, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 89–116

In Search of Ontological Emergence: Diachronic, But Non-supervenient

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10516-013-9214-7

Cite this article as:
Kirchhoff, M. Axiomathes (2014) 24: 89. doi:10.1007/s10516-013-9214-7


Most philosophical accounts of emergence are based on supervenience, with supervenience being an ontologically synchronic relation of determination. This conception of emergence as a relation of supervenience, I will argue, is unable to make sense of the kinds of emergence that are widespread in self-organizing and nonlinear dynamical systems, including distributed cognitive systems. In these dynamical systems, an emergent property is ontological (i.e., the causal capacities of P, where P is an emergent feature, are not reducible to causal capacities of the parts, and may exert a top-down causal influence on the parts of the system) and diachronic (i.e., the relata of emergence are temporally extended, and P emerges as a result of some dynamical lower-level processes that unfold in real time).


EmergenceSupervenienceDiachronicsynchronicDynamical systemsExtended cognition

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia