Emergent Dualism in the Philosophy of Mind

Authored by: Hong Yu Wong

The Routledge Handbook of Emergence

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138925083
eBook ISBN: 9781315675213
Adobe ISBN:


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Emergence has always been seen as a third way between reductive materialism and substance dualism. The concept of emergence is built on three basic commitments: dependence, irreducibility, and novelty. The basic idea of emergence is that novel, irreducible phenomena arise when a system goes beyond some threshold. Often the threshold is some required level of complexity of dynamics or structure. A further characteristic of emergence is that the novel behaviour of the system is not predictable (or at least unexpected) given the behaviour of the system under conditions below the threshold of complexity. The appeal of emergence is clear. On the one hand, because emergent phenomena inhere in and arise from material systems, they do not introduce anything external to material systems. Novel phenomena conceived of as emergent can be explained without alluding to alien, immaterial substances. Thus, substance dualism can be rejected and naturalistic scruples can be upheld. On the other hand, because emergent phenomena are novel and, in some way, unpredictable, they are irreducible to the underlying material phenomena from which they emerged. Thus, reductive materialism can be rejected. Emergence allows for the attractive prospect of a naturalist, materialist, but also anti-reductionist account of the world.

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