Reductionism, Holism and Emergence

Stephen Mumford and Rani Lill Anjum

in Getting Causes from Powers

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199695614
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731952 | DOI:
Reductionism, Holism and Emergence

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Vector addition will be too simple a model for the composition of all causes because there will be many cases where causes do not add. There are overdose and escalatory cases as well as antipathetic cases where two causes individually would dispose towards F but when combined together dispose away from F. All these suggest that the composition of causes is often non-linear. There are some cases that can be explained additively but we should nevertheless accept a position of compositional pluralism: addition is just one among many different functions according to which causes compose. This shows that there are cases of causation that should be considered holistically because powers will behave differently in different overall contexts. It also raises the possibility of some powers being emergent. If we combine the powers of sodium with the powers of chlorine we get something that is not merely their addition. How to classify this kind of emergence is a matter left open.

Keywords: composition; pluralism; non-linearity; overdoses; antipathy; holism; power emergence

Chapter.  8022 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Metaphysics

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