Towards a theory of emergence for the physical sciences

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (3):1-52 (2019)
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Abstract

I begin to develop a framework for emergence in the physical sciences. Namely, I propose to explicate ontological emergence in terms of the notion of ‘novel reference’, and of an account of interpretation as a map from theory to world. I then construe ontological emergence as the “failure of the interpretation to mesh” with an appropriate linkage map between theories. Ontological emergence can obtain between theories that have the same extension but different intensions, and between theories that have both different extensions and intensions. I illustrate the framework in three examples: the emergence of spontaneous magnetisation in a ferromagnet, the emergence of masslessness, and the emergence of space, in specific models of physics. The account explains why ontological emergence is independent of reduction: namely, because emergence is primarily concerned with adequate interpretation, while the sense of reduction that is relevant here is concerned with inter-theoretic relations between uninterpreted theories.

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