Academic journal article Emergence: Complexity and Organization

Re-Imagining Emergence: Part 2

Academic journal article Emergence: Complexity and Organization

Re-Imagining Emergence: Part 2

Article excerpt

[W]e need different theories to account for widely different emergence mechanisms... In other words, there are no all-encompassing explanations because there are no one-size-for-all mechanisms.

Mario Bunge (2003)

Note to reader: Included here is Part 2 of a three-part paper, the first of which, Part 1 appeared in the last issue of E:CO. At that time it was stated that there were only going to be two parts for this paper, in the last issue and in this issue. However, in finishing the original Part 2, the author came upon several substantial new findings and insights about emergence which could only serve to improve the entire paper. Accordingly, it was decided to extend the paper into three parts: Part 2 is being published here and Part 3 will follow in the next issue. This also means a revision of the Table of Contents:

Part 1

* Introduction: Imagining and Re-Imagining Emergence

* Imaginability and Possibility

* From Typologies to Prototypes: Emergents as Natural Complexes

* What are not Emergents nor Emergence

* Consciousness (Whatever It Is) Is not an Emergent Phenomenon

Part 2:

* Introduction: Images Redux

* Emergence as an Image and the Image of Emergence

* Early Images of Emergence: Mill, Lewes, Bergson

* The Image of Supervenience

* Chemical Reaction as Image of Emergence

Part 3

* Self-transcending Construction as an Image of Emergence

* Emergent Whole-making as the Transformation of Substrates

* Indeterminateness as a Source of Transformation

* Bernard Convection Cells

* Superconductivity

* Biological Emergence


Part 1 presented the framework for a reimagining of emergence in the light of new findings and new insights, along the way some cleaning-up some recent misconceptions concerning emergence. An appeal was made to Mary Hesse's ground-breaking work on the role of images, metaphors, and analogies in scientific models. Another prompt involving images was the growing recognition of the power of image in mathematics even within its highly abstract, algebraic/notational forms, for example, Grosszholt's point about an image's "graphic suggestiveness" stemming from its rich linkages and ambiguities. It might be thought that ambiguity would be something to avoid but in this context ambiguity can supply a requisite conceptual flexibility and multi-directionality in order to better comprehend a difficult subject. And, for Hesse an imagistic model contains "a haze of mathematical and physical associations...some of which will be misleading and some of which will be useful for further process." Moreover, imagery can aid in melding intuition with formalization, a way to bring in what Hesse expressed as the non-logical along with the logical ("nonlogical" is not equivalent to "a-logical", "il-logical", or "anti-logical"; accordingly it is neither anti-conceptual nor a way of dumbing down abstruse concepts).

Similarly, in their recent book on thinking, Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuelle Sanger (2013) shed light on the crucial role of analogies, many of which are imagi- nal, in thinking and, particularly, in scientific and mathematical theorizing. A classic case is the well-known use of analogy in Einstein's gedanken experiments. Similarly the computer scientist and pioneer in computational emergence, John Holland (1998)has called attention to how the great physicist James Clerk Maxwell held that a scientific investigation can proceed more successfully by a clear physical picture in order to avoid being led astray by a previous theoretical commitment or by getting bogged down in "analytical subtleties". Holland points out that Maxwell's basic image of a fluid helped him come-up with apt equations for electromagnetism, the gears and vortices operating within the medium of this imaginary fluid with its imaginary properties.

The philosopher Alicia Juarrero (nee Roque, 1988) has offered an edifying image of the basic assumptions on which the reductionistic deductive-nomonological mode of explanation (D-M) rests. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.