clayton, 2004, pp. 9–11), we argue that the being (...) vs. pattern distinction better captures what the two groups are addressing. In identifying pattern emergence as the central concern of scientists, however, we do not mean that pattern emergence is of no interest to philosophers. Rather, we argue that philosophers should attend to, and even contribute to, discussions of pattern emergence. But it is important that this discussion be distinguished, not conflated, with discussions of being emergence. In the following section we explicate the notion of being emergence and show how it has been the focus of many philosophical discussions, historical and contemporary. In section 3 we turn to pattern emergence, briefly presenting a few of the ways it figures in the discussions of scientists (and philosophers of science who contribute to these discussions in science). Finally, in sections 4 and 5, we consider the relevance of pattern emergence to several central topics in philosophy of biology: the emergence of complexity, of control, and of goal-directedness in biological systems. (shrink)
Are the special sciences autonomous from physics? Those who say they are need to explain how dependent special science properties could feature in irreducible causal explanations, but that’s no easy task. The demands of a broadly physicalist worldview require that such properties are not only dependent on the physical, but also physically realized. Realized properties are derivative, so it’s natural to suppose that they have derivative causal powers. Correspondingly, philosophical orthodoxy has it that if we want special science properties to (...) bestow genuinely new causal powers, we must reject physical realization and embrace a form of emergentism, in which such properties arise from the physical by mysterious brute determination. In this paper, I argue that contrary to this orthodoxy, there are physically realized properties that bestow new causal powers in relation to their realizers. The key to my proposal is to reject causal-functional accounts of realization and embrace a broader account that allows for the realization of shapes and patterns. Unlike functional properties, such properties are defined by qualitative, non-causal specifications, so realizing them does not consist in bestowing causal powers. This, I argue, allows for causal novelty of the strongest kind. I argue that the molecular geometry of H2O—a qualitative, multiply realizable property—plays an irreducible role in explaining its dipole moment, and thereby bestows novel powers. On my proposal, special science properties can have the kind of causal novelty traditionally associated with strong emergence, without any of the mystery. (shrink)
A phenomenon “emerges” when a concept is instantiated for the first time: hence emergence is relative to a set of concepts. Propositional thought and language emerge together. It is proposed that the degree of complexity of an object language relative to a given metalanguage can be gauged by the number of ways it can be translated into that metalanguage: in analogy with other forms of measurement, the more ways the object language can be translated into the metalanguage, the less (...) powerful the conceptual resources of the object language. (shrink)
According to one conception of strong emergence, strongly emergent properties are nomologically necessitated by their base properties and have novel causal powers relative to them. In this paper, I raise a difficulty for this conception of strong emergence, arguing that these two features are incompatible. Instead of presenting this as an objection to the friends of strong emergence, I argue that this indicates that there are distinct varieties of strong emergence: causal emergence and epiphenomenal (...) class='Hi'>emergence. I then explore the prospects of emergentism with this distinction in the background. (shrink)
“Realization” and “emergence” are two concepts that are sometimes used to describe same or similar phenomena in philosophy of mind and the special sciences, where such phenomena involve the synchronic dependence of some higher-level states of affairs on the lower-level ones. According to a popular line of thought, higher-level properties that are invoked in the special sciences are realized by, and/or emergent from, lower-level, broadly physical, properties. So, these two concepts are taken to refer to relations between properties from (...) different levels where the lower-level ones somehow “bring about” the higher-level ones. However, for those who specialise in inter-level relations, there are important differences between these two concepts – especially if emergence is understood as strong emergence. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight these differences. (shrink)
This paper explicates two notions of emergencewhich are based on two ways of distinguishinglevels of properties for dynamical systems.Once the levels are defined, the strategies ofcharacterizing the relation of higher level to lower levelproperties as diachronic and synchronic emergenceare the same. In each case, the higher level properties aresaid to be emergent if they are novel or irreducible with respect to the lower level properties. Novelty andirreducibility are given precise meanings in terms of the effectsthat the change of a bifurcation (...) or perturbation parameterin the system has. (The same strategy can be applied to otherways of separating levels of properties, like themicro/macro distinction.)The notions of emergence developed here are notions of emergencein a weak sense: the higher level emergent properties wecapture are always structural properties (or are realized insuch properties), that is, they are defined in terms of the lowerlevel properties and their relations. Diachronic and synchronicemergent properties are distinctions within thecategory of structural properties. (shrink)
I argue that supervenience is an inadequate device for representing relations between different levels of phenomena. I then provide six criteria that emergent phenomena seem to satisfy. Using examples drawn from macroscopic physics, I suggest that such emergent features may well be quite common in the physical realm.
The question of social structure and its relationship to human agency remains one of the central problems of social theory. One of the most promising attempts to provide a solution has been Margaret Archer's morphogenetic approach, which invokes emergence to justify treating social structure as causally effective. Archer's argument, however, has been criticised by a number of authors who suggest that the examples she cites can be explained in reductionist terms and thus that they fail to sustain her claim (...) for the independent causal effectiveness of social structure. This paper offers an alternative argument to support the emergentist claim for the causal effectiveness of social structure, and shows how this argument refutes a representative critique of social emergence. (shrink)
Emergence is intuitively characterized as dependent novelty. Yet, besides this intuition, several formulations of it were elaborated in the last decades. In this article, after having distinguished between two different varieties of emergence, I aim at providing two formulation schemes for emergence. This could help to explain what emergence is and to clarify and unify the suggested formulations. The general idea behind my schemes is that emergence is partial and qualified dependence of the emergent entities (...) on their emergence bases. After having examined several formulations of emergences and presented my schemes, I shall analyse two interesting consequences of the acceptance of the latter: the in principle compatibility between weak and strong emergence and the idea that micro-physicalism, i.e., the main competitor of emergentism, may actually come in different degrees of strength, more or less in contrast with emergentism. Eventually, I shall briefly compare my formulation schemes with some other relevantly similar proposals. (shrink)
The main contention of this article is that current approaches to ontological emergence are not comprehensive, in that they share a common bias that make them blind to some conceptual space available to emergence. In this article, I devise an alternative perspective on ontological emergence called ‘flat emergence’, which is free of such a bias. The motivation is twofold: not only does flat emergence constitute another viable way to fulfill the initial emergentist promise, but it (...) also allows for making sense of some emergence ascriptions that traditional accounts are unable to accommodate. (shrink)
We offer a new argument for the claim that there can be non-degenerate objective chance (“true randomness”) in a deterministic world. Using a formal model of the relationship between different levels of description of a system, we show how objective chance at a higher level can coexist with its absence at a lower level. Unlike previous arguments for the level-specificity of chance, our argument shows, in a precise sense, that higher-level chance does not collapse into epistemic probability, despite higher-level properties (...) supervening on lower-level ones. We show that the distinction between objective chance and epistemic probability can be drawn, and operationalized, at every level of description. There is, therefore, not a single distinction between objective and epistemic probability, but a family of such distinctions. (shrink)
The role of contingent contexts in formulating relations between properties of systems at different descriptive levels is addressed. Based on the distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions for interlevel relations, a comprehensive classification of such relations is proposed, providing a transparent conceptual framework for discussing particular versions of reduction, emergence, and supervenience. One of these versions, contextual emergence, is demonstrated using two physical examples: molecular structure and chirality, and thermal equilibrium and temperature. The concept of stability is emphasized (...) as a basic guiding principle of contextual property emergence. (shrink)
I shall introduce at the beginning of the paper a characterization of strong ontological emergence. According to it, roughly, something strongly emerges from some other thing iff the former depends in some respect on the latter and it some independent of it in some other respect. Afterwards, I shall present my own formulation of strong emergence, which is based on the distinction between the mere possession and the activation of a causal power. Causal powers are the entities to (...) be primarily taken as emergent. Emergent causal powers depend for their possession on their emergence bases, but they are also independent of the latter for their activation. This claim will be defended within some more general assumptions about the metaphysics of powers. Finally, I shall compare the power-based formulation of emergence with other formulations. I shall try to demonstrate that the power-based formulation is metaphysically less controversial than the other formulations. For the power-based formulation does not need to defend the additional thesis that the emergents can depend in some relevant respect on their bases and be independent of the latter in some other relevant respect. Indeed, the distinction between the mere possession and the activation of a power is inscribed in the nature of powers themselves. (shrink)
An innocent form of emergence—what I call "weak emergence"—is now a commonplace in a thriving interdisciplinary nexus of scientific activity—sometimes called the "sciences of complexity"—that include connectionist modelling, non-linear dynamics (popularly known as "chaos" theory), and artificial life.1 After defining it, illustrating it in two contexts, and reviewing the available evidence, I conclude that the scientific and philosophical prospects for weak emergence are bright.
What drives much of the current philosophical interest in the idea of group cognition is its appeal to the manifestation of psychological properties—understood broadly to include states, processes, and dispositions—that are in some important yet elusive sense emergent with respect to the minds of individual group members. Our goal in this paper is to address a set of related, conditional questions: If human mentality is real yet emergent in a modest metaphysical sense only, then: (i) What would it mean for (...) a group to have emergent cognitive states? (ii) Is this even a metaphysically coherent view? (iii) Relative to which notion of emergence do we have reason to believe that certain groups in fact have emergent cognitive states? We shall argue that evidence from a wide variety of social science domains makes it plausible that there are group cognitive states and processes no less metaphysically emergent than human cognitive (and other special science) states and processes. (shrink)
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’. (shrink)
In this article I address the issue of the ontological conditions of possibility for a naturalistic notion of emergence, trying to determine its fundamental differences from the atomist, vitalist, preformationist and potentialist alternatives. I will argue that a naturalistic notion of ontological emergence can only succeed if we explicitly refuse the atomistic fundamental ontological postulate that asserts that every entity is endowed with a set of absolutely intrinsic properties, being qualitatively immutable through its extrinsic relations. Furthermore, it will (...) be shown that, ironically enough, this metaphysical assumption is implicitly shared by all the above mentioned alternatives to Emergentism. The current article concludes that the notion of organization by itself is not enough, and that ontological emergence can only be justified by assuming a relational ontological perspective that, in opposition both to atomism and holism, defends that the existence-conditions, the identity and the causal behavior of any emergent systemic property can only be conceived, and explained, as constructed by and through specific networks of qualitatively transformative relational processes that occur between the system’s components and between the system and its environment. Additionally, I try to explain how one can make sense of the idea that an emergent phenomenon is both dependent on, and autonomous from, its emergence base. (shrink)
In this article an epistemological framework is proposed in order to integrate the emergentist thought with systemic studies on biological autonomy, which are focused on the role of organization. Particular attention will be paid to the role of the observer’s activity, especially: (a) the different operations he performs in order to identify the pertinent elements at each descriptive level, and (b) the relationships between the different models he builds from them. According to the approach sustained here, organization will be considered (...) as the result of a specific operation of identification of the relational properties of the functional components of a system, which do not necessarily coincide with the intrinsic properties of its structural constituents. Also, an epistemological notion of emergence—that of “complex emergence”—will be introduced, which can be defined as the insufficiency, even in principle, of a single descriptive modality to provide a complete description of certain classes of systems. This integrative framework will allow us to deal with two issues in biological and emergentist studies: (1) distinguishing the autonomy proper of living systems from some physical processes like those of structural stability and pattern generation, and (2) reconsidering the notion of downward causation not as a direct or indirect influence of the whole on its parts, but instead as an epistemological problem of interaction between descriptive domains in which the concept of organization proposed and the observational operations related to it play a crucial role. (shrink)
'Holographic' relations between theories have become a main theme in quantum gravity research. These relations entail that a theory without gravity is equivalent to a gravitational theory with an extra spatial dimension. The idea of holography was first proposed in 1993 by Gerard 't Hooft on the basis of his studies of evaporating black holes. Soon afterwards the holographic 'AdS/CFT' duality was introduced, which since has been heavily studied in the string theory community and beyond. Recently, Erik Verlinde has proposed (...) that even Newton's law of gravitation can be related holographically to the thermodynamics of information on screens. We discuss inter-theoretical relations in these scenarios: what is the status of the holographic relation in them and in what sense is gravity, or spacetime, emergent? (shrink)
This essay considers the extent to which a concept of emergence can be associated with Effective Field Theories (EFTs). I suggest that such a concept can be characterized by microphysicalism and novelty underwritten by the elimination of degrees of freedom from a high-energy theory, and argue that this makes emergence in EFTs distinct from other concepts of emergence in physics that have appeared in the recent philosophical literature.
Recent discussions of emergence in physics have focussed on the use of limiting relations, and often particularly on singular or asymptotic limits. We discuss a putative example of emergence that does not fit into this narrative: the case of phonons. These quasi-particles have some claim to be emergent, not least because the way in which they relate to the underlying crystal is almost precisely analogous to the way in which quantum particles relate to the underlying quantum field theory. (...) But there is no need to take a limit when moving from a crystal lattice based description to the phonon description. Not only does this demonstrate that we can have emergence without limits, but also provides a way of understanding cases that do involve limits. (shrink)
This paper aims to improve critical realism's understanding of emergence by discussing, first, what emergence is and how it works; second, the need for a compositional account of emergence; and third, the implications of emergence for causation. It goes on to argue that the theory of emergence leads to the recognition of certain hitherto neglected similarities between real causal powers and actual causation. (edited).
Reductionism is a central issue in the philosophy of biology. One common objection to reduction is that molecular explanation requires reference to higher-level properties, which I refer to as the context objection. I respond to this objection by arguing that a well-articulated notion of a mechanism and what I term mechanism extension enables one to accommodate the context-dependence of biological processes within a reductive explanation. The existence of emergent features in the context could be raised as an objection to the (...) possibility of reduction via this strategy. I argue that this objection can be overcome by showing that there is no tenable argument for the existence of emergent properties that are not susceptible to a reductive explanation. (shrink)
An effective theory in physics is one that is supposed to apply only at a given length scale; the framework of effective field theory describes a ‘tower’ of theories each applying at different length scales, where each ‘level’ up is a shorter-scale theory. Owing to subtlety regarding the use and necessity of EFTs, a conception of emergence defined in terms of reduction is irrelevant. I present a case for decoupling emergence and reduction in the philosophy of physics. This (...) paper develops a positive conception of emergence, based on the novelty and autonomy of the ‘levels’, by considering physical examples, involving critical phenomena, the renormalisation group, and symmetry breaking. This positive conception of emergence is related to underdetermination and universality, but, I argue, is preferable to other accounts of emergence in physics that rely on universality. (shrink)
When the whole is greater than the sum of the parts--indeed, so great that the sum far transcends the parts and represents something utterly new and different--we call that phenomenon emergence. When the chemicals diffusing in the primordial waters came together to form the first living cell, that was emergence. When the activities of the neurons in the brain result in mind, that too is emergence. In The Emergence of Everything, one of the leading scientists involved (...) in the study of complexity, Harold J. Morowitz, takes us on a sweeping tour of the universe, a tour with 28 stops, each one highlighting a particularly important moment of emergence. For instance, Morowitz illuminates the emergence of the stars, the birth of the elements and of the periodic table, and the appearance of solar systems and planets. We look at the emergence of living cells, animals, vertebrates, reptiles, and mammals, leading to the great apes and the appearance of humanity. He also examines tool making, the evolution of language, the invention of agriculture and technology, and the birth of cities. And as he offers these insights into the evolutionary unfolding of our universe, our solar system, and life itself, Morowitz also seeks out the nature of God in the emergent universe, the God posited by Spinoza, Bruno, and Einstein, a God Morowitz argues we can know through a study of the laws of nature. Written by one of our wisest scientists, The Emergence of Everything offers a fascinating new way to look at the universe and the natural world, and it makes an important contribution to the dialogue between science and religion. (shrink)
We will show that there is a strong form of emergence in cell biology. Beginning with C.D. Broad's classic discussion of emergence, we distinguish two conditions sufficient for emergence. Emergence in biology must be compatible with the thought that all explanations of systemic properties are mechanistic explanations and with their sufficiency. Explanations of systemic properties are always in terms of the properties of the parts within the system. Nonetheless, systemic properties can still be emergent. If the (...) properties of the components within the system cannot be predicted, even in principle, from the behavior of the system's parts within simpler wholes then there also will be systemic properties which cannot be predicted, even in principle, on basis of the behavior of these parts. We show in an explicit case study drawn from molecular cell physiology that biochemical networks display this kind of emergence, even though they deploy only mechanistic explanations. This illustrates emergence and its place in nature. (shrink)
In this paper, we advocate the idea that an adequate explanation of biological systems requires appealing to organizational closure as an emergent causal regime. We first develop a theoretical justification of emergence in terms of relatedness, by arguing that configurations, because of the relatedness among their constituents, possess ontologically irreducible properties, providing them with distinctive causal powers. We then focus on those emergent causal powers exerted as constraints, and we claim that biological systems crucially differ from other natural systems (...) in that they realize a closure of constraints, i.e. a second-order emergent regime of causation such that the constituents, each of them acting as a constraint, realize a mutual dependence among them, and are collectively able to self-maintain. Lastly, we claim that closure can be justifiably taken as an emergent regime of causation, without admitting that it inherently involves whole-parts causation, which would require to commit to stronger ontological and epistemological assumptions. (shrink)
Here I offer a precise analysis of what it takes for a property to count as emergent. The features widely considered crucial to emergence include novelty, unpredictability, supervenience, relationality, and downward causal influence. By acknowledging each of these distinctive features, the definition provided below captures an important sense in which the whole can be more than the sum of its parts.
Ultimately we will only understand biological agency when we have developed a theory of the organization of biological processes, and science is still a long way from attaining that goal. It may be possible nonetheless to develop a list of necessary conditions for the emergence of minimal biological agency. The authors offer a model of molecular autonomous agents which meets the five minimal physical conditions that are necessary (and, we believe, conjointly sufficient) for applying agential language in biology: autocatalytic (...) reproduction; work cycles; boundaries for reproducing individuals; self-propagating work and constraint construction; and choice and action that have evolved to respond to food or poison. When combined with the arguments from preadaptation and multiple realizability, the existence of these agents is sufficient to establish ontological emergence as against what one might call Weinbergian reductionism. Minimal biological agents are emphatically not conscious agents, and accepting their existence does not commit one to any robust theory of human agency. Nor is there anything mystical, dualistic, or non-empirical about the emergence of agency in the biosphere. Hence the emergence of molecular autonomous agents, and indeed ontological emergence in general, is not a negation of or limitation on careful biological study but simply one of its implications. (shrink)