Kim, Jaegwon, and . Making Sense of Emergence

1999, Philosophical Studies 95(1-2): 3-36.

Summary: This chapter explores the core thought of the idea of emergentism, that as systems acquire increasingly higher degrees of organizational complexity, they begin to exhibit novel properties which in some sense transcend the properties of their constituent parts, and behave in ways that cannot be predicted on the basis of the laws governing simpler systems. The birth of emergentism can be traced back to John Stuart Mill and his distinction between “heteropathic” and “homeopathic” laws. Academic philosophers contributed to the development of emergence and the attendant doctrines of emergentism, but it is interesting to note that the fundamental idea seems to have had a special appeal to scientists and those outside professional philosophy. In spite of this, emergentism failed to become a visible part of mainstream philosophy of science because philosophy of science was, at the time, shaped by positivist and hyper-empiricist views that dominated Anglo-American philosophy.

Comment: Kim's argument is one of the most important objections to emergence in philosophy of mind. Though complex, a basic understanding of it is essential to a proper treatment of nonreductive physicalism. In any context where emergentism is taught, this paper would serve as an important counterpoint.