APA 2014-4: Emergence and complex systems

Scientia Salon

Gospers_glider_gunby Massimo Pigliucci

This session of the Eastern Division meetings of the American Philosophical Association (part of my ongoing series of commentaries on the meeting) was chaired by Emily Parke (University of Pennsylvania), and the speakers were Mark Bedau (Reed College) and Paul Humphreys (University of Virginia).

Bedau’s talk was far easier to follow, so I apologize if I have not been able to do justice to Humphreys, though in the end I think I got where he was going…

Briefly, Bedau wants to reframe the debate about emergence. It is usually presented as an attempt to understand the true nature of emergence, which implies that if one’s view of it is right the other one has to be wrong, which leads to acrimony and generally unproductive discussions. Bedau favors instead a type of pragmatic pluralism about emergence.

He proposed that there are two hallmarks of emergence: the whole depends…

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