Functions and emergence: when functional properties have something to say

Philosophical Studies 152 (2):293-312 (2011)
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In a recent paper, Bird (in: Groff (ed.) Revitalizing causality: Realism about causality in philosophy and social science, 2007 ) has argued that some higher-order properties—which he calls “evolved emergent properties”—can be considered causally efficacious in spite of exclusion arguments. I have previously argued in favour of a similar position. The basic argument is that selection processes do not take physical categorical properties into account. Rather, selection mechanisms are only tuned to what such properties can do, i.e., to their causal powers. This picture seems ultimately untenable in the light of further exclusion problems; but at the same time, it meets our explanatory demands. My purpose is therefore to show that there is a real antinomy with regard to evolved emergent properties. I develop a physicalist exclusion argument and then I go on to consider an argument that seems to establish that evolved emergent properties are causally efficacious, and propose a compatibilist solution. Finally, I very briefly consider what the proposed model may imply for the issue of mental causation.
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