emergence[1] - Strong and Weak Emergence David J. Chalmers...

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Strong and Weak Emergence David J. Chalmers Philosophy Program Research School of Social Sciences Australian National University 1 Two concepts of emergence The term ‘emergence’ often causes confusion in science and philosophy, as it is used to express at least two quite different concepts. We can label these concepts strong emergence and weak emergence . Both of these concepts are important, but it is vital to keep them separate. We can say that a high-level phenomenon is strongly emergent with respect to a low-level domain when the high-level phenomenon arises from the low-level domain, but truths concerning that phenomenon are not deducible even in principle from truths in the low-level domain . 1 Strong emergence is the notion of emergence that is most common in philosophical discussions of emergence, and is the notion invoked by the British emergentists of the 1920s. We can say that a high-level phenomenon is weakly emergent with respect to a low-level domain when the high-level phenomenon arises from the low-level domain, but truths concerning that phenomenon are unexpected given the principles governing the low-level domain. Weak emergence is the notion of emergence that is most common in recent scientific In (P. Clayton and P. Davies, eds.) The Re-emergence of Emergence (Oxford University Press, 2006). Most of this chapter was written for discussion at a Granada workshop on emergence, sponsored by the Templeton Foundation. One section (the last) is modified from a posting to the Usenet newsgroup comp.ai.philosophy, written in February 1990. I thank the editors and the participants in the Granada workshop on emergence for their feedback. 1 In philosophers’ terms, we can say that strong emergence requires that high-level truths are not conceptually or metaphysically necessitated by low-level truths. Other notions in the main text can also be formulated in these modal terms, but I will mainly talk of deducibility to avoid technicality. The distinction between conceptual
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discussions of emergence, and is the notion that is typically invoked by proponents of emergence in complex systems theory. (See Bedau 1997 for a nice discussion of the notion of weak emergence and its relation to strong emergence.) These definitions of strong and weak emergence are first approximations which might later be refined. But they are enough to exhibit the key differences between the two notions. As just defined, cases of strong emergence will likely also be cases of weak emergence (although this depends on just how ‘unexpected’ is understood). But cases of weak emergence need not be cases of strong emergence. It often happens that a high-level phenomenon is unexpected given principles of a low-level domain, but is nevertheless deducible in principle from truths concerning that domain. The emergence of high-level patterns in cellular automata—a paradigm of emergence in
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emergence[1] - Strong and Weak Emergence David J. Chalmers...

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