Mary Shepherd's Metaphysics of Emergence

Abstract

In her 1824 monograph An Essay upon the Relation of Cause and Effect (ERCE), Lady Mary Shepherd presents a rich theory of causation that radically departs from the standard mechanistic causal model of the Early Modern period. I argue that there are significant philosophical and contextual connections between Shepherd’s causal theory in ERCE and the British Emergentist tradition that is said to begin with John Stuart Mill’s A System of Logic (1843). By comparing the two we can find a meaningful emergentist strand in Shepherd's conception of the causal relation. Noticing the emergentist aspects of her causal theory can help us understand certain commitments about the nature of causation that may otherwise seem disconnected from her overall metaphysical project. An emergentist reading of Shepherd can also illuminate a new way of understanding the relation of metaphysical emergence, as the central relation of determination and dependence discovered both in scientific investigation and in ordinary empirical reasoning.

Author's Profile

Ariel Melamedoff
New York University

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2021-08-30

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