Making Sense of Emergence

Jaegwon Kim

in Essays in the Metaphysics of Mind

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199585878
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595349 | DOI:
Making Sense of Emergence

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“Making Sense of Emergence” is a survey‐analysis‐critique of the concept of emergence and the doctrines associated with emergentism, focusing on the works of British emergentists, Samuel Alexander, C. Lloyd Morgan, and C.D. Broad. Central to the concept of emergence is the idea that an emergent property is not “explainable” or “predictable” from the lower‐level “basal” processes from which it emerges, and that emergent properties, unlike “resultant” properties, are “irreducible” to their basal conditions. It is argued that the model of functional reduction can be used to give a unifying account of these ideas; this speaks for defining an emergent property as one that is functionally irreducible. The orthodox model of “bridge‐law” reduction is shown to be not useful in this context. The doctrine that emergent phenomena have their distinctive causal efficacy, including the capacity for “downward” causation, is closely analyzed, and some difficulties are revealed and discussed.

Keywords: emergence; emergentism; downward causation; reflexive downward causation; synchronic downward causation; functional reduction; bridge‐law reduction; inductive predictability; theoretical predictability; unexplainability; mereological supervenience

Chapter.  13442 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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