Complexity and Contextual Emergence

Lecturers: Robert C. Bishop
There is a lengthy philosophical literature on reduction and emergence,and contemporary interest in such topics seems as strong as ever. Likewise, complexity is also a topic of intense interest, reaching almost buzz-word status. Complex phenomena arise in the natural sciences as well as in social systems. They are rich with metaphysical and epistemological implications which are only recently receiving sustained philosophical analysis. Moreover, while reduction and emergence literature interacts with complexity to some degree, there has been too little sustained analysis of how causation or laws in complex systems challenge typical accounts of reduction and emergence. Contextual emergence is a framework allowing for more detailed metaphysical and epistemological analysis of complexity while taking the scientific developments seriously. I will describe contextual emergence, focusing particularly on the importance of contexts and stability conditions, and illustrate it using some physical examples. Then, I will extract some lessons for further philosophical reflection on top-down constraint and causation relevant for biological and social systems.


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