, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 705–720 | Cite as

Uncoupling Mereology and Supervenience: A Dual Framework for Emergence and Downward Causation

  • Marta BertolasoEmail author
Original Paper


The philosophical discussion of emergence is often focused on properties of ‘wholes’ that are evaluated as emergent with respect to the properties of ‘parts’. Downward causation is, consequently, evaluated as some kind of causal influence of whole properties over parts properties. Yet, several important cases in scientific practice seem to be pursuing hypotheses of parts properties emerging from wholes properties, inverting the instinctive association of emergence with wholes. Furthermore, some areas of reflection which are very important for emergence, e.g., the philosophy of consciousness, do not allow mapping properties onto part-whole organizations. The conceptual puzzle is solved by constructing a framework that disentangles the mereological dimension (parts–whole, micro–macro) from the superventional dimension (basal-supervenient). By liberalizing the spatio-temporal allocation of emergent properties, the proposed dual framework could better capture the way in which emergence and downward causation are addressed in scientific practice.


Emergence Supervenience Reduction Explanation Scientific practice 



The author thanks very much two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. The author also thanks Sandy Mitchell, Marco Buzzoni, Anya Plutynski and Carl Craver for past exchanges on this topic and on an early version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Philosophy of Scientific and Technological Practice, Faculty of EngineeringUniversità Campus Bio-Medico di RomaRomeItaly

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