Strong Emergence and Alexander’s Dictum

Authored by: Alex Carruth

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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Emergentists hold that higher-level phenomena are something ‘over and above’ the sum of their most basic parts. This usually involves the emergent phenomena being taken to be both distinct from and novel with respect to the base phenomena from which they emerge, whilst nevertheless being dependent upon the base phenomena. How distinctness and novelty should be understood depends on the kind of emergence being proposed: epistemically emergent higher-level phenomena are indispensable features of certain explanatory or predictive practices, whereas with metaphysically emergent phenomena, their ‘over and above-ness’ is a matter of ontology. This division of kinds of emergence into epistemic and metaphysical is neither exhaustive nor maximally specific, but it should be sufficient for the purposes of this chapter. For those interested in a more nuanced division, there has been a lot of recent work on varieties of emergence; see for instance: Chalmers (2006), Silberstein (2001), van Gulick (2001) and Wilson (2015).

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