8 Apr 2009

Conceptual Foundations of Emergence Theory, Introduction, Clayton

by Corry Shores
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Philip Clayton

"Conceptual Foundations of Emergence Theory"


The scientific quest for reductionism wants to explain "all phenomena in the natural world in terms of the objects and laws of physics." Emergentist theories presuppose this project is impossible.

Reductionism's limitations do not stop science from doing its job. In fact, science and emergentism are not inherently contrary.
To do science still means to try to explain phenomena in terms of their constituent parts and underlying laws. Thus, endorsing an emergentist philosophy of science is in most cases consistent with business as usual in much of science. (1bc)
On the other hand, there is a reduction-versus-emergence debate. And it has implications for how we understand the scientific method.
Whether the scientist subscribes to one position or the other will inevitably have some effects on how she pursues her science and how she views her results. (1c)

Clayton, Philip. "Conceptual Foundations of Emergence Theory." in The Re-Emergence of Emergence: The Emergentist Hypothesis from Science to Religion. Ed. Philip Clayton and Paul Davies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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