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EmergenceContemporary Readings in Philosophy and Science$
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Mark A. Bedau and Paul Humphreys

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262026215

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262026215.001.0001

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On the Idea of Emergence

On the Idea of Emergence

(p.61) 2 On the Idea of Emergence

Carl Hempel

Paul Oppenheim

The MIT Press

This chapter explains a phenomenon through sets of laws with varying degrees of generality. In the explanation of different phenomena, a distinction is frequently made between various “levels of explanation.” Subsumption of a phenomenon under general laws directly connecting observable characteristics represents the first level; higher levels require the use of more or less abstract theoretical constructs that function in the context of some comprehensive theory. It is often thought that only the discovery of a micro-theory affords real scientific understanding of any type of phenomenon. Consequently, classes of events for which no micro-theory is available have frequently been viewed as not actually understood. The concern with the theoretical status of this type of phenomena may be considered as one of the roots of the doctrine of emergence.

Keywords:   emergence, phenomenon, levels of explanation, micro-theory, scientific understanding

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