In philosophy, emergentism is the belief in emergence, particularly as it involves consciousness and the philosophy of mind, and as it contrasts (or not) with reductionism. A property of a system is said to be emergent if it is a new outcome of some other properties of the system and their interaction, while it is itself different from them.[1] Emergent properties are not identical with, reducible to, or deducible from the other properties. The different ways in which this independence requirement can be satisfied lead to variant types of emergence.


All varieties of emergentism strive to be compatible with physicalism, the theory that the universe is composed exclusively of physical entities, and in particular with the evidence relating changes in the brain with changes in mental functioning. Many forms of emergentism, including proponents of complex adaptive systems, do not hold a material but rather a relational or processural view of the universe. Furthermore, they view mind–body dualism as a conceptual error insofar as mind and body are merely different types of relationships. As a theory of mind (which it is not always), emergentism differs from idealism, eliminative materialism, identity theories, neutral monism, panpsychism, and substance dualism, whilst being closely associated with property dualism. It is generally not obvious whether an emergent theory of mind embraces mental causation or must be considered epiphenomenal.

Some varieties of emergentism are not specifically concerned with the mind–body problem, and instead suggest a hierarchical or layered view of the whole of nature, with the layers arranged in terms of increasing complexity with each requiring its own special science. Typically physics (mathematical physics, particle physics, and classical physics) is basic, with chemistry built on top of it, then biology, psychology, and social sciences. Reductionists respond that the arrangement of the sciences is a matter of convenience, and that chemistry is derivable from physics (and so forth) in principle, an argument which gained force after the establishment of a quantum-mechanical basis for chemistry.[2]

Other varieties see mind or consciousness as specifically and anomalously requiring emergentist explanation, and therefore constitute a family of positions in the philosophy of mind. Douglas Hofstadter summarises this view as "the soul is more than the sum of its parts". A number of philosophers have offered the argument that qualia constitute the hard problem of consciousness, and resist reductive explanation in a way that all other phenomena do not. In contrast, reductionists generally see the task of accounting for the possibly atypical properties of mind and of living things as a matter of showing that, contrary to appearances, such properties are indeed fully accountable in terms of the properties of the basic constituents of nature and therefore in no way genuinely atypical.

Intermediate positions are possible: for instance, some emergentists hold that emergence is neither universal nor restricted to consciousness, but applies to (for instance) living creatures, or self-organising systems, or complex systems.

Some philosophers hold that emergent properties causally interact with more fundamental levels, an idea known as downward causation. Others maintain that higher-order properties simply supervene over lower levels without direct causal interaction.

All the cases so far discussed have been synchronic, i.e. the emergent property exists simultaneously with its basis. Yet another variation operates diachronically. Emergentists of this type believe that genuinely novel properties can come into being, without being accountable in terms of the preceding history of the universe. (Contrast with indeterminism where it is only the arrangement or configuration of matter that is unaccountable). These evolution-inspired theories often have a theological aspect, as in the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne.

Emergentist Truth

An undergraduate thesis was written in 2015 developing an emergentist conception of truth, inspired by Mario Bunge. It was an honors thesis advised by Dr. David Blitz, whose doctoral thesis advisor was Mario Bunge. The idea was developed after analyzing the Correspondence Theory of Truth, the Coherence Theory of Truth, and the ideas of Kuhn, Lakatos, Popper, Russell, and Bunge. Trying to resolve problems with all these approaches, the emergent theory of truth effectively maintains that while there may or may not be absolute truth in the universe, it may never be known or realized. Rather, truth is an emergent property of sets of facts. As our comprehension grows and we gather evermore precise and numerous facts, we can synthesize an evermore precise picture of what is true. The entirety of existence constitutes a dynamical state-space where facts are propositions that correspond to a collection of points within this state-space, and with more and more of these facts an interpretation of the truth of a matter emerges. "Since truth is an emergent property of a coherent set of facts and the set of facts is the dynamical system, truth is an emergent property of a coherent set of facts of a dynamical system."[3]

The original problem the prompted development of emergentist truth was the problem of types of facts. If a true proposition is a fact, then a false proposition is a fiction. If the "world is the totality of facts"[4] and false propositions exist, then these fictions must in some way exist as facts. This problem begins to mathematize the truth values of propositions and relates facts and fictions to the Form of the proposition. By definition of a Form, the Form is the truth of the matter. When propositions (regardless of their truth value) are related to a common Form then the more propositions there are describing that Form, then the more accurate the depiction of the Form, i.e. truth. Consequently, the truth emerges from a set of facts and fictions (which are simply facts in a different form). In this framework, a "false proposition is a subsistent proposition that describes some platonic Form and has the syntax of the negation of a fact. Respectively then, a true proposition is an existent proposition that describes some platonic Form and has the syntax of a fact."[5]

Relationship to vitalism

A refinement of vitalism may be recognized in contemporary molecular histology in the proposal that some key organising and structuring features of organisms, perhaps including even life itself, are examples of emergent processes; those in which a complexity arises, out of interacting chemical processes forming interconnected feedback cycles, that cannot fully be described in terms of those processes since the system as a whole has properties that the constituent reactions lack.[6][7]

Whether emergent system properties should be grouped with traditional vitalist concepts is a matter of semantic controversy.[8] In a light-hearted millennial vein, Kirshner and Michison call research into integrated cell and organismal physiology “molecular vitalism.”[9]

According to Emmeche et al. (1997):

"On the one hand, many scientists and philosophers regard emergence as having only a pseudo-scientific status. On the other hand, new developments in physics, biology, psychology, and crossdisciplinary fields such as cognitive science, artificial life, and the study of non-linear dynamical systems have focused strongly on the high level 'collective behaviour' of complex systems, which is often said to be truly emergent, and the term is increasingly used to characterize such systems."[10]

Emmeche et al. (1998) state that "there is a very important difference between the vitalists and the emergentists: the vitalist's creative forces were relevant only in organic substances, not in inorganic matter. Emergence hence is creation of new properties regardless of the substance involved." "The assumption of an extra-physical vitalis (vital force, entelechy, élan vital, etc.), as formulated in most forms (old or new) of vitalism, is usually without any genuine explanatory power. It has served altogether too often as an intellectual tranquilizer or verbal sedative—stifling scientific inquiry rather than encouraging it to proceed in new directions."[11]


John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill outlined his version of emergentism in System of Logic (1843). Mill argued that the properties of some physical systems, such as those in which dynamic forces combine to produce simple motions, are subject to a law of nature he called the "Composition of Causes". According to Mill, emergent properties are not subject to this law, but instead amount to more than the sums of the properties of their parts.

Mill believed that various chemical reactions (poorly understood in his time) could provide examples of emergent properties, although some critics believe that modern physical chemistry has shown that these reactions can be given satisfactory reductionist explanations. For instance, it has been claimed by Dirac that the whole of chemistry is, in principle, contained in the Schrödinger equation.[12]

C. D. Broad

British philosopher C. D. Broad defended a realistic epistemology in The Mind and its Place in Nature (1925) arguing that emergent materialism is the most likely solution to the mind–body problem.

Broad defined emergence as follows:

Put in abstract terms the emergent theory asserts that there are certain wholes, composed (say) of constituents A, B, and C in a relation R to each other; that all wholes composed of constituents of the same kind as A, B, and C in relations of the same kind as R have certain characteristic properties; that A, B, and C are capable of occurring in other kinds of complex where the relation is not of the same kind as R; and that the characteristic properties of the whole R(A, B, C) cannot, even in theory, be deduced from the most complete knowledge of the properties of A, B, and C in isolation or in other wholes which are not of the form R(A, B, C).

This definition amounted to the claim that mental properties would count as emergent if and only if philosophical zombies were metaphysically possible. Many philosophers take this position to be inconsistent with some formulations of psychophysical supervenience.

C. Lloyd Morgan and Samuel Alexander

Samuel Alexander's views on emergentism, argued in Space, Time, and Deity (1920), were inspired in part by the ideas in psychologist C. Lloyd Morgan's Emergent Evolution. Alexander believed that emergence was fundamentally inexplicable, and that emergentism was simply a "brute empirical fact":

"The higher quality emerges from the lower level of existence and has its roots therein, but it emerges therefrom, and it does not belong to that level, but constitutes its possessor a new order of existent with its special laws of behaviour. The existence of emergent qualities thus described is something to be noted, as some would say, under the compulsion of brute empirical fact, or, as I should prefer to say in less harsh terms, to be accepted with the “natural piety” of the investigator. It admits no explanation." (Space, Time, and Deity)

Despite the causal and explanatory gap between the phenomena on different levels, Alexander held that emergent qualities were not epiphenomenal. His view can perhaps best be described as a form of non-reductive physicalism (NRP) or supervenience theory.

Ludwig von Bertalanffy

Ludwig von Bertalanffy founded general system theory (GST), which is a more contemporary approach to emergentism. A popularization of many of the elements of GST may be found in The Web of Life by Fritjof Capra.

Jaegwon Kim

Figure demonstration how M1 and M2 are not reduced to P1 and P2.

Addressing emergentism (under the guise of non-reductive physicalism) as a solution to the mind–body problem Jaegwon Kim has raised an objection based on causal closure and overdetermination.

Emergentism strives to be compatible with physicalism, and physicalism, according to Kim, has a principle of causal closure according to which every physical event is fully accountable in terms of physical causes. This seems to leave no "room" for mental causation to operate. If our bodily movements were caused by the preceding state of our bodies and our decisions and intentions, they would be overdetermined. Mental causation in this sense is not the same as free will, but is only the claim that mental states are causally relevant. If emergentists respond by abandoning the idea of mental causation, their position becomes a form of epiphenomenalism.

In detail: he proposes (using the chart on the right) that M1 causes M2 (these are mental events) and P1 causes P2 (these are physical events). P1 realises M1 and P2 realises M2. However M1 does not causally effect P1 (i.e., M1 is a consequent event of P1). If P1 causes P2, and M1 is a result of P1, then M2 is a result of P2. He says that the only alternatives to this problem is to accept dualism (where the mental events are independent of the physical events) or eliminativism (where the mental events do not exist).

See also


  1. ^ O'Connor, Timothy and Wong, Hong Yu, "Emergent Properties", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2015/entries/properties-emergent/>.
  2. ^ Crane, T. The Significance of Emergence
  3. ^ McCarthy, Evan (2015). "The Emergentist Theory of Truth". ResearchGate. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus", Wikipedia, 2019-04-12, retrieved 2019-04-14
  5. ^ McCarthy, Evan (2013). "The Nature of True and False Propositions". Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  6. ^ Schultz, SG (1998). "A century of (epithelial) transport physiology: from vitalism to molecular cloning". The American Journal of Physiology. 274 (1 Pt 1): C13–23. PMID 9458708.
  7. ^ Gilbert, SF; Sarkar, S (2000). "Embracing complexity: organicism for the 21st century". Developmental Dynamics. 219 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1002/1097-0177(2000)9999:9999<::AID-DVDY1036>3.0.CO;2-A. PMID 10974666.
  8. ^ see "Emergent Properties" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. online at Stanford University for explicit discussion; briefly, some philosophers see emergentism as midway between traditional spiritual vitalism and mechanistic reductionism; others argue that, structurally, emergentism is equivalent to vitalism. See also Emmeche C (2001) Does a robot have an Umwelt? Semiotica 134: 653-693 [1]
  9. ^ Kirschner, M; Gerhart, J; Mitchison, T (2000). "Molecular "vitalism". Cell. 100 (1): 79–88. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)81685-2. PMID 10647933.
  10. ^ Emmeche C (1997) EXPLAINING EMERGENCE:towards an ontology of levels. Journal for General Philosophy of Science available online
  11. ^ Dictionary of the History of Ideas Archived 2011-05-11 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Laloë, Franck (2012). Do We Really Understand Quantum Mechanics?. Cambridge University Press. p. 292ff. ISBN 9781107025011.

Further reading

  • Beckermann, Ansgar, Hans Flohr, and Jaegwon Kim, eds., Emergence Or Reduction? Essays on the Prospects of Nonreductive Physicalism (1992).
  • Cahoone, Lawrence, The Orders of Nature (2013).
  • Clayton, Philip and Paul Davies, eds., The Re-emergence of Emergence: The Emergentist Hypothesis from Science to Religion. Oxford University Press (2008).
  • Gregersen Niels H., eds., From Complexity to Life: On Emergence of Life and Meaning. Oxford University Press (2013).
  • Jones, Richard H., Analysis & the Fullness of Reality: An Introduction to Reductionism & Emergence. Jackson Square Books (2013).
  • Laughlin, Robert B., A Different Universe (2005).
  • MacDonald, Graham and Cynthia, Emergence in Mind. Oxford University Press (2010).
  • McCarthy, Evan, "The Emergentist Theory of Truth" (2015).
  • Morowitz, Harold J., The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex. Oxford University Press (2002).

External links

  • Emergentism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007.
  • Emergentism in the Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind, 2007.
Australian philosophy

Australian philosophy refers to the philosophical tradition of the people of Australia and of its citizens abroad.

Competition model

The competition model is a psycholinguistic theory of language acquisition and sentence processing, developed by Elizabeth Bates and Brian MacWhinney (1981).

The model suggests that the meaning of language is interpreted by comparing a number of linguistic 'cues' (signaling specific functions) within a sentence, and that language is learned through the competition of basic cognitive mechanisms inside a rich linguistic environment.

It is an emergentist theory of language acquisition and processing, serving as an alternative to strict innatist and empiricist theories.

According to the competition model, competitive cognitive processes operate on a phylogenetic, ontogenetic, and synchronic scale, allowing language acquisition to take place across a wide variety of chronological periods.

Composition of Causes

The Composition of Causes was a set of philosophical laws advanced by John Stuart Mill in his watershed essay A System of Logic. These laws outlined Mill's view of the epistemological components of emergentism, a school of philosophical laws that posited a decidedly opportunistic approach to the classic dilemma of causation nullification.

Mill was determined to prove that the intrinsic properties of all things relied on three primary tenets, which he called the Composition of Causes. These were:

1. The Cause of Inherent Efficiency, a methodological understanding of deterministic forces engaged in the perpetual axes of the soul, as it pertained to its own self-awareness.

2. The so-called Sixth Cause, a conceptual notion embodied by the system of inter-related segments of social and elemental vitra. This was a hotly debated matter in early 17th-century philosophical circles, especially in the halls of the Reichtaven in Meins, where the spirit of Geudl still lingered.

3. The Cause of Multitude, an evolutionary step taken from Hemmlich's Plurality of a Dysfunctional Enterprise, detailing the necessary linkage between both sets of perception-based self-awareness.

Furthermore, the Composition of Causes elevated Mill's standing in ontological circles, lauded by his contemporaries for applying a conceptual vision of an often-argued discipline.

Cosmology (philosophy)

Philosophical cosmology, philosophy of cosmology or philosophy of cosmos is a discipline directed to the philosophical contemplation of the universe as a totality, and to its conceptual foundations. It draws on several branches of philosophy—metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of physics, philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, and on the fundamental theories of physics. The term cosmology was used at least as early as 1730, by German philosopher Christian Wolff, in Cosmologia Generalis.

Danish philosophy

Danish philosophy has a long tradition as part of Western philosophy.

Perhaps the most influential Danish philosopher was Søren Kierkegaard, the creator of Christian existentialism, which inspired the philosophical movement of Existentialism. Kierkegaard had a few Danish followers, including Harald Høffding, who later in his life moved on to join the movement of positivism. Among Kierkegaard's other followers include Jean-Paul Sartre who was impressed with Kierkegaard's views on the individual, and Rollo May, who helped create humanistic psychology.

East Pole–West Pole divide

The East Pole–West Pole divide in the fields of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience is an intellectual schism between researchers subscribing to the nativist and empiricist schools of thought. The term arose from the fact that much of the theory and research supporting nativism, modularity of mind, and computational theory of mind originated at several universities located on the East Coast, including Harvard University, the University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Tufts University. Conversely, much of the research and theory supporting empiricism, emergentism, and embodied cognition originated at several universities located on the West Coast, including the University of California, Berkeley, the Salk Institute, and, most notably, the University of California, San Diego. In reality, the divide is not so clear, with many universities and scholars on both coasts (as well as the Midwest and around the world) supporting each position, as well as more moderate positions in between the two extremes. The phrase was coined by Jerry Fodor at an MIT conference on cognition, at which he referred to another researcher as a "West Coast theorist," apparently unaware that the researcher worked at Yale University.Very few researchers adhere strictly to the extreme positions highlighted by the East Pole–West Pole debate. That is, there are very few empiricists who believe in the Lockean ideal of the tabula rasa (namely, that children are born with no innate knowledge or constraints), and there are very few nativists who agree with Fodor's assertion that all concepts that are learned over the course of life are present in the mind prior to birth. Nevertheless, most scholars within the fields of cognitive science and developmental psychology affiliate themselves with one of the two positions through the means of their research.

The two books best known for espousing the empiricist and nativist positions within the context of cognitive psychology are Rethinking Innateness by Jeffrey Elman et al. and The Modularity of Mind by Jerry Fodor, respectively. Incidentally, the authors are affiliated with the two institutions on which the East Pole–West Pole metaphor is based, UCSD and MIT, affirming the relevance and pervasiveness of this moniker for the intellectual divide.


Elisionism is a philosophical standpoint encompassing various social theories. Elisionist theories are diverse; however, they are unified in their adherence to process philosophy as well as their assumption that the social and the individual cannot be separated. The term elisionism was coined by Margaret Archer in 1995 in the book Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach. Elisionism is often contrasted with holism, atomism, and emergentism.


In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence occurs when an entity is observed to have properties its parts do not have on their own. These properties or behaviors emerge only when the parts interact in a wider whole. For example, smooth forward motion emerges when a bicycle and its rider interoperate, but neither part can produce the behavior on their own.

Emergence plays a central role in theories of integrative levels and of complex systems. For instance, the phenomenon of life as studied in biology is an emergent property of chemistry, and psychological phenomena emerge from the neurobiological phenomena of living things.

In philosophy, theories that emphasize emergent properties have been called emergentism. Almost all accounts of emergentism include a form of epistemic or ontological irreducibility to the lower levels.

Global brain

The global brain is a neuroscience-inspired and futurological vision of the planetary information and communications technology network that interconnects all humans and their technological artifacts. As this network stores ever more information, takes over ever more functions of coordination and communication from traditional organizations, and becomes increasingly intelligent, it increasingly plays the role of a brain for the planet Earth.

List of Slovene philosophers

Slovene philosophy includes philosophers who were either Slovenes or came from what is now Slovenia.

Nick Ellis

Nick C. Ellis is an American psycholinguist. He is currently a Professor of Psychology and a Research Scientist at the English Language Institute of the University of Michigan. His research focuses on applied linguistics more broadly with a special focus on second language acquisition, corpus linguistics, psycholinguistics, emergentism, complex dynamic systems approaches to language, reading and spelling acquisition in different languages, computational modeling and cognitive linguistics.


In philosophy, panpsychism is the view that mind or a mind-like aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality. It has taken on a wide variety of forms. Contemporary academic proponents hold that sentience or subjective experience is ubiquitous, while distancing these qualities from complex human mental attributes; they ascribe a primitive form of mentality to entities at the fundamental level of physics but do not ascribe it to most aggregates, such as rocks or buildings. On the other hand, some historical theorists ascribed attributes like life or spirits to all entities.Panpsychism is one of the oldest philosophical theories, and has been ascribed to philosophers like Thales, Parmenides, Plato, Averroes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and William James. Panpsychism can also be seen in ancient philosophies such as Stoicism, Taoism, Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism. During the 19th century, panpsychism was the default theory in philosophy of mind, but it saw a decline during the middle years of the 20th century with the rise of logical positivism. The recent interest in the hard problem of consciousness has revived interest in panpsychism.

Philosophy of mind

Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology, nature, and relationship of the mind to the body. The mind–body problem is a paradigm issue in philosophy of mind, although other issues are addressed, such as the hard problem of consciousness, and the nature of particular mental states. Aspects of the mind that are studied include mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness, the ontology of the mind, the nature of thought, and the relationship of the mind to the body.

Dualism and monism are the two central schools of thought on the mind–body problem, although nuanced views have arisen that do not fit one or the other category neatly. Dualism finds its entry into Western philosophy thanks to René Descartes in the 17th century. Substance dualists like Descartes argue that the mind is an independently existing substance, whereas property dualists maintain that the mind is a group of independent properties that emerge from and cannot be reduced to the brain, but that it is not a distinct substance.Monism is the position that mind and body are not ontologically distinct entities (independent substances). This view was first advocated in Western philosophy by Parmenides in the 5th century BCE and was later espoused by the 17th-century rationalist Baruch Spinoza. Physicalists argue that only entities postulated by physical theory exist, and that mental processes will eventually be explained in terms of these entities as physical theory continues to evolve. Physicalists maintain various positions on the prospects of reducing mental properties to physical properties (many of whom adopt compatible forms of property dualism), and the ontological status of such mental properties remains unclear. Idealists maintain that the mind is all that exists and that the external world is either mental itself, or an illusion created by the mind. Neutral monists such as Ernst Mach and William James argue that events in the world can be thought of as either mental (psychological) or physical depending on the network of relationships into which they enter, and dual-aspect monists such as Spinoza adhere to the position that there is some other, neutral substance, and that both matter and mind are properties of this unknown substance. The most common monisms in the 20th and 21st centuries have all been variations of physicalism; these positions include behaviorism, the type identity theory, anomalous monism and functionalism.Most modern philosophers of mind adopt either a reductive physicalist or non-reductive physicalist position, maintaining in their different ways that the mind is not something separate from the body. These approaches have been particularly influential in the sciences, especially in the fields of sociobiology, computer science (specifically, artificial intelligence), evolutionary psychology and the various neurosciences. Reductive physicalists assert that all mental states and properties will eventually be explained by scientific accounts of physiological processes and states. Non-reductive physicalists argue that although the mind is not a separate substance, mental properties supervene on physical properties, or that the predicates and vocabulary used in mental descriptions and explanations are indispensable, and cannot be reduced to the language and lower-level explanations of physical science. Continued neuroscientific progress has helped to clarify some of these issues; however, they are far from being resolved. Modern philosophers of mind continue to ask how the subjective qualities and the intentionality of mental states and properties can be explained in naturalistic terms.


In philosophy, physicalism is the metaphysical thesis that "everything is physical", that there is "nothing over and above" the physical, or that everything supervenes on the physical. Physicalism is a form of ontological monism—a "one substance" view of the nature of reality as opposed to a "two-substance" (dualism) or "many-substance" (pluralism) view. Both the definition of "physical" and the meaning of physicalism have been debated.

Physicalism is closely related to materialism. Physicalism grew out of materialism with advancements of the physical sciences in explaining observed phenomena. The terms are often used interchangeably, although they are sometimes distinguished, for example on the basis of physics describing more than just matter (including energy and physical law). Common arguments against physicalism include both the philosophical zombie argument and the multiple observers argument, that the existence of a physical being may imply zero or more distinct conscious entities.


Reductionism is any of several related philosophical ideas regarding the associations between phenomena which can be described in terms of other simpler or more fundamental phenomena.The Oxford Companion to Philosophy suggests that reductionism is "one of the most used and abused terms in the philosophical lexicon" and suggests a three part division:

Ontological reductionism: a belief that the whole of reality consists of a minimal number of parts.

Methodological reductionism: the scientific attempt to provide explanation in terms of ever smaller entities.

Theory reductionism: the suggestion that a newer theory does not replace or absorb an older one, but reduces it to more basic terms. Theory reduction itself is divisible into three parts: translation, derivation and explanation.Reductionism can be applied to any phenomenon, including objects, explanations, theories, and meanings.For the sciences, application of methodological reductionism attempts explanation of entire systems in terms of their individual, constituent parts and their interactions. For example, the temperature of a gas is reduced to nothing beyond the average kinetic energy of its molecules in motion. Thomas Nagel speaks of 'psychophysical reductionism' (the attempted reduction of psychological phenomena to physics and chemistry), as do others and 'physico-chemical reductionism' (the attempted reduction of biology to physics and chemistry), again as do others. In a very simplified and sometimes contested form, such reductionism is said to imply that a system is nothing but the sum of its parts. However, a more nuanced opinion is that a system is composed entirely of its parts, but the system will have features that none of the parts have. "The point of mechanistic explanations is usually showing how the higher level features arise from the parts."Other definitions are used by other authors. For example, what John Polkinghorne terms 'conceptual' or 'epistemological' reductionism is the definition provided by Simon Blackburn and by Jaegwon Kim: that form of reductionism concerning a program of replacing the facts or entities entering statements claimed to be true in one type of discourse with other facts or entities from another type, thereby providing a relationship between them. Such an association is provided where the same idea can be expressed by "levels" of explanation, with higher levels reducible if need be to lower levels. This use of levels of understanding in part expresses our human limitations in remembering detail. However, "most philosophers would insist that our role in conceptualizing reality [our need for an hierarchy of "levels" of understanding] does not change the fact that different levels of organization in reality do have different 'properties'."Reductionism strongly represents a certain perspective of causality. In a reductionist framework, the phenomena that can be explained completely in terms of relations between other more fundamental phenomena, are termed epiphenomena. Often there is an implication that the epiphenomenon exerts no causal agency on the fundamental phenomena that explain it. The epiphenomena are sometimes said to be "nothing but" the outcome of the workings of the fundamental phenomena, although the epiphenomena might be more clearly and efficiently described in very different terms. There is a tendency to avoid considering an epiphenomenon as being important in its own right. This attitude may extend to cases where the fundamentals are not obviously able to explain the epiphenomena, but are expected to by the speaker. In this way, for example, morality can be deemed to be "nothing but" evolutionary adaptation, and consciousness can be considered "nothing but" the outcome of neurobiological processes.

Reductionism should be distinguished from eliminationism: reductionists do not deny the existence of phenomena, but explain them in terms of another reality; eliminationists deny the existence of the phenomena themselves. For example, eliminationists deny the existence of life by their explanation in terms of physical and chemical processes.

Reductionism also does not preclude the existence of what might be termed emergent phenomena, but it does imply the ability to understand those phenomena completely in terms of the processes from which they are composed. This reductionist understanding is very different from emergentism, which intends that what emerges in "emergence" is more than the sum of the processes from which it emerges.

Turkish philosophy

Turkish philosophy has long been affected by Islam and the country's proximity to Greece and ancient Greek philosophy.


Vitalism is the belief that "living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they contain some non-physical element or are governed by different principles than are inanimate things".a Where vitalism explicitly invokes a vital principle, that element is often referred to as the "vital spark", "energy" or "élan vital", which some equate with the soul. In the 18th and 19th centuries vitalism was discussed among biologists, between those who felt that the known mechanics of physics would eventually explain the difference between life and non-life and vitalists who argued that the processes of life could not be reduced to a mechanistic process. Some vitalist biologists proposed testable hypotheses meant to show inadequacies with mechanistic explanations, but these experiments failed to provide support for vitalism. Biologists now consider vitalism in this sense to have been refuted by empirical evidence, and hence regard it as a superseded scientific theory.Vitalism has a long history in medical philosophies: many traditional healing practices posited that disease results from some imbalance in vital forces.

William Hasker

R. William Hasker (; born 1935) is an American philosopher and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Huntington University. For many years he was editor of the prestigious journal Faith and Philosophy. He has published many journal articles and books dealing with issues such as the mind–body problem, theodicy, and divine omniscience. He has argued for "open theism" and a view known as "emergentism" regarding the nature of the human person. Hasker regards the soul as an "emergent" substance, dependent upon the body for its existence.

Hasker received his PhD in theology and philosophy of religion from the University of Edinburgh. His 1999 publication The Emergent Self discusses the philosophy of mind and attempts to establish that mind cannot be solely a material process but is also not completely distinct from its physical basis in the brain.

Related topics

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.