Kim (1999)

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Kim, Jaegwon. (1999) Making sense of emergence. Philosophical Studies 95 (1), 3-36.

Title Making sense of emergence
Resource Type journal article
Author(s) Jaegwon Kim
Year 1999
Journal Philosophical Studies
Volume 95
Number 1
Pages 3-36


It has been about a century and half since the ideas that we now associate with emergentism began taking shape.1 At the core of these ideas was the thought that as systems acquire increasingly higher degrees of organizational complexity they begin to exhibit novel properties that in some sense transcend the properties of their constituent parts, and behave in ways that cannot be predicted on the basis of the laws governing simpler systems. It is now standard to trace the birth of emergentism back to John Stuart Mill and his distinction between “heteropathic” and “homopathic” laws,2 although few of us would be surprised to learn that the same or similar ideas had been entertained by our earlier philosophical forebears.3 Academic philosophers – like Samuel Alexander and C.D. Broad in Britain, A.O. Lovejoy and Roy Wood Sellars in the United States – played an important role in developing the concept of emergence and the attendant doctrines of emergentism, but it is interesting to note that the fundamental idea seems to have had a special appeal to scientists and those outside professional philosophy. These include the British biologist C. Lloyd Morgan, a leading theoretician of the emergentist movement early in this century, and, more recently, the noted neurophysiologist Roger W. Sperry.