Where to Look for Emergent Properties

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Recent years have seen renewed interest in the emergence issue. The contemporary debate, in contrast with that of past times, has to do not so much with the mind–body problem as with the relationship between the physical and other domains; mostly with the biological domain. One of the main sources of this renewed interest is the study of complex and, in general, far-from-equilibrium self-preserving systems, which seem to fulfil one of the necessary conditions for an entity to be emergent; namely, that its causal powers are not predictable from the causal powers of basic physical properties. However, I argue that much of the current emergentism debate has misfired by focusing on the interpretation of self-maintaining systems. In contrast, I claim that if we want to find emergent properties, we should look not at complex systems, but at selection (natural selection, in particular). I argue that selection processes make the causal world ‘exuberant’ by making non-physical functional and relational properties enter the causal web of the world.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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