ISHPSSB 2001 || Quinnipiac University, July 18-22, 2001

Levels I: Property Emergence

Property emergence has recently become, once again, a very much discussed issue in the philosophy of biology as well as in other domains of philosophical research, particularly, in the philosophy of mind. In part, this was due to the remarkable influence of the sciences of complexity, such as Artificial Life, Artificial Intelligence, cognitive science, theoretical biology, and so on. Among the issues regarded as relevant to a cogent explanation and/or definition of property emergence in biological, mental, and other complex systems, one finds the nature of causality in these systems, and, specially, the idea of downward causation.

Organized by: Charbel El-Hani

Charbel El-Hani, Federal University of Bahia
"Emergence, Downward Causation, & and the Reality of the Emergents"
The concept of emergence has been largely discussed in the last ten years, in view of its recurrent use by researchers in fields like Artificial Life, philosophy of mind, and neuroscience. Nonetheless, this concept has often been utilized without a far-reaching debate concerning how it might be explained and/or defined. We can think of emergentism as consisting of the following claims: ontological physicalism; qualitative novelty; property emergence, theory of levels; irreducibility of the emergents; and downward causation (DC). In this paper, property emergence is explained under two strict conditions: first, that an emergent property may be predicted from the knowledge of the parts of a mereological object, and, second, that an emergent property is dependent on, and determined by, the micro-structure of the object. A starting-point to understand the relations between an emergent and its microstructure can be found in Van Cleve's and O'Connor's claim that emergence can be thought of as a species of Kim's st----- [ Full Paper ]

Mark Bedau, Reed College
"Autonomy and Downward Causation in Weak Emergence"
Emergence is a philosophical problem: it seems inescapable when attempting to understand nature but it also seems metaphysically objectionable. Emergence has attracted renewed interest recently because of its ubiquitous use in the new complex systems approaches to understanding biological and psychological phenomena (e.g., connectionism, artificial life, and chaos theory), and the notion of weak emergence (Bedau 1997) has been introduced to capture the sort of emergence at play in this scientific work. In broad terms, emergent properties are macro properties that are, in some sense, both dependent on micro properties and autonomous from them, and different kinds of dependence and autonomy give rise to different notions of emergence. Weak emergence is so-called because it employs a relatively weak form of autonomy. Novel downward causal powers are an especially important-and controversial-respect in which emergent properties are usually held to be autonomous, and weak emergence involves a correspondingly weak-------

Sami Pihlstrom, University of Helsinki
"The Re-emergence of the Emergence Debate"
This paper provides a critical review of contemporary controversies related to the notion of emergence by discussing, among other recent views, Achim Stephan's defense of the ontological tradition of emergentist thought along the lines of C.D. Broad. Stephan's distinctions between various notions of emergence, different in strength, are highly useful as they clarify the state of discussion. There are, however, several unsettled problems related to emergence. Some of these problems (e.g., downward causation) have been dealt with by Stephan, Kim, and others, though not entirely satisfactorily, while some other problems (e.g., the nature of properties, the issue of realism) would require further investigation in this specific context. It is argued in particular that downward causation would not trouble emergentists, were they willing to adopt a more Kantian and/or Wittgensteinian approach. Some examples of such an option are given. Thus, the paper sketches a philosophical perspective from which a radical reasse------

John Symons, Boston University
"Emergent Properties: Can Structure Do the Job?"
This paper examines the worry that unpredictable structural properties and Žstrongly emergent' properties are in causal competition. I argue that the most important characteristics of Žemergence' can be salvaged, even given the restriction to Žstructural properties.' Arguments from physical law; Rueger's analysis of weak emergence in perturbation theory (2000) and Humphrey's account of the emergence of new properties via the fusion operation, (1996) provide a number of useful ways to understand the characterization of the distinction between structure and emergence.


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