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)
This is a companion to another paper. Together they rebut two widespread philosophical doctrines about emergence. The first, and main, doctrine is that emergence is incompatible with reduction. The second is that emergence is supervenience; or more exactly, supervenience without reduction.In the other paper, I develop these rebuttals in general terms, emphasising the second rebuttal. Here I discuss the situation in physics, emphasising the first rebuttal. I focus on limiting relations between theories and illustrate my claims with (...) four examples, each of them a model or a framework for modelling, from well-established mathematics or physics.I take emergence as behaviour that is novel and robust relative to some comparison class. I take reduction as, essentially, deduction. The main idea of my first rebuttal will be to perform the deduction after taking a limit of some parameter. Thus my first main claim will be that in my four examples (and many others), we can deduce a novel and robust behaviour, by taking the limit N→∞ of a parameter N.But on the other hand, this does not show that the N=∞ limit is “physically real”, as some authors have alleged. For my second main claim is that in these same examples, there is a weaker, yet still vivid, novel and robust behaviour that occurs before we get to the limit, i.e. for finite N. And it is this weaker behaviour which is physically real.My examples are: the method of arbitrary functions (in probability theory); fractals (in geometry); superselection for infinite systems (in quantum theory); and phase transitions for infinite systems (in statistical mechanics). (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)
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.
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)
Most philosophical accounts of emergence are incompatible with reduction. Most scientists regard a system property as emergent relative to properties of the system's parts if it depends upon their mode of organization--a view consistent with reduction. Emergence can be analyzed as a failure of aggregativity--a state in which "the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts." Aggregativity requires four conditions, giving tools for analyzing modes of organization. Differently met for different decompositions of the system, and (...) in different degrees, these conditions provide powerful evaluation criteria for choosing decompositions, and heuristics for detecting biases of vulgar reductionisms. This analysis of emergence is compatible with reduction. (shrink)
This volume introduces readers to emergence theory, outlines the major arguments in its defence, and summarizes the most powerful objections against it. It provides the clearest explication yet of this exciting new theory of science, which challenges the reductionist approach by proposing the continuous emergence of novel phenomena.
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)
We survey and clarify some recent appearances of the term ‘emergence’. We distinguish epistemological emergence, which is merely a limitation of descriptive apparatus, from ontological emergence, which should involve causal features of a whole system not reducible to the properties of its parts, thus implying the failure of part/whole reductionism and of mereological supervenience for that system. Are there actually any plausible cases of the latter among the numerous and various mentions of ‘emergence’ in the recent (...) literature? Quantum mechanics seems to offer one, in the Bell properties of entangled particles, but other apparently promising candidates, such as non‐linear dynamical systems investigated by complexity studies and chaos theory, seem on careful analysis to display only epistemological emergence. We examine the consequences for physicalism of admitting ontological emergence in the micro‐physical. (shrink)
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)
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 (...) class='Hi'>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. (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)
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)
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)
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)
Joseph Levine is generally credited with the invention of the term ‘explanatory gap’ to describe our ignorance about the relationship between consciousness and the physical structures which sustain it.¹ Levine’s account of the problem of the FN:1 explanatory gap in his book Purple Haze (2001) may be summarized in terms of three theses, which I will describe and name as follows...
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)
In this paper, we put forward a new account of emergence called “transformational emergence”. Such an account captures a variety of emergence that can be considered as being diachronic and weakly ontological. The fact that transformational emergence actually constitutes a genuine form of emergence is motivated. Besides, the account is free of traditional problems surrounding more usual, synchronic versions of emergence, and it can find a strong empirical support in a specific physical phenomenon, the (...) fractional quantum Hall effect, which has long been touted as a paradigmatic case of emergence. (shrink)
The procedures of canonical quantization of the gravitational field apparently lead to entities for which any interpretation in terms of spatio-temporal localization or spatio-temporal extension seems difficult. This fact is the main ground for the suggestion that can often be found in the physics literature on canonical quantum gravity according to which spacetime may not be fundamental in some sense. This paper aims to investigate this radical suggestion from an ontologically serious point of view in the cases of two standard (...) forms of canonical quantum gravity, quantum geometrodynamics and loop quantum gravity. We start by discussing the physical features of the quantum wave functional of quantum geometrodynamics and of the spin networks of loop quantum gravity that motivate the view according to which spacetime is not fundamental. We then point out that, by contrast, for any known ontologically serious understanding of quantum entanglement, the commitment to spacetime seems indispensable. Against this background, we then critically discuss the idea that spacetime may emerge from more fundamental entities. As a consequence, we finally suggest that the emergence of classical spacetime in canonical quantum gravity faces a dilemma: either spacetime ontologically emerges from more fundamental non-spatio-temporal entities or it already belongs to the fundamental quantum gravitational level and the emergence of the classical picture is merely a matter of levels of description. On the first horn of the dilemma, it is unclear how to make sense of concrete physical entities that are not in spacetime and of the notion of ontological emergence that is involved. The second horn runs into the difficulties raised by the physics of canonical quantum gravity. (shrink)
The complex-systems approach to cognitive science seeks to move beyond the formalism of information exchange and to situate cognition within the broader formalism of energy flow. Changes in cognitive performance exhibit a fractal (i.e., power-law) relationship between size and time scale. These fractal fluctuations reflect the flow of energy at all scales governing cognition. Information transfer, as traditionally understood in the cognitive sciences, may be a subset of this multiscale energy flow. The cognitive system exhibits not just a single power-law (...) relationship between fluctuation size and time scale but actually exhibits many power-law relationships, whether over time or space. This change in fractal scaling, that is, multifractality, provides new insights into changes in energy flow through the cognitive system. We survey recent findings demonstrating the role of multifractality in (a) understanding atypical developmental outcomes, and (b) predicting cognitive change. We propose that multifractality provides insights into energy flows driving the emergence of cognitive structure. (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).
Weak emergence has been offered as an explication of the ubiquitous notion of emergence used in complexity science (Bedau 1997). After outlining the problem of emergence and comparing weak emergence with the two other main objectivist approaches to emergence, this paper explains a version of weak emergence and illustrates it with cellular automata. Then it explains the sort of downward causation and explanatory autonomy involved in weak emergence.
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)
Some claim that the notion of strong emergence as involving ontological or causal novelty makes no sense, on grounds that any purportedly strongly emergent features or associated powers 'collapse', one way or another, into the lower-level base features upon which they depend. Here we argue that there are several independently motivated and defensible means of preventing the collapse of strongly emergent features or powers into their lower-level bases, as directed against a conception of strongly emergent features as having fundamentally (...) novel powers. After introducing the project (Section 1), we motivate and present the powers-based account (Section 2); we then canvass the two main versions of the collapse objection, show how these apply to the powers-based account, and problematize certain strategies of response (Section 3); we then present and defend four better strategies of response (Section 4). (shrink)
It is largely acknowledged that natural languages emerge not just from human brains but also from rich communities of interacting human brains (Senghas, ). Yet the precise role of such communities and such interaction in the emergence of core properties of language has largely gone uninvestigated in naturally emerging systems, leaving the few existing computational investigations of this issue at an artificial setting. Here, we take a step toward investigating the precise role of community structure in the emergence (...) of linguistic conventions with both naturalistic empirical data and computational modeling. We first show conventionalization of lexicons in two different classes of naturally emerging signed systems: (a) protolinguistic “homesigns” invented by linguistically isolated Deaf individuals, and (b) a natural sign language emerging in a recently formed rich Deaf community. We find that the latter conventionalized faster than the former. Second, we model conventionalization as a population of interacting individuals who adjust their probability of sign use in response to other individuals' actual sign use, following an independently motivated model of language learning (Yang, , ). Simulations suggest that a richer social network, like that of natural (signed) languages, conventionalizes faster than a sparser social network, like that of homesign systems. We discuss our behavioral and computational results in light of other work on language emergence, and other work of behavior on complex networks. (shrink)
Why and how do norms emerge? Which norms emerge and why these ones in particular? Such questions belong to the ‘problem of the emergence of norms’, which consists of an inquiry into the production of norms in social collectives. I address this question through the ethnographic study of the emergence of ‘norms against violence’ in the political collective Occupy Geneva. I do this, first, empirically, with the analysis of my field observations; and, second, theoretically, by discussing my findings. (...) In consequence of two episodes categorized as sexual assaults that occurred in their camp, the members of Occupy Geneva decided to tackle those issues in a general assembly. Their goal was to amend their first charter of good conduct in order to reform its norms and complete it with norms aiming to regulate ‘facts’ of ‘unjustified violence’. During a collective deliberation, new norms were devised, debated and consensually adopted. The writing of the new charter took place in a second general assembly during which the wording of the written norms was collectively decided. I show that indignation over the sexual assaults was the main motive that led to the collective deliberation, and that the entire process of the making of these norms was characterized by different collective emotions. Indeed, indignation, contempt and fear played major roles in the emergence of norms prohibiting violence, allowing punishment and exclusion of wrongdoers, and prescribing collective intervention against an aggressor to neutralize the threat represented. These findings prompt me to hypothesize that social norms emerge from emotions thanks to the latters’ internal structure; and that emotions provide causal and grounding explanations for this emergence. Thus, emotions allow us to answer the questions: ‘Why do norms emerge?’ and ‘Why do they have their specific forms?’ In short, I argue that social norms have emotional foundations. (shrink)
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)
One of the most basic functions of human language is to convey who did what to whom. In the world's languages, the order of these three constituents (subject [S], verb [V], and object [O]) is uneven, with SOV and SVO being most common. Recent experiments using experimentally elicited pantomime provide a possible explanation of the prevalence of SOV, but extant explanations for the prevalence of SVO could benefit from further empirical support. Here, we test whether SVO might emerge because (a) (...) SOV is not well suited for describing reversible events (a woman pushing a boy) and (b) pressures to be efficient and mention subjects before objects conspire to rule out many other alternatives. We tested this by asking participants to describe reversible and non-reversible events in pantomime, and we instructed some participants to be consistent in the form of their gestures and to teach them to the experimenter. These manipulations led to the emergence of SVO in speakers of both English (SVO) and Turkish (SOV). (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)
Philosophical debates about emergence are often marred by equivocation and lack of common ground, and dialogue about emergence between scientists and philosophers can be equally difficult. In this paper I offer a unified explication of emergence and argue that this explication can cut through much of the confusion evident in discussions of emergence. I defend an explication of the concept of emergence as the unavailability of a certain kind of scientific explanation for an observer or (...) observers. (shrink)
In this paper I’m going to deal with the divide between foundationalism and infinitism about grounding. I will examine a thesis about the emergence of ground that has recently been proposed by Matteo Morganti. I will show that a generalized version of this thesis suffers from some serious limits and it cannot be accepted without a significant departure from the standard notion of grounding.
Emergence requires that the ultimate physical micro-entities have micro-latent causal powers, which manifest themselves only when the entities are combined in ways that are emergence-engendering, in addition to the micro-manifest powers that account for their behavior in other circumstances. Subjects of emergent properties will have emergent micro-structural properties, specified partly in terms of these micro-latent powers, each of which will be determined by a micro-structural property specified only in terms of the micro-manifest powers of the constituents and the (...) way they are related. If the determiner and the determined properties are distinct, this determination is the basis of the supervenience of emergent properties on non-emergent physical properties. If not, emergence does not involve such supervenience. Either way, there is no problem with diachronic downward causation. (shrink)
The paper considers the philosophical component of the approach to the time as an emergent phenomenon absent at the fundamental level. The anthropic principle is shown as arising from the time emergence. Consciousness is shown as an epiphenomenon in such a model, although it is more fundamental than matter in this case. An answer to the question about the prime cause is suggested.
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)
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)
In this paper, I put forward a benchmark account of emergence in terms of non-explainability and explicate the relationship that exists between its synchronic and diachronic declinations. I develop an argument whose conclusion is that emergence is essentially a “two-faceted” notion, i.e. it always encapsulates both synchronic and diachronic dimensions. I then compare this account with alternative recent accounts of emergence that define the concept through the notion of unpredictability or topological non-equivalence.
I discuss here a number of different kinds of diachronic emergence, noting that they differ in important ways from synchronic conceptions. I argue that Bedau’s weak emergence has an essentially historical aspect, in that there can be two indistinguishable states, one of which is weakly emergent, the other of which is not. As a consequence, weak emergence is about tokens, not types, of states. I conclude by examining the question of whether the concept of weak emergence (...) is too weak and note that there is at present no unifying account of diachronic and synchronic concepts of emergence. (shrink)
In modern, Western societies the purpose of schooling is to ensure that school-goers acquire knowledge of pre-existing practices, events, entities and so on. The knowledge that is learned is then tested to see if the learner has acquired a correct or adequate understanding of it. For this reason, it can be argued that schooling is organised around a representational epistemology: one which holds that knowledge is an accurate representation of something that is separate from knowledge itself. Since the object of (...) knowledge is assumed to exist separately from the knowledge itself, this epistemology can also be considered ‘spatial.’ In this paper we show how ideas from complexity have challenged the spatial epistemology’ of representation and we explore possibilities for an alternative ‘temporal’ understanding of knowledge in its relationship to reality. In addition to complexity, our alternative takes its inspiration from Deweyan ‘transactional realism’ and deconstruction. We suggest that ‘knowledge’ and ‘reality’ should not be understood as separate systems which somehow have to be brought into alignment with each other, but that they are part of the same emerging complex system which is never fully ‘present’ in any (discrete) moment in time. This not only introduces the notion of time into our understanding of the relationship between knowledge and reality, but also points to the importance of acknowledging the role of the ‘unrepresentable’ or ‘incalculable’. With this understanding knowledge reaches us not as something we receive but as a response, which brings forth new worlds because it necessarily adds something (which was not present anywhere before it appeared) to what came before. This understanding of knowledge suggests that the acquisition of curricular content should not be considered an end in itself. Rather, curricular content should be used to bring forth that which is incalculable from the perspective of the present. The epistemology of emergence therefore calls for a switch in focus for curricular thinking, away from questions about presentation and representation and towards questions about engagement and response. (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)
This article discusses the theories of social emergence developed by Roy Bhaskar and Mario Bunge. Bhaskar's concept of emergent causal power is shown to be ambiguous, and some of the difficulties of his depth-relational concept of social emergence are examined. It is argued that Bunge's systemic concept of emergent property is not only different, but also clearer and more consistent than Bhaskar's concept of emergent causal power. Despite its clarity and consistency, Bunge's definition of the concept of emergent (...) property is shown to be too broad and analytically imprecise for the purposes of an emergentist social ontology. It is argued that Bunge's systemic account of social emergence can be developed further by using William Wimsatt's gradual approach to emergent phenomena and his four conditions of aggregativity of a systemic property. It is shown that these conditions provide useful conceptual tools for clarifying and investigating different kinds of mechanisms of social emergence and developing stronger varieties of the concept of emergent social property than that indicated in Bunge's definition of this concept. (shrink)
Non-reductive physicalists have made a number of attempts to provide the relation of supervenience between levels of properties with enough bite to analyze interesting cases without at the same time losing the relation's acceptability for the physicalist. I criticize some of these proposals and suggest an alternative supplementation of the supervenience relation by imposing a requirement of robustness which is motivated by the notion of structural stability familiar from dynamical systems theory. Robust supervenience, I argue, captures what the non-reductive physicalist (...) wants from supervenience; most importantly, it provides a natural background for reconstructing the notion of (diachronic) property emergence in a way acceptable to physicalists. (shrink)
Mereological nihilism is the view that there are no composite objects; everything in existence is mereologically simple. The view is subject to a number of difficulties, one of which concerns what I call the problem of emergence. Very briefly, the problem is that nihilism seems to be incompatible with emergent properties; it seems to rule out their very possibility. This is a problem because there are good independent reasons to believe that emergent properties are possible. This paper provides a (...) solution to the problem. I will show that nihilism and emergence are perfectly compatible, providing one accepts a novel understanding of how objects can instantiate properties: what I call irreducibly collective instantiation. (shrink)
A number of theologians engaged in the theology and science dialogue—particularly Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong—employ emergence as a framework to discuss special divine action as well as causation initiated by other spiritual realities, such as angels and demons. Mikael and Joanna Leidenhag, however, have issued concerns about its application. They argue that Yong employs supernaturalistic themes with implications that render the concept of emergence obsolete. Further, they claim that Yong's use of emergence theory is inconsistent because he (...) highlights the ontological independence of various spirits in the world concurrently with his advocation of supervenience theory. In view of these concerns, Leidenhag and Leidenhag urge Yong to depart from his application of emergence theory. In what follows, we plan to address each of these criticisms and demonstrate that they are tenuous, if not unwarranted, especially in light of a kenotic-relational pneumatology. (shrink)
In this article, I call into question the relevance of emergence theories as presently used by thinkers in the science–religion discussion. Specifically, I discuss theories of emergence that have been used by both religious naturalists and proponents of panentheism. I argue for the following conclusions: (1) If we take the background theory to be metaphysical realism, then there seems to be no positive connection between the reality of emergent properties and the validity of providing reality with a religious (...) interpretation, though one could perhaps construe an argument for the positive ontological status of emergence as a negative case for a religious worldview. (2) To be considered more plausible, religious naturalism should interpret religious discourse from the perspective of pragmatic realism. (3) Panentheistic models of divine causality are unable to avoid ontological dualism. (4) It is not obvious that emergent phenomena and/or properties are nonreducible in the ontological sense of the terms; indeed, the tension between weak and strong emergence makes it difficult for the emergentist to make ontological judgments. My general conclusion is that the concept of emergence has little metaphysical significance in the dialogue between science and theology. (shrink)
The thesis that nature is composed of metaphysical levels is commonly understood in terms of emergence. In this paper, I uncover a problem for accounts of emergence, the collapse problem. The collapse problem suggests that emergence merely tracks relations between arbitrary groups of properties and so cannot be used in service of the levels view. I reject several failed attempts to solve the collapse problem and argue for an alternative solution according to which emergence is not (...) a distinction between metaphysical levels, but instead tracks the unavailability of scientific explanations. (shrink)
I outline reasons for the recent popularity, and lingering suspicion, about 'emergence' by examining three distinct concepts of property emergence, their purposes and associated obligations. In Part 1, I argue 'Strong' emergence is the grail for many emergentists (and physicalists), since it frames what is needed to block the 'Argument from Realization' (AR) which moves from the truth of physicalism to the inefficacy of special science properties. I then distinguish 'Weak' and 'Ontological' emergence, in Part 2, (...) arguing each is a way one may fail to establish the possibility of Strong emergence. But I also show Weak emergence can help the full-blown reductionist and Ontological emergence helps those opposed to physicalism. Lastly, in Part 3, I argue that the Completeness of Physics (CoP) is incompatible with Strong emergence and that rejecting CoP provides hope for the possibility of Strong emergence in a physical world. The result is a notion of Strong emergence offering much to non-reductive physicalism. My final conclusion is that concepts of emergence, when properly understood, have important contributions to make to philosophical debate. (shrink)
I defend a physicalistic version of ontological emergence; qualia emerge from the brain, but are physical properties nevertheless. First, I address the following questions: what are the central tenets of physicalistic ontological emergentism; what are the relationships between these tenets; what is the relationship between physicalistic ontological emergentism and non-reductive physicalism; and can there even be a physicalistic version of ontological emergentism? This discussion is merely an attempt to clarify exactly what a physicalistic version of ontological emergentism must claim, (...) and to show that the view is at least coherent. I then defend the view from objections, for example, Kim’s (Philos Stud 95:3–36, 1999) attempt to apply a version of his exclusion argument to ontological emergentism. I conclude by offering a positive argument for the view: given certain empirical evidence concerning the organization of the brain, physicalism might have to endorse ontological emergentism to avoid epiphenomenalism. (shrink)
The nonlinearity of a composite system, whereby certain of its features (including powers and behaviors) cannot be seen as linear or other broadly additive combinations of features of the system's composing entities, has been frequently seen as a mark of metaphysical emergence, coupling the dependence of a composite system on an underlying system of composing entities with the composite system's ontological autonomy from its underlying system. But why think that nonlinearity is a mark of emergence, and moreover, of (...) metaphysical rather than merely epistemological emergence? Are there diverse ways in which nonlinearity might enter into an account of properly metaphysical emergence? And what are the prospects for there actually being phenomena that are metaphysically emergent in any available sense? Here I explore the mutual bearing of nonlinearity and metaphysical emergence, with an eye towards answering these and related questions. (shrink)