Sixteen Years Later: Making Sense of Emergence (Again)

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    Sixteen years after Kim’s seminal paper offering a welcomed analysis of the emergence concept, I propose in this paper a needed extension of Kim’s work that does more justice to the actual diversity of emergentism. Rather than defining emergence as a monolithic third way between reductive physicalism and substance pluralism, and this through a conjunction of supervenience and (functional) irreducibility, I develop a comprehensive taxonomy of the possible varieties of emergence in which each taxon—theoretical, explanatory and causal emergence—is properly identified and defined. This taxonomy has two advantages. First, it is unificatory in the sense that the taxa it contains derive from a common unity principle, which consequently constitutes the very hallmark of emergentism. Second, it can be shown that the emergence taxa it contains are able to meet the challenges that are commonly considered as being the hot topics on the emergentists’ agenda, namely the positivity, the consistency and the triviality/liberality challenges.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)79-103
    Number of pages25
    JournalJournal for General Philosophy of Science
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


    • Downward causation
    • Emergence
    • Physicalism
    • Realization
    • Reduction
    • Supervenience


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