Emergence in physics



Publication Details

McGivern, P. H. & Rueger, A. 2010, 'Emergence in physics', in A. Corradini & T. O'Connor (eds), Emergence in Science and Philosophy, Routledge, New York. pp. 213


Discussions of emergence in physics usually adopt one of two general approaches. Starting from intuitive desiderata a concept of emergence should satisfy, one can (i) develop a philosophical account of emergence that incorporates and makes precise the initial intuitions and then try to find illustrations for this model in scientific practice' alternatively, one can (ii) study cases in science where the intuitive desiderata seem to be satisfies and then develop a philosophical model of emergence that subsumes those cases. Given these different approaches, disagreements over which phenomena count as emergent are likely, even if everybody were to agree on the pre-theoretical desiderata. Differing views about the latter, of course, compound the conflicts. Whether emergent phenomena, for instance, supervene on 'base level' phenomena or whether the 'completeness' of physics at he base level should be satisfied are questions which different philosophical views will answer in different ways.

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