Materialism and Emergentism

At Uncommon Descent, Elizabeth mentioned that she liked what I was calling “emergentism”. Here’s a brief overview, in contrast with dualism and materialism, that perhaps will spark some discussion.

(1) Dualism gives us The Bifurcated World: the world consists of two fundamentally different kinds of substance (mind and matter), each of which is characterized by an essential property (mental and physical), and is constituted by logically and metaphysically distinct substantial particulars (minds and bodies). Nothing is essentially both physical and mental, although some things may exist as temporary unions of mind and body. (How logically and metaphysically distinct things can causally interact (or even appear) to causally interact is a serious problem.)

(2) Materialism gives us The Layered World: the world consists of a series of “levels”, each of which hierarchically imposed on the others, and each level supervenes on the level below it. Mental facts –> biological facts –> chemical facts –> molecular, atomic, and quantum facts. (A major problem with this view is that each ‘level’ has its own conceptual, ontological, and causal integrity — whereas some philosophers hold that biology is irreducible to chemistry for merely epistemological and methodological reasons, I hold the stronger view that biology is irreducible to chemistry for ontological (or metaphysical) reasons.)

(3) Emergentism gives us the Dynamic World: the world consists of processes that are inherently active and reactive, energetic, and operating at all ‘scales’ of temporal and spatial resolution — some processes are vast and slow, others small and fast, and many in-between. Some of these processes are merely physico-chemical, some are biological, and some are mental. The basic elements in this ontology are processes, not substances (as in dualism) or even particles (as in materialism).

As I see it, the frequently-heard allegation (made by dualists and theists) that emergentism is an intellectual fraud depends on whether there is a difference that makes a difference between emergence and supervenience.

42 thoughts on “Materialism and Emergentism

  1. As I have mentioned before, complex systems are immersed in an energy bath and a larger environment.

    It is not simply a matter of more and more elementary particles or atoms and molecules sticking together; those systems contain kinetic energy by being immersed those heat baths and in a larger environment.

    Thus, many of the emergent properties of condensed matter depend on temperature and interactions with a larger environment. There are energy and concentration gradients as well electromagnetic and gravitational field gradients that drive the flow of energy and materials through these systems.

    Indeed, energetics has a lot to do with the emergent properties and behaviors of condensed matter.

  2. What is a “process” in this view, then? That is, how would a putative “process” be distinguished from a “non-process”?

    As for “some philosophers hold that biology is irreducible to chemistry for merely epistemological and methodological reasons” — meh. “Some philosophers…” doesn’t get one anywhere, does it?

    Can you summarize your reasons for thinking biology is not reducible to chemistry (and by extension, fundamental physics)? That’s the key for judging your position, here.

    OnEdit: “summarize”

  3. eigenstate:
    What is a “process” in this view, then? That is, how would a putative “process” be distinguished from a “non-process”?

    As a metaphysical thesis, emergentism holds that everything real is processual (processive?) — so non-processes are “ideal,” abstractions. As a preliminary characterization, a process is something that has spatio-temporal “spread” and also a “unity” across that “spread.”

    As for “some philosophers hold that biology is irreducible to chemistry for merely epistemological and methodological reasons” — meh. “Some philosophers…” doesn’t get one anywhere, does it?

    Depends — being a philosopher myself, that get somewhere with me. 🙂
    Do you want specific people and views cited?

    Can you summarize your reasons for thinking biology is not reducible to chemistry (and by extension, fundamental physics)? That’s the key for judging your position, here.

    My chief reason for thinking this is that I see teleological descriptions as playing an ineliminable role in explanations of biological phenomena, whereas teleology is absent from physical and chemical phenomena. While purposiveness is certainly constrained by thermodynamics, I don’t see much hope for predicting purposiveness on the basis of thermodynamics alone. And I don’t see much hope for “reducing” organisms to molecules, even though of course they are composed of molecules.

    Briefly put, emergentism holds that material constitution doesn’t secure ontological identity. Just because an organism is composed of molecules, it doesn’t follow that an organism is a composition of molecules, because how those molecules are organized, and the precise balance of matter/energy exchange with the environment, make the organism an ontologically different kind of thing than the molecules that compose it.

  4. KN,

    My chief reason for thinking this is that I see teleological descriptions as playing an ineliminable role in explanations of biological phenomena, whereas teleology is absent from physical and chemical phenomena.

    That argument only works if supervenience doesn’t suffice. Do you think there is anything about the future state of an organism that doesn’t depend on its constituent particles and the way they physically interact with each other and the environment? If so, can you supply an example?

    As I see it, the frequently-heard allegation (made by dualists and theists) that emergentism is an intellectual fraud depends on whether there is a difference that makes a difference between emergence and supervenience.

    The complaint I usually hear is that merely labeling a phenomenon as ’emergent’ doesn’t explain it. I agree, but ’emergence’ is still a useful term for what happens when lower-level laws produce unexpected or surprising behavior at a higher level.

  5. Kantian Naturalist,

    While purposiveness is certainly constrained by thermodynamics, I don’t see much hope for predicting purposiveness on the basis of thermodynamics alone. And I don’t see much hope for “reducing” organisms to molecules, even though of course they are composed of molecules.

    I can’t make any sense out of this. Philosophers apparently think thermodynamics is something different from what physicists think it is.

    And physicists don’t “reduce” complex systems to their constituents. That thinking went out in the late 19th century. The behaviors of complex systems are not “reducible” to the properties and behaviors of their constituents.

  6. keiths: Do you think there is anything about the future state of an organism that doesn’t depend on its constituent particles and the way they physically interact with each other and the environment?

    Which constituent particles?

    Most of the “constituent” particles will be gone within a few months, replaced by other particles. So are the particles really constitutive of the organism?

  7. Kantian Naturalist: As a metaphysical thesis, emergentism holds that everything real is processual (processive?) — so non-processes are “ideal,” abstractions.As a preliminary characterization, a process is something that has spatio-temporal “spread” and also a “unity” across that “spread.”

    OK, so is a molecule a “process”, then? How about “walking”? Is walking a “process”? I think practical examples will have the best chance of teaching me what you are thinking.

    Depends — being a philosopher myself, that get somewhere with me. :)
    Do you want specific people and views cited?

    No. You know the old saw — ‘Science is the horse that pulls the cart of philosophy’. I’m trying to figure out how emergentism might be scientifically articulated, or more loosely, “applied philosophy”.

    This is a confusing subject, as I’m used to using “strong emergence”
    and “weak emergence” as popularized by Chalmers and others. But to my understanding, there is no ontological distinctions being made here, just epistemic classifications that group deducible/calculable effects (“weak”) apart from opaque effects which we are at a loss to to calculate/predict from lower level machinery. Chalmers, IIRC, only can think of one candidate for “strong emergence” — consciousness.

    One conclusion from the identification of a really hard question of emergence is, of course, identifying ontic differences that arise from composition. But that seems to be both unparsimonious and historically naïve in contrast to the humble understanding that any “strong” emergence is a reflection of our epistemic position; it’s a really hard and complex dynamic to calculate.

    My chief reason for thinking this is that I see teleological descriptions as playing an ineliminable role in explanations of biological phenomena, whereas teleology is absent from physical and chemical phenomena.While purposiveness is certainly constrained by thermodynamics, I don’t see much hope for predicting purposiveness on the basis of thermodynamics alone.And I don’t see much hope for “reducing” organisms to molecules, even though of course they are composed of molecules.

    This sounds like the philosophical ditch freshman routinely fall into when they have not understood levels of description — the “humans can’t be just ‘molecules in motion’!” reflex. I’ve read enough of your posts to know you’re no beginner in this, but as it’s stated, this looks like confusion over levels of description. A human isn’t ‘just molecules” — molecules are just “bricks” — it’s the structure and organization of the components that makes the organism… “organismic”.

    In any case, abstract assertions on either side won’t get things progressing. What’s an example of a “teleogical description” in biology that cannot, in principle, be modeled (and by extension, reified in the natural world) without telic terminology?

    It’s difficult for humans to discuss anything without invoking telic terms, whether there is teleology at work in the objects being referenced or not. And here there is significant risk of philosophers and others becoming ‘bewitched by language’ as Wittgenstein would have put it. That is why we put a premium on frameworks and models — it mitigates the ‘bewitching factor’.

    Briefly put, emergentism holds that material constitution doesn’t secure ontological identity. Just because an organism is composed of molecules, it doesn’t follow that an organism is a composition of molecules, because how those molecules are organized, and the precise balance of matter/energy exchange with the environment, make the organism an ontologically different kind of thing than the molecules that compose it.

    Hmmm. As you’ve articulated it here, you’ve not distinguished your emergentism from reductive materialism. That is, your garden variety materialist will agree with your paragraph, here: a human is made up of molecules (which, in turn, are made up of atoms, etc.), but a human isn’t molecules. The configuration is the key.

    Let’s get some agreement on a basic example – the wetness of water. I would say “wetness” is an emergent characteristic of water. Examine the physics of hydrogen and oxygen atoms as best we can, and no calculation for “wetness” obtains (at least so far as I’m aware). And beyond just the effective properties of H20 as single molecule, “wetness” obtains in the aggregation of water molecules.

    I don’t suppose you’d suggest “wetness” as one of your irreducibly telic descriptions, but that’s why I bring this example up. Is water ontologically special somehow in your view if “wetness” evades any deducing or calculation from our knowledge of the physics of oxygen and hydrogen? “Wetness” is an informal term, of course, so by that I’m referring to the physical dynamics we point to with that term, which I’m sure have a much more complicated and technical description.

    Getting some clarity on this question will provide a good lens on your emergentism, I suspect, or will at least be a good stepping stone to a clearer understanding of what you are advancing, here.

  8. eigenstate,

    I don’t suppose you’d suggest “wetness” as one of your irreducibly telic descriptions, but that’s why I bring this example up. Is water ontologically special somehow in your view if “wetness” evades any deducing or calculation from our knowledge of the physics of oxygen and hydrogen? “Wetness” is an informal term, of course, so by that I’m referring to the physical dynamics we point to with that term, which I’m sure have a much more complicated and technical description.

    An excellent example!

    This raises the issue I specifically mentioned; namely that emergent properties and behaviors also depend on interactions with the environment.

    Wetness is a perfect example. It is temperature dependent and it also depends on the material with which the water is “in contact.” Water doesn’t “wet” wax, for example.

    You cannot leave out the environments and the energy windows in which complex systems exist. Wetness is a property that emerges in conjunction with the emergent properties of the system and its environment.

    This is an example of just how quickly, how complex, and how unpredictable emergent phenomena are and to which systems they are to be attributed.

  9. Neil,

    Your question is more about the philosophy of naming than it is about emergence.

    My question to KN could be rephrased thus:

    Draw a boundary. Everything inside the boundary will henceforth be referred to as “the organism”. Allow the organism to exchange energy and matter with the environment. Do you think there is anything about the future state of the organism that doesn’t depend on its constituent particles and the way they physically interact with each other and the environment?

  10. Mike,

    And physicists don’t “reduce” complex systems to their constituents. That thinking went out in the late 19th century.

    Reductionism is alive and well in science. Thriving, even.

    Don’t assume that your personal rejection of reductionism reflects the consensus view.

    Sean Carroll, for example, is a reductionist, and he nicely explains why reductionism makes sense:

    The reductionist paradigm is of course heavily resisted in certain quarters. Emergentists like to argue that “more is different,” and that truly novel behaviors emerge at the higher levels. All the argument then becomes about what is meant by “truly novel.” Do you mean “you never would have guessed these behaviors, just by thinking in terms of lower levels”? If so, most reductionists would readily agree. But if you mean “these behaviors are truly independent from what goes on at the lower levels,” then they would not. It is not even really clear what that would mean.

  11. KN,

    Briefly put, emergentism holds that material constitution doesn’t secure ontological identity. Just because an organism is composed of molecules, it doesn’t follow that an organism is a composition of molecules, because how those molecules are organized, and the precise balance of matter/energy exchange with the environment, make the organism an ontologically different kind of thing than the molecules that compose it.

    I don’t know of a single materialist who would disagree. A pile of parts on the tarmac is not the same thing as an airplane.

  12. eigenstate,

    This is a confusing subject, as I’m used to using “strong emergence” and “weak emergence” as popularized by Chalmers and others. But to my understanding, there is no ontological distinctions being made here, just epistemic classifications that group deducible/calculable effects (“weak”) apart from opaque effects which we are at a loss to to calculate/predict from lower level machinery.

    It’s more than that. Strongly emergent phenomena aren’t deducible even in principle from lower levels.

    Reductionism comports with weak emergence, but not with strong.

  13. Interesting, hadn’t thought about the temperature or the contact surface aspects… I will be interested to see what KN’s take is on this.

  14. Neil,

    I didn’t say anything about fixing the boundary. Use your common sense and allow the boundary to move with the body.

    And again, you’re missing the point. This thread isn’t about the philosophy of naming, it’s about materialism and emergence.

  15. Mike,

    I still don’t get why you think any of that isn’t predictable, in principle, from the physics of the interacting molecules.

  16. If you require a reductionist account of common sense in order to use common sense, then you don’t have common sense.

  17. Dualism — Bifurcated World
    Materialism — Layered World
    Emergentism — Dynamic World

    In KN’s approach, “the world consists of processes.” How is this different or similar to process philosophy? Is ’emergentism’ a process ideology, through which there can be no ‘origins’ (i.e. alternative to processes), just eternal emergence, never-beginning or never-ending ‘change,’ impossible stasis or trans-process duration?

    “The basic elements in this ontology are processes, not substances (as in dualism) or even particles (as in materialism).”

    There are other concepts/percepts with which to oppose or contrast ‘processes’ than *only* substances or particles. I wonder if KN keeps open this possibility too.

    “I hold the stronger view that biology is irreducible to chemistry for ontological (or metaphysical) reasons.”

    That’s not hard to agree with.

    What does KN mean by ‘naturalistic ontology (or metaphysics),’ if that is a position he is espousing? Somehow the ‘natural’ is equivalent with ‘real’ or ‘after the physics.’ But then is this distinction between natural and physical simply giving priority to ‘naturalism’ as a universal ideology? Iow, what is not ‘natural’ in KN’s worldview?

    More broadly asked to others in the thread: Is there anything not ‘natural’ in the universe according to ‘naturalism’ or ‘irreducible’ according to ‘reductionism’?

  18. As others have noted, KN’s characterization of “emergentism” is for the most part consistent with materialism in the broad sense. It doesn’t even contradict the supervenience thesis that KN ascribes to materialism in his (2), which is also the weakest form of reductionism.

    Where KN wants to draw the line is ontology, and I think that’s the wrong way to go. The question being answered is “What is the world made of?” That question presupposes that there is some fundamental “stuff” from which the world is composed – matter, mind, matter+mind, process, etc. That everything rests on ontology and ontology answers the most important questions. This is traditional thinking, but I think it is wrong-headed. And science has moved away from it since quite a while ago.

    Asserting this or that fundamental ontology doesn’t really tell us much about the world. The question we really want to answer is not “What?” but “How?” Ontology then becomes part of the language that we use to answer the “How?” question. And it is not even invariant under redescription.

  19. SophistiCat:
    As others have noted, KN’s characterization of “emergentism” is for the most part consistent with materialism in the broad sense. It doesn’t even contradict the supervenience thesis that KN ascribes to materialism in his (2), which is also the weakest form of reductionism.

    Where KN wants to draw the line is ontology, and I think that’s the wrong way to go. The question being answered is “What is the world made of?” That question presupposes that there is some fundamental “stuff” from which the world is composed – matter, mind, matter+mind, process, etc. That everything rests on ontology and ontology answers the most important questions. This is traditional thinking, but I think it is wrong-headed. And science has moved away from it since quite a while ago.

    Asserting this or that fundamental ontology doesn’t really tell us much about the world. The question we really want to answer is not “What?” but “How?” Ontology then becomes part of the language that we use to answer the “How?” question. And it is not even invariant under redescription.

    I’ll respond to the best of my abilities to your excellent questions and objections later on, but I wanted to chime in right here about how I see the relation between science and metaphysics.

    Briefly put, science tells us what is, and metaphysics tells us what ‘what is’ is.

    In other words, metaphysics isn’t about what particular things there are (or aren’t), but about the categories we employ in talking about the particular things that are. And of course that’s as fallible and revisable as science itself.

    In presenting a metaphysics of emergence, my aim was to indicate a scientific metaphysics, or the metaphysics that science needs in order to be fully aware of itself — not to abrogate to metaphysics the task of first-order inquiry into the world. While I do admire metaphysics and take it seriously, I do not conceive of it as a “first philosophy”, as more fundamental or more deeply grounded than empirical inquiry, or whatever. So I would appreciate your criticisms and chastisement if you see me slipping into a more ‘traditional’ conception of the science/metaphysics relationship.

  20. keiths:

    Mike,

    Reductionism is alive and well in science. Thriving, even.

    Don’t assume that your personal rejection of reductionism reflects the consensus view.

    Sean Carroll, for example, is a reductionist, and he nicely explains why reductionism makes sense:

    Sean Carroll is suggesting another term; “parallelism.”

    I know enough about Carroll not to call him an advocate of “reductionism.” I have his technical writings as well as his popular writings.

    All these “isms” have become tribal labels that shut off thinking.

    I would not introduce another tribal school called “parallelism.” Instead, I highly recommend thinking not only in terms of hierarchies of complexity and the emergence of properties and behaviors; but also to become alert to where causes and effects lie. They don’t always lie in a level below or above; they can come from within a level. Sometimes what we call a “level” is something of our own concoction that we use to try to explain what we observe.

    Even more importantly, one must try to become conscious of the psychological effects of the models and theories one is using to describe phenomena. For example, some theoretical ways of thinking gain efficiency from teleological language; but they run the risk of anthropomorphizing what one is attempting to describe.

    The problem with “reductionism” – or any other of these “isms” for that matter – is that it constrains one’s thinking about things. I also don’t like the term “emergentism.” I and nearly all of my colleagues don’t use these terms and are highly suspicious of them.

  21. Mike,

    Sean Carroll is suggesting another term; “parallelism.”

    Yes, but not because he disagrees with reductionism. He just thinks that the name misleads people into thinking that the lower levels are somehow the “real” levels while the higher levels are illusory. They’re not.

    He quotes Jerry Fodor as an example of that sort of mistaken reaction to reductionism:

    If it isn’t literally true that my wanting is causally responsible for my reaching, and my itching is causally responsible for my scratching, and my believing is causally responsible for my saying… if none of that is literally true, then practically everything I believe about anything is false and it’s the end of the world.

    What Fodor is missing (along with William J Murray, as we’re all painfully aware), is that the truth of a lower-level description does not negate the truth of a corresponding higher-level description.

    The description “I wanted ice cream, so I bought some and ate it” does not clash with the description “My brain went through a series of states, interacting with the my body and the environment, with the result that some time later there were milk proteins in my stomach.”

    And neither of those clashes with “a large number of particles went through a stupendously complex sequence of interactions and ended up in a different state.”

    All these “isms” have become tribal labels that shut off thinking…The problem with “reductionism” – or any other of these “isms” for that matter – is that it constrains one’s thinking about things.

    Only if one overly identifies with an “ism”. That is not an inevitable result, however.

    I see “reductionism” not as a tribal shibboleth but rather as a convenient shorthand for a set of ideas. I am a reductionist simply because I believe those ideas are true. Tribal loyalties will not stop me from ditching reductionism the moment I become persuaded that it is false.

  22. What Fodor is missing (along with William J Murray, as we’re all painfully aware), is that the truth of a lower-level description does not negate the truth of a corresponding higher-level description.

    It doesn’t necessarily negate it; however, if the two descriptions involve fundamentally contradictory meaning, then if the lower-level description is true, it necessarily negates the truth of the higher-level description under reductionism. Which is why idealists rightly consider compatibalist free will fraudulent.

  23. Kantian ‘Naturalist’ hasn’t addressed any of my questions , even while his ’emergentism’ is heavily under scrutiny by others here as well.

    I’ve personally experienced ’emergentists,’ like James Barham (who is in cohoots with Denyse O’Leary at BestSchools), to be slippery and confused folks when it comes to facts and figures, a philosopher from Catholic Notre Dame who is an atheist as Barham is said to be.

    What exactly ’emerges’ from what? It is a kind of post-neo-evolutionistic ideology, i.e. ’emergentism,’ wherein nothin is stable or static and ‘everything (inevitably) changes’ is the worldview of choice. So uncertain, tentative, unresolved.

    Of course, as with any scholar, I ‘reduce’ things, limit the variables, focus on a narrow set, etc. But as an ideologue, I need not be a ‘reductionist.’ Thus, I don’t understand what keiths is talking about, why he seemingly ‘wants’ to be a reductionist, unless he simply hasn’t had much exposure to ‘ideology’ in the positive sense of logically organising one’s ideas, categorising, etc.

    Why would one, why would anyone not wish to likewise be an ‘elevationist,’ in addition to sometimes being scientifically reductionistic? It is as if philosophy has been forgotten in the Anglo-American tradition. It is as if KN’s so-called ‘naturalism’ cum ’emergentism’ is simply a substitute for believing in something neverchanging, believing in himself vertically instead of horizontally.

  24. Thus, I don’t understand what keiths is talking about, why he seemingly ‘wants’ to be a reductionist, unless he simply hasn’t had much exposure to ‘ideology’ in the positive sense of logically organising one’s ideas, categorising, etc.

    Gregory,

    The incomprehension is mutual. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    I want to be a reductionist because I think reductionism is true. If I thought reductionism were false, then I would no longer want to be a reductionist.

  25. William,

    Yes, an example would help.

    Please explicitly specify the lower-level description, the higher-level description, and the way in which you believe they are “fundamentally contradictory”.

  26. davehooke:
    I think a physicist would say that the basic elements are fields not particles.

    Yes. Everything is wiggly stuff superimposed over other wiggly stuff.

  27. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

    I’m talking about not being a ‘reductionist’ by choice.

    It sounds like you “want to be a reductionist” based on your worldview, not because that is a rational conclusion.

    I’ve offered you a way out with ‘elevationism.’

    You’ve yet to process this idea.

  28. Gregory,

    It sounds like you “want to be a reductionist” based on your worldview, not because that is a rational conclusion.

    You must have missed this:

    I want to be a reductionist because I think reductionism is true. If I thought reductionism were false, then I would no longer want to be a reductionist.

  29. “I think reductionism is true.”

    And do you also think that your personal worldview has *nothing* to do with that statement? If it does have something to do with it, please explain how.

    You seem to think that ‘reductionism’ is what ‘doing science’ means. As an ideology, pure and simple, ‘reductionism’ has its limits and constrains the thoughts and understanding of people who propose it and/or cling to it. For them, ‘irreducibility’ is a nonsense term, while for others, like KN and myself and several others here, that term is meaningfully significant.

    The same would of course be true of elevationism. I am not proposing that everyone should become an elevationist, but simply that elevationism is an appropriate foil to reductionism. It balances ‘reductionism’ from becoming an absurd position that ‘rationalistically’ consumes people.

    And since I’ve already stated “as with any scholar, I ‘reduce’ things, limit the variables, focus on a narrow set, etc.” the burden is now on keiths to explain why one should exaggerate ‘reduction’ into ‘reductionism’ as an ideologue would do and not as a scientist should.

  30. Gregory,

    I too have no idea what you are talking about, nor do I understand your aggressive style. Just as a check, what do you think ‘reductionism’ means for people here (not what you think the word ought to mean)?

  31. What ‘aggressive style’ are you referring to? I’ve been speaking calmly, yet critically, as it seems have most others here.

    I was advised by Elisabeth, and accepted her advice, that there is no singular meaning of ‘people here’ at TSZ given that there are many different views.

    It’s not up to me to define ‘reductionism.’ I’ve already indicated how as a scholar I too ‘reduce’ things. That alone, however, does not qualify me or anyone else as an ideological ‘reductionist.’

    Perhaps we should await Kantian Naturalist’s responses, as he is the one who started the thread and there are several questions to him left unanswered.

  32. Gregory,

    You tend to make your arguments personal, and rather adversarial too.

    But anyway, you didn’t answer the question. You seem to be taking issue with reductionism, but you won’t explain what you think it means, other than saying that you “reduce things.” That is neither here nor there.

    By “people here” I mean people on this thread with whom you are arguing. Kantian Naturalist didn’t actually bring up reductionism in his post, so we don’t need to wait for him.

  33. KN,

    Have you given up on this thread? There are quite a few open questions and points awaiting your response.

  34. “Kantian Naturalist didn’t actually bring up reductionism in his post, so we don’t need to wait for him.” – SophistiCat

    What KN wrote in the OP was: “whereas some philosophers hold that biology is irreducible to chemistry for merely epistemological and methodological reasons, I hold the stronger view that biology is irreducible to chemistry for ontological (or metaphysical) reasons.”

    The inclusion of ‘irreducible’ imo involves a rejection of ‘reductionism.’ And KN’s words on UD support his anti-reductionism stance.

    As far as ‘making arguments personal,’ it is persons who make arguments, and who participate in them, not the arguments themselves. I’m not accusing anyone or being agressive; that is your projection. But yes, adversarial is part of the territory for on-line debates.

    Since I’m neither a materialist, a naturalist, a reductionist or an evolutionist (although, as with this thread explained above, I do ‘reduce’ and likewise accept ‘matter,’ ‘nature’ and ‘evolution,’ all in limited senses, i.e. not universalised), I expect adversary from those persons who claim to be/defend those things. Otherwise, what point in their in discussing things if we all already agree?

    Reductionism qua ideology is an exaggeration of the principle of reduction. It reduces things that are ‘irreducible’ from one thing to another. One could look at it as an alternative to the ‘butterfly effect’ as if a small quantum flutter on one side of the world ’causes’ a big change somewhere else. Saying that consciousness is reducible to brain, i.e. that we can understand consciousness just by studying brain is an example of reductionism. Likewise, as KN says, and with which I agree, suggesting that biology can be reduced to chemistry, for epistemological, methodological or ontological reasons, is another example of reductionism.

    In this thread I have suggested ‘elevation’ as an alternative to ‘reduction.’ KN seems to be suggesting ’emergence,’ which is an interesting, though somewhat mystical (Barham-like) choice. But I haven’t seen any other alternatives offered as constructive options by other participants.

    When someone says “I think reductionism is true,” without giving a good explanation why, then as an ideological non-reductionist (or even pro-irreducibility and anti-reductionist) it is my choice to oppose their view and explain why I oppose it on logos grounds. However, this thread was written by Kantian Naturalist and is focussed on Materialism(, Dualism) and Emergentism. I’ve asked questions to KN that were not answered and agree with keiths July 7 post to KN. Surely others here would like answers also, unless KN doesn’t really stand sustainably behind his ’emergentism’ claims (which do, indeed, SophistiCat, seem to oppose ‘reductionism’). And even if he doesn’t there seems some unfinished business here that I would appreciate KN responding to.

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