Emergent Causation

Philosophical Studies 159 (1):21-39 (2012)
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Downward causation is commonly held to create problems for ontologically emergent properties. In this paper I describe two novel examples of ontologically emergent properties and show how they avoid two main problems of downward causation, the causal exclusion problem and the causal closure problem. One example involves an object whose colour does not logically supervene on the colours of its atomic parts. The other example is inspired by quantum entanglement cases but avoids controversies regarding quantum mechanics. These examples show that the causal exclusion problem can be avoided, in one case by showing how it is possible to interact with an object without interacting with its atomic parts. I accept that emergence cannot be reconciled with causal closure, but argue that violations of causal closure do not entail violations of the base-level laws. Only the latter would conflict with empirical science.

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Simon Prosser
University of St. Andrews


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