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Emergence: Core ideas and issues


This paper explores the fundamental ideas that have motivated the idea of emergence and the movement of emergentism. The concept of reduction, which lies at the heart of the emergence idea is explicated, and it is shown how the thesis that emergent properties are irreducible gives a unified account of emergence. The paper goes on to discuss two fundamental unresolved issues for emergentism. The first is that of giving a “positive” characterization of emergence; the second is to give a coherent explanation of how “downward” causation, a central component of emergentism, is able to avoid the problem of overdetermination.

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Correspondence to Jaegwon Kim.

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Kim (2004). This paper is largely based on my “Making Sense of Emergence”, Philosophical Studies 95 (1999), 3–36, and “On Being Realistic about Emergence”. The latter was presented at the Emergence/Reduction Workshop at the Institut Jean Nicod in the fall of 2003; as this paper has been promised for another publication, the present paper was expressly composed in order to provide a critical target for the commentaries by Marras and Wong.

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Kim, J. Emergence: Core ideas and issues. Synthese 151, 547–559 (2006).

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  • Downward causation
  • Emergence
  • Emergentism
  • Reduction
  • Supervenience