Emergence, evolution, and the geometry of logic: Causal leaps and the myth of historical development [Book Review]

Foundations of Science 12 (1):9-37 (2007)
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After sketching the historical development of “emergence” and noting several recent problems relating to “emergent properties”, this essay proposes that properties may be either “emergent” or “mergent” and either “intrinsic” or “extrinsic”. These two distinctions define four basic types of change: stagnation, permanence, flux, and evolution. To illustrate how emergence can operate in a purely logical system, the Geometry of Logic is introduced. This new method of analyzing conceptual systems involves the mapping of logical relations onto geometrical figures, following either an analytic or a synthetic pattern (or both together). Evolution is portrayed as a form of discontinuous change characterized by emergent properties that take on an intrinsic quality with respect to the object(s) or proposition(s) involved. Causal leaps, not continuous development, characterize the evolution of human life in a developing foetus, of a thought out of certain brain states, of a new idea (or insight) out of ordinary thoughts, and of a great person out of a set of historical experiences. The tendency to assume that understanding evolutionary change requires a step-by-step explanation of the historical development that led to the appearance of a certain emergent property is thereby discredited.
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