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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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Downward Causation and Autonomy in Weak Emergence

Downward Causation and Autonomy in Weak Emergence

(p.155) 8 Downward Causation and Autonomy in Weak Emergence

Mark A. Bedau

The MIT Press

This chapter discusses and attempts to resolve the recurrent philosophical problem that is emergence. Emergent phenomena seem metaphysically objectionable, and some of these objections can be traced back to the autonomy and downward causation that are distinctive of emergent phenomena. The various notions of emergence existing today are contested based on two hallmarks of how macro-level emergent phenomena are related to their micro-level bases. However, there are many ways in which phenomena might be dependent on underlying processes and many ways in which they might be autonomous from underlying processes. A good strategy, then, for understanding emergence is to turn to complexity science for guidance. The chapter expands on the author’s project that introduced the notion of weak emergence to capture the sort of emergence involved in scientific work.

Keywords:   emergence, emergent phenomena, autonomy, downward causation, complexity science, weak emergence

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