Foundations of Science

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 429–446 | Cite as

Ontological Emergence: How is That Possible? Towards a New Relational Ontology

Article

Abstract

In this article I address the issue of the ontological conditions of possibility for a naturalistic notion of emergence, trying to determine its fundamental differences from the atomist, vitalist, preformationist and potentialist alternatives. I will argue that a naturalistic notion of ontological emergence can only succeed if we explicitly refuse the atomistic fundamental ontological postulate that asserts that every entity is endowed with a set of absolutely intrinsic properties, being qualitatively immutable through its extrinsic relations. Furthermore, it will be shown that, ironically enough, this metaphysical assumption is implicitly shared by all the above mentioned alternatives to Emergentism. The current article concludes that the notion of organization by itself is not enough, and that ontological emergence can only be justified by assuming a relational ontological perspective that, in opposition both to atomism and holism, defends that the existence-conditions, the identity and the causal behavior of any emergent systemic property can only be conceived, and explained, as constructed by and through specific networks of qualitatively transformative relational processes that occur between the system’s components and between the system and its environment. Additionally, I try to explain how one can make sense of the idea that an emergent phenomenon is both dependent on, and autonomous from, its emergence base.

Keywords

Emergence Relational ontology Atomism Holism Micro-reductionism Qualitative change 

References

  1. Alexander, S. (1979) [1920]. Space, time, and deity (Vol. 2). Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith.Google Scholar
  2. Auyang, S. (1999). Foundations of complex-system theories—In economics, evolutionary biology, and statistical physics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bechtel, W., & Richardson, R. (2010). Discovering complexity: Decomposition and localization as strategies in scientific research. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford Books, New Edition.Google Scholar
  4. Bedau, M. (1997). Weak emergence. In J. Tomberlin (Ed.), Philosophical perspectives: Mind, causation, and world (Vol. 1, pp. 375–399). Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  5. Bedau, M. (2002). Downward causation and the autonomy of weak emergence. Principia: Revista Internacional de Epistemologica, 6, 5–50.Google Scholar
  6. Bohm, D. (1984). Causality and chance in modern physics (1957). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Broad, C. D. (1925). Mind and its place in nature. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company Inc.Google Scholar
  8. Bunge, M. (2003). Emergence and convergence: Qualitative novelty and the unity of knowledge. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  9. Caston, V. (1997). Epiphenomenalisms, ancient and modern. Philosophical Review, 106, 355–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chakravartty, A. (2003). The structuralist conception of objects. Philosophy of Science, 70, 867–878.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Curd, P. (2002). The metaphysics of physics: Mixture and separation in Empedocles and Anaxagoras. In V. Caston & D. Graham (Eds.), Presocratic philosophy: Essays in honour of Alexander Mourelatos (pp. 139–158). Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  12. Darwin, C. (1882). The formation of vegetable mold through the action of worms (6th ed.). London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  13. Diderot, D. (1975). Œuvres complètes. Dieckmann–Proust–Varloot. Paris: Hermann, t. VIII.Google Scholar
  14. Diderot, D. (1957). In G. Roth (Ed.), Correspondance de Diderot (Vol. V). Paris: Editions de Minuit.Google Scholar
  15. Francescotti, R. (1999). How to define intrinsic properties. Noûs, 33, 590–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Garson, J. (2006). Emergence. In S. Sarkar & J. Pfeifer (Eds.), The philosophy of science—An encyclopedia (pp. 230–235). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Gilbert, S. F., & Sarkar, S. (2000). Embracing complexity: Organicism for the twenty-first century. Developmental Dynamics, 219, 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gould, S. J. (1999). The human difference. New York Times, July 02, http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/02/opinion/the-human-difference.html
  19. Graham, D. W. (1999). Empedocles and Anaxagora: Responses to parmenides, Chapter 8. In A. A. Long (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to early greek philosophy (pp. 159–180). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gray, R. D. (1992). Death of the gene: Developmental systems strike back. In P. Griffiths (Ed.), Trees of life: Essays in philosophy of biology (pp. 165–209). Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Griffin, D. (1998). Unsnarling the world knot: Consciousness, freedom and the mind-body problem. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  22. Guthrie, W. K. C. (1965). A history of Greek philosophy: The presocratic tradition from parmenides to democritus (Vol. II). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Humphreys, P. (1997a). Emergence, not supervenience. Philosophy of Science, 64, S337–S345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Humphreys, P. (1997b). How properties emerge. Philosophy of Science, 64, 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Humphreys, P. (2006). Emergence. In D. Borchert (Ed.), The encyclopedia of philosophy (2nd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 190–194). New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  26. Hüttemann, A. (2004). What’s wrong with microphysicalism?. London-New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Hüttemann, A. (2005). Explanation, emergence, and quantum entanglement. Philosophy of Science, 72, 114–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hüttemann, A., & Papineau, D. (2005). Physicalism decomposed. Analysis, 65, 33–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Keller, F. K. (2010). It is possible to reduce biological explanations in chemistry and/or physics. In F. J. Ayala & R. Arp (Eds.), Contemporary debates in philosophy of biology (pp. 19–31). Hodboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  30. Kim, J. (1993). Supervenience and mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kim, J. (1998). Mind in a physical world. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  32. Kim, J. (1999). Making sense of emergence. Philosophical Studies, 95, 3–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kim, J. (2006a). Emergence: Core ideas and issues. Synthese, 151, 547–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kim, J. (2006b). Being realist about emergence. In P. Clayton & P. Davies (Eds.), The re-emergence of emergence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Kirk, G. S., & Raven, J. E. (1964). The presocratic philosophers. A critical history with a selection of texts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Lewis, D. (1983). Extrinsic properties. Philosophical Studies, 44, 197–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lewis, D. (1986). Philosophical papers (Vol. II). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Lewis, D. (1994). Humean supervenience debugged. Mind, 103, 473–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lewontin, R. (1983). The organism as the subject and object of evolution. Scientia, 118, 65–82.Google Scholar
  40. Mill, J. S. (1868) [1843]. A system of logic. Ratiocinative and inductive (7a ed., Vol. I). London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer.Google Scholar
  41. McLaughlin, B. (1992). The rise and fall of British emergentism. In A. Beckermann, H. Flohr, & J. Kim (Eds.), Emergence of reduction? Prospects for nonreductive physicalism (pp. 49–93). New York: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  42. Morgan, L. (1923). Emergent evolution (The Gifford lectures delivered in the University of St. Andrews in the year of 1922). London: Williams and Norgate.Google Scholar
  43. Oyama, S. (2000). The ontogeny of information: Developmental systems and evolution (2th ed., revised and expanded). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Oyama, S., Griffiths, P., & Gray, R. (2001). Introduction: What is developmental systems theory? In S. Oyama, P. Griffiths, & R. Gray (Eds.), Cycles of contingency: Developmental systems and evolution (pp. 1–11). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  45. Piaget, J. (1971). Structuralism (translated and edited by Chaninah Maschler). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  46. Powell, A., & Dupré, J. (2009). From molecules to systems: The importance of looking both ways. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 40, 54–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Robert, J. S. (2004). Embryology, epigenetics and evolution—Thinking development seriously. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Santos, G. (2013). Philosophy and complexity. Foundations of Science, 18(4), 681–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Santos, G. (2014). Upward and downward causation from a relational-horizontal ontological perspective. Axiomathes. doi:10.1007/s10516-014-9251-x
  50. Shoemaker, S. (2002). Kim on emergence. Philosophical Studies, 108, 53–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Strawson, G. (2006). Realistic monism: Why physicalism entails panpsychism. In A. Freeman (Ed.), Consciousness and its place in nature: Does physicalism entail panpsychism? (pp. 3–31). Exeter: Imprint Academic.Google Scholar
  52. Teller, P. (1986). Relational holism and quantum mechanics. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 37, 71–81.Google Scholar
  53. Vernant, J.-P. (1985). Du mythe à la raison: la formation de la pensée positive dans la Grèce archaïque [1957]. In J.-P. Vernant (Ed.), Mythe et Pensée chez les Grecs (pp. 373–402). Paris: François Maspero.Google Scholar
  54. Wallace, A. R. (1870). Contributions to the theory of natural selection: A series of essays. London: Macmillan and Co.Google Scholar
  55. Wallace, A. R. (1889). Darwinism, an exposition of the theory of natural selection, with some of its implications. London: Macmillan and Co.Google Scholar
  56. Wardy, R. B. B. (1988). Eleatic pluralism. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 70(2), 125–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wimsatt, W. (2006). Aggregate, composed, and evolved systems: Reductionistic heuristics as means to more holistic theories. Biology & Philosophy, 21, 667–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wimsatt, W. (2007). Re-engineering philosophy for limited beings: Piecewise approximations to reality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaCentro de Filosofia das Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa (CFCUL)LisbonPortugal

Personalised recommendations