, Volume 151, Issue 3, pp 561–569

Emergence and reduction: Reply to Kim

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11229-006-9026-z

Cite this article as:
Marras, A. Synthese (2006) 151: 561. doi:10.1007/s11229-006-9026-z


In this paper I examine Jaegwon Kim’s view that emergent properties are irreducible to the base properties on which they supervene. Kim’s view assumes a model of ‘functional reduction’ which he claims to be substantially different from the traditional Nagelian model. I dispute this claim and argue that the two models are only superficially different, and that on either model, properly understood, it is possible to draw a distinction between a property’s being reductively identifiable with its base property and a property’s being reductively explainable in terms of it. I propose that we should take as the distinguishing feature of emergent properties that they be truly novel properties, i.e., ontologically distinct from the ‘base’ properties which they supervene on. This only requires that emergent properties cannot be reductively identified with their base properties, not that they cannot be reductively explained in terms of them. On this conception the set of emergent properties may well include mental properties as conceived by nonreductive physicalists.


EmergenceJaegwon KimNonreductive physicalismReductionReductive explanationSupervenience

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTalbot College, University of Western OntarioOntarioCanada