Neither metaphysical dichotomy nor pure identity: Clarifying the emergentist creed.

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Emergentism is often misleadingly described as a monolithic "third way" between radical monism and pluralism. In the particular case of biology, for example, emergentism is perceived as a middle course between mechanicism and vitalism. In the present paper I propose to show that the conceptual landscape between monism and pluralism is more complex than this classical picture suggests. On the basis of two successive analyses-distinguishing three forms of tension between monism and pluralism and a distinction between derivational and functional reduction-I define three different versions of emergentism that can be considered as consistent middle courses between monism and pluralism (respectively theoretical, explanatory and causal emergence). I then emphasise the advantage of this taxonomy of the concepts of emergence by applying the results of my analysis to the historical controversy that pertains to the relationship between life and matter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-373
Number of pages9
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C : Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Emergence
  • Monism
  • Organicism
  • Pluralism
  • Reduction
  • Vitalism


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