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Durham Emergence Project


Emergence and Laws


Juha Saatsi

Alexander Reutlinger

Markus Schrenk

Project Description

This project explores issues at the intersection of metaphysics of laws and causation on the one hand, and metaphysics of emergence, on the other. We aim to understand how philosophical positions and arguments regarding emergence are dependent on or independent of specific ideas about the nature of laws and causation.

For example, how do recent developments in the metaphysics of laws and causation affect the formulation and plausibility of emergentism, and the formulation and plausibility of the causal closure of the physical? How do these developments bear on the possibility of downward causation, or mental causation?

We study such hitherto ignored questions concerning the nature and possibility of strong emergence.


  • The Leeds group have been running a reading group on emergence and laws (at Leeds) since October 2014.
  • Juha Saatsi gave a talk at LMU on 16. October: ‘Emergence and Laws of Nature: The Case of Weak Metaphysical Emergence’
  • Markus Schrenk gave a talk at Bochum University on 11th December 2014: 'Special Science Laws: Their Exceptions and their Emergence'.


We have all been doing research on issues under the project's remit, and the three of us are about to meet in Leeds for 5 days (23-28 Feb, during which we'll interact in various ways, and myself and Alex Reutlinger will also give a talk at a little workshop we are organising on 'emergence in physics' on Friday 27th Feb.

Juha is in the process of editing a book together with Reutlinger on non-causal explanation in science, connecting with some issues relating non-causal models and emergence as discussed by Batterman and Morrison.

(Planned) Attendance

Juha attended the Durham workshop on Completeness of Physics in December 2014.