“SUPERVENIENT AND YET NOT DEDUCIBLE”: IS THERE A COHERENT CONCEPT OF ONTOLOGICAL EMERGENCE?

Jaegwon Kim

Abstract


Formulating a concept of emergence which is at least prima facie intelligible and coherent is a significant issue not only because emergence concepts continue to proliferate, attracting much positive attention from some quarters, but also because the idea of emergence is closely related to some of the concepts of central importance in the current debates on the mind-body problem. Early emergence theorists, like C.D. Broad and C. Lloyd Morgan, clearly intended emergence to be an objective phenomenon in the world and conceived of emergent properties as real features of objects with their own distinctive causal powers. This classic conception of emergence is now often called “strong” or “ontological”. According to Broad’s characterization, emergent properties supervene on their “basal” conditions and yet are not deducible from them. The ontological conception of emergence is now contrasted with an “epistemological”, or “weak”, conception according to which properties are emergent in case they are “surprising” and “unexpected” for us, or unpredictable and unknowable from information concerning base-level phenomena. This paper begins with an examination of Broad’s characterization of ontological emergence, which is quite common among writers on emergence. It will be seen that some interesting issues arise from Broad’s approach. I extend my considerations to some recent conceptions of physicalism, reductive explanation, and other related issues.

Keywords


20th century philosophy; ontology; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; emergence; non deducibility; ontological emergence; Broad Charlie Dunbar; supervenience

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