British Emergentism

Authored by: Brian P. McLaughlin

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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The endeavor to understand the natural world through scientific enquiry, while having proved enormously successful, has resulted in numerous sciences. Taking the widest divisions, there is physics and then there are the special sciences, which include, among others, chemistry, biology, psychology, linguistics, sociology, and economics. There are, moreover, many divisions within these broad cuts, including within physics. To be sure, one of the main aims of scientific theorizing is unification, but though science unifies, it also diversifies. As Jerry Fodor once remarked, “[T]he development of science has witnessed the proliferation of specialized disciplines at least as often as it has witnessed their elimination” (1975, 9–10) or, we may add, their unification. This bodes well for employment in science, at least if adequate funding is available. Still, though, the Milesian longing for a comprehensive, systematically unified, final scientific theory of the natural world persists, and indeed is a driving force for some physicists.

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