Emergent processes as generation of discontinuities

In Gianfranco Minati, Eliano Pessa & Mario Abram (eds.), Methods, models, simulations and approaches towards a general theory of change. Singapore: World Scientific. pp. 135-146 (2012)
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In this article we analyse the problem of emergence in its diachronic dimension. In other words, we intend to deal with the generation of novelties in natural processes. Our approach aims at integrating some insights coming from Whitehead’s Philosophy of the Process with the epistemological framework developed by the “autopoietic” tradition. Our thesis is that the emergence of new entities and rules of interaction (new “fields of relatedness”) requires the development of discontinuous models of change. From this standpoint natural evolution can be conceived as a succession of emergences — each one realizing a novel “extended” present, described by distinct models — rather than as a single and continuous dynamics. This theoretical and epistemological framework is particularly suitable to the investigation of the origin of life, an emblematic example of this kind of processes.
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