Strengthening Weak Emergence

Erkenntnis 87 (5):2457-2474 (2020)
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Abstract

Bedau's influential (1997) account analyzes weak emergence in terms of the non-derivability of a system’s macrostates from its microstates except by simulation. I offer an improved version of Bedau’s account of weak emergence in light of insights from information theory. Non-derivability alone does not guarantee that a system’s macrostates are weakly emergent. Rather, it is non-derivability plus the algorithmic compressibility of the system’s macrostates that makes them weakly emergent. I argue that the resulting information-theoretic picture provides a metaphysical account of weak emergence rather than a merely epistemic one.

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Nora Berenstain
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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