The Causal Closure of Physics in Real World Contexts

Foundations of Physics 50 (10):1057-1097 (2020)
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Abstract

The causal closure of physics is usually discussed in a context free way. Here I discuss it in the context of engineering systems and biology, where strong emergence takes place due to a combination of upwards emergence and downwards causation. Firstly, I show that causal closure is strictly limited in terms of spatial interactions because these are cases that are of necessity strongly interacting with the environment. Effective Spatial Closure holds ceteris parabus, and can be violated by Black Swan Events. Secondly, I show that causal closure in the hierarchy of emergence is a strictly interlevel affair, and in the cases of engineering and biology encompasses all levels from the social level to the particle physics level. However Effective Causal Closure can usefully be defined for a restricted set of levels, and one can experimentally determine Effective Theories that hold at each level. This does not however imply those effective theories are causally complete by themselves. In particular, the particle physics level is not causally complete by itself in the contexts of solid state physics, digital computers, or biology. Furthermore Inextricably Intertwined Levels occur in all these contexts.

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Author's Profile

George Ellis
Cambridge University (PhD)

Citations of this work

Mind Causality : A Computational Neuroscience Approach.Edmund T. Rolls - forthcoming - Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience.
Emergence in Solid State Physics and Biology.George F. R. Ellis - 2020 - Foundations of Physics 50 (10):1098-1139.

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