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Making Room for Emergence

Andrea Zhok


We try to provide in outline an understanding of emergent properties, which should possibly make the idea of emergence not just plausible but compelling. It is our conviction that the core truth of emergentism is neither especially exotic nor counterintuitive, while its apparent eccentricity is essentially due to some prejudicial ontological assumptions. In the first half of the paper our argument develops through Jaegwon Kim’s rejection of emergentism.

We argue that Kim’s use of both the “causal inheritance principle” and the “causal closure principle” in his criticism of emergence is unwarranted. In the second half of the paper we develop a positive account of emergence through a restoration of the ontological notion of quality. We contend that any monistic ontology, in order to account for experience, must make room for irreducible qualities and that efficaciousness cannot be denied to them. The novelty of emergent properties amounts to a priori unpredictability, due to the very nature of combination. Their efficaciousness is interpreted in terms of qualifying thresholds modulating the mode of efficaciousness.


Quality; Efficient Causation; Formal Causation; Supervenience

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