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Durham Emergence Project

Fellowship

Glasgow Emergence Project


Introduction

Emergence, or dependent novelty, is a way of characterising relationships between complex entities and their parts, relationships between the sciences, and the place of the mind in the physical world. The aim of the project is to build on recent scientific and philosophical research to advance understanding of the possibility and plausibility of strong emergence. More specifically, the aim of the Glasgow Emergence Project is to examine two putatively problematic features of strongly emergent phenomena and how they are related: their novel nature and their capacity for ‘downward causation’.

The literature on strong emergence (henceforth simply emergence) has not yet reached consensus about how to characterise the notion. Nevertheless, there is broad agreement that (i) emergent entities depend on the base entities where this dependence cannot be explained, or deductively inferred, from the facts that are true of entities at that base level, and (ii) emergent features are genuinely novel. These constraints do not uniquely pin down a referent for ‘emergence’. Any relation that satisfies them can be said to play the emergence-role. Different relations that might play this role can vary, among other things, with regard to the category of the relata—facts, properties, events, or substances, for example—and with respect to the nature of the dependence that they postulate. Some entail the supervenience of the emergent on the base entities, and some do not. During the first stage of our project, we will provide a pluralist framework specifying different relations that could play the emergence-role. In particular, we will compare and contrast emergence to dependence, realization and grounding.


Participants

Fiona Macpherson

Stephan Leuenberger

Umut Baysan

Neil McDonnell


Project Description

Emergence, or dependent novelty, is a way of characterising relationships between complex entities and their parts, relationships between the sciences, and the place of the mind in the physical world. The aim of the project is to build on recent scientific and philosophical research to advance understanding of the possibility and plausibility of strong emergence. More specifically, the aim of the Glasgow Emergence Project is to examine two putatively problematic features of strongly emergent phenomena and how they are related: their novel nature and their capacity for ‘downward causation’.


Events

  • Conference: Baysan and McDonnell (supervised by Macpherson) organised the Emergence and Grounding Conference on 25 & 26 May 2015.
  • Reading Group: The project members have all met regularly to discuss papers on emergence and their own work in progress. We have also invited other members of the department and the Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience to these meetings, and have greatly benefited from the inputs of PhD students.

Activities

Umut Baysan:

  • “Power Inheritism”, 1st Annual Conference of the Society for the Metaphysics of Science, Rutgers, September 2015

  • “Emergentism and Meta-Ontology”, 89th Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association, Warwick, July 2015.

  • “Strong Emergence: Causal Novelty or Fundamentality”, One Day Workshop, Durham, June 2015

  • “Is Emergence a Variety of Dependence?”, Emergence and Grounding Conference, Glasgow, May 2015

  • “How to Save Mental Causation”, Bogazici University Philosophy Colloquium, April 2015

Neil McDonnell:

  • “Difference Making and Emergence”, Emergence and Grounding Conference, Glasgow, May 2015

  • “Exclusion and Proportion”, Philosophy Senior Seminar, Glasgow, April 2015

  • “Transitivity and Proportion: When Causes Go Bad”, Philosophy Society Seminar, Glasgow, March 2015

  • “Emergence and Panpsychism: Response to John Heil”, Philosophy-Psychology Joint Seminar, Glasgow, February 2015

Stephan Leuenberger:

  • “Two Notions of Fundamentality”, Grounding Workshop, Edinburgh, June 2015

  • “Supervenience without Reduction Redux”, One Day Workshop, Durham, June 2015

  • “Emergence and Failures of Supplementation”, Emergence and Grounding Conference, Glasgow, May 2015

Publications


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