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Emergence: Ontological or Epistemological?

  1. Aug 12, 2005 #1
    Emergence is currently used in both reductionist or "anti"-reductionist senses, being ambiguous the current expression " the whole is more than the sum of parts".
    It is clear the epistemological use of the term emergence. Entropy is an obvious example. A macroscopic description arises from a practical, statistical approach to study the behavior of a great number of particles.

    But is it ever so? For example, in the case of a cell or the mind, does emergence reflects only a limitation of our knowledge or rather express an ontological change?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2005 #2
    Nobody knows whether there is ontological emergence in the case of the mind. The problem is how ontological emergence would be compatible with the causal closure of the world and the fact that the physical laws are never broken. Hence ontological emergence seems only possible when physics does not determine the higher levels of nature, the mind or perhaps the cell. A proposal for ontological emergence can be found in Gregg Rosenberg, A Place for Consciousness, chapter 14 which will be discussed in this forum soon. To understand this proposal you have to become familiar with Rosenberg’s theory of causality (chapter 9 and 12).
  4. Sep 14, 2005 #3
    Ok, let's leave the controversy aside for the moment. Begin by asking this unique question:

    How would the PART-WHOLE Relations work or be maintained under the following metaphysically categorised conditions?:

    1) OPEN SYSTEM - a state where intelligence and causal relations of any sort are presumably undetermined.

    2) SEMI-CLOSED SYSTEM - where some form of intelligence and causal relations exist, but where the internal consistency of such intelligence or causal relations is wholly dependent upon the external consistency of events outside it.

    3) CLOSED SYSTEM - a self-sufficient system where the intelligence and the internal relations of all its sustaining parts are wholly consistent and independent of events outside it.

    I argue, that the 'Part-whole relation' would function differently under these three metaphysically categorised systems. And that if there is any solution at all to the current contraversy, it would lie under one of three systems. Or would it not?
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2005
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