Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 83–117 | Cite as

EXPLAINING EMERGENCE: TOWARDS AN ONTOLOGY OF LEVELS

  • CLAUS EMMECHE
  • SIMO KØPPE
  • FREDERIK STJERNFELT
Article

Abstract

The vitalism/reductionism debate in the life sciences shows that the idea of emergence as something principally unexplainable will often be falsified by the development of science. Nevertheless, the concept of emergence keeps reappearing in various sciences, and cannot easily be dispensed with in an evolutionary world-view. We argue that what is needed is an ontological non reductionist theory of levels of reality which includes a concept of emergence, and which can support an evolutionary account of the origin of levels. Classical explication of emergence as “the creation of new properties” is discussed critically, and specific distinctions between various kinds of emergence is introduced for the purpose of developing an ontology of levels, framed in a materialistic and evolutionary perspective. A concept of the relation between levels as being inclusive is suggested, permitting the “local” existence of different ontologies. We identify, as a working hypothesis, four primary levels and explicate their nonhomomorphic interlevel relations. Explainability of emergence in relation to determinism and predictability is considered. Recent research in self-organizing non-linear dynamical systems represents a revival of the scientific study of emergence, and we argue that these recent developments can be seen as a step toward a final “devitalisation” of emergence.

emergence levels explanation determinism ontology reduction materialism vitalism 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. P.W. Anderson, "More is different", Science 177, (1972), 393–396.Google Scholar
  2. Aristotle, Metaphysics, Harvard U.P., Cam\ ⊂. Mass., 1980.Google Scholar
  3. W. Ross Ash\ ⊂y, "Principles of the self-organizing system". In Heinz Von Foerster & George W. Zopf, (eds.): Principles of Self-Organization. Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1962, pp. 255–278.Google Scholar
  4. Nils A. Baas, "Emergence, Hierarchies, and Hyperstructures". In C. G. Langton (ed.), Alife III, Santa Fe Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, Proc. Volume XVII, Addison-Wesley, Redwood City, 1994, pp. 515–537.Google Scholar
  5. A. Beckermann, H. Flohr and J. Kim (eds.), Emergence of Reduction? Essays on the Prospects of Nonreductive Physicalism. Walter de Gruyter, New York, 1992.Google Scholar
  6. Charles H. Bennett, "Logical depth and physical complexity". In Rolf Herken (ed.), The Universal Turing Machine. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1988, pp. 227–257.Google Scholar
  7. David Blitz, Emergent Evolution. Qualitative Novelty and the Levels of Reality. Kluwer Academic Pu\ ⊂lishers, Dordrecht, 1992.Google Scholar
  8. M. Bunge, Treatise on Basic Philosophy Vol. 3. Ontology I: The furniture of the world. D. Reidel, Dordrecht-Holland, 1977.Google Scholar
  9. Peter Cariani, "Emergence and Artificial Life". In Christopher G. Langton, Charles Taylor, J, Doyne Farmer and Steen Rasmussen (eds.), Artificial Life II. Santa Fe Institute Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, Proc. Vol. X.Addison-Wesly, Redwood City, Calif., 1992, pp. 775–797.Google Scholar
  10. G. J. Chaitin, Information Theoretic Incompleteness. World Scientific, Singapore, 1992.Google Scholar
  11. R. Chande\ ⊂ois and J. Fa\ ⊂er, Automation in animal development. Basel, 1983.Google Scholar
  12. Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint. Orion Productions. Heinemann, London, 1987.Google Scholar
  13. Hans Fink, "Naturens enhed og videnska\ ⊂ernes" (The unity of nature and of science). In H. Fink and K. Hastrup (eds.) Tanken om enhed i videnska\ ⊂erne. Å rhus Universitetsforlag, Århus, 1990.Google Scholar
  14. Steven Jay Gould, Wonderful Life. Penguin, 1989.Google Scholar
  15. Erich Jantsch, The Self-Organizing Universe. Pergamon, Oxford and New York, 1980.Google Scholar
  16. Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Kritik der Urteilskraft, 1790.Google Scholar
  17. Stuart Kauffman, The Origins of Order. Self-organization and selection in evolution. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1993.Google Scholar
  18. Harold Kincaid, "Supervenience and explanation", Synthese 771988, 251–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Rolf Landauer, "A simple measure of complexity", Nature 3361988, 306–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Christopher G. Langton (ed.), Artificial Life. Santa Fe Institute Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, Proc. Vol. 6. Redwood City, Calif.: Addison-Wesley, 1989.Google Scholar
  21. Christopher G. Langton, Charles Taylor, J. Doyne Farmer and Steen Rasmussen (eds.), Artificial Life II. Santa Fe Institute Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, Proc. Vol. X. Redwood City, Calif.: Addison-Wesley, 1992.Google Scholar
  22. Erwin Laszlo, Introduction to Systems Philosophy. Gordon and Breach, New York, 1972.Google Scholar
  23. George Henry Lewes, Pro\ ⊂lems of Life and Mind, first series, 2 vols. True\ ⊂ner and Co., London. [third series, 1879], 1874–75.Google Scholar
  24. Sven-Eric Liedmann, Motsatserners spel, Vol I-II. Bo Cavefors, Stockholm, 1977.Google Scholar
  25. Conwy Lloyd Morgan, Emergent evolution. Williams and Norgate, London, 1923.Google Scholar
  26. Joseph Needham, "Evolution and Thermodynamics". In Needham: Time: The Refreshing River. George Allen & Unwin, London, 1941, pp. 207–232.Google Scholar
  27. Heinz Pagels, The Dreams of Reason. Simon & Shuster (Bantam ed.), N.Y. 1989).Google Scholar
  28. H. H. Pattee, [a] "Dynamic and linguistic modes of complex systems", Int. J. General Systems 31977, 259–266. [\ ⊂] "Simulations, realizations, and theories of life", p. 63-77. In C. G. Langton (ed.), Artificial Life. Santa Fe Institute Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, Proc. Vol. 6. Redwood City, Calif.: Addison-Wesley, 1989, pp. 63–77.Google Scholar
  29. Penrose, R., The Emperor’s New Mind. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1989.Google Scholar
  30. J. Petitot, [a] "Structure". In Th. Se\ ⊂eok (ed.) Encyclopedic Dictionary of Semiotics, I-III. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, 1986. Physique du sens. Paris, 1992.Google Scholar
  31. M. Polanyi, Life’s irreduci\ ⊂le structure. Science, 160, 1968, 1308–1313.Google Scholar
  32. Kr. Pomian (ed.), La quérelle du déterminisme. Gallimard, Paris. 1990.Google Scholar
  33. Ilya Prigogine & Isa\ ⊂elle Stengers. Order Out of Chaos. Bantam Books, New York, 1984.Google Scholar
  34. S. N. Salthe, [a] Evolving hierarchical systems, New York, 1985. [\ ⊂] Development and Evolution. Complexity and Change in Biology. MIT Press, Cam\ ⊂ridge, Massachusetts, 1993.Google Scholar
  35. Erwin Schrödinger, What is Life?Cam\ ⊂ridge University Press, 1944.Google Scholar
  36. R. Thom, [a] Structural Sta\ ⊂ility and Morphogenesis, Reading, Mass, 1977. [\ ⊂] Apologie du Logos.Paris, 1990.Google Scholar
  37. Francisco J. Varela & Paul Bourgine (eds.), Towards a Practice of Autonomous Systems. MIT Press. Cam\ ⊂ridge, Mass, 1992.Google Scholar
  38. Jeffrey S. Wicken, Evolution, Thermodynamics, and Information. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987.Google Scholar
  39. S. Wolfram, "Cellular automata as models of complexity", Nature 311, 1984, 419–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. F. Eugene Yates (ed.), Self-Organizing Systems. The Emergence of Order. Plenum Press, New York, 1987.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • CLAUS EMMECHE
    • 1
  • SIMO KØPPE
    • 1
  • FREDERIK STJERNFELT
    • 1
  1. 1.Niels Bohr Institute, Psychological Laboratory & Dept. for Comparative LiteratureUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

Personalised recommendations