New Work for a Theory of Emergence

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Thornburg, M. Hayden
conference paper description
Many discussions of emergence focus on the putatively irreducible causal powers of emergents. I argue that the question of whether emergents are irreducible causes should be postponed in favor of the question of whether emergents are natural. David Lewis contends that scientifically interesting properties are natural: they account for resemblances and distinguish causally relevant and irrelevant properties. I consider bimanual coordination, as described by the HKB model, as an example of natural emergence. I conclude that emergent properties are those that systemic processes have when they exhibit “instability” and argue that instability is the natural property that unites these processes.