Interactivist Summer Institute
July 22 - 26, 2003
Supervenience and Emergence
The panel on Supervenience and Emergence examines a number of critically controversial aspects of the concept of supervenience vis-à-vis the prospects for the explanation of nonphysical phenomena, typically mental phenomena, within or compatible with physicalism. Johanna Seibt sketches Free Process Theory (FPT), a new ontology of dynamic individuals, and shows how the mereological framework FPT may be used to formulate various types of emergence (non-additive complex processes). Richard Campbell inquires into the meaning of the physicalist view that everything in the world is nothing but physical by analysing global and micro-reductionist forms of supervenience. He argues that supervenience is more adequately expressed in an ontology that admits genuine emergence and the denial of micro-reduction requires an ontology that gives priority to the relational characteristics of fields in process. Stuart Silvers analyses the explanatory vices and virtues of global and local supervenience relations, specifically with respect to the physicalist hypothesis of the causal efficacy of consciousness. He then considers the implications of the failure of physicalist accounts of the role of consciousness in the production of intentionally driven behavior.
Supervenience, Physicalism, and Emergence
Australian National University
Physicalists appeal to supervenience as a way of expressing their view that everything in the world is nothing but physical. But what does this mean? In general, the accounts offered of supervenience follow one of two routes: either some global definition, or some form of micro-reduction. Both are inadequate. I will consider each in turn, and then argue a) that the germ of truth in the idea of supervenience is more adequately expressed in an ontology that admits genuine emergence; and b) the denial of micro-reduction requires an ontology that gives priority to the relational characteristics of fields in process.
Ontological requirements of emergence
University of Aarhus
Since ontology is no longer a theory of the structures of 'reality-in-itself, the current debate about whether emergence is an epistemological or ontological relationship is partly misguided.' Once we understand ontology in its common post-Kantian fashion as a "theory of truth-makers," i.e. as a theory of the model domain for a set of statements, examples of ontological emergence abound. The project of modeling statements of emergence, however, drives ontology to the edge of its 'normal science' stage and perhaps beyond. For the modeling of emergent phenomena requires rather profound changes in the presuppositional depth structure of ontological research. An ontology for emergent phenomena must dispense with the most central classical ideas about individuals: it must allow for individuals which are (a) not 'ultimately determinate' but come in different degrees of specificity; (b) not 'independent' but have contextually defined identity conditions; and (c) extended in time. Only in such ontology dynamic configurations can be assigned a causal role (Bickhard/Campbell 2000). I shall sketch Free Process Theory (FPT), a new ontology of dynamic individuals, and show how the mereological framework FPT may be used to formulate various types of emergence (non-additive complex processes).
Supervenience, Consciousness, and Epiphenomenal Engines
The concept of supervenience was (once) touted (by physicalists) to enable a physicalist explanation of consciousness and thus fulfill the project of naturalizing the mind. The explanation of consciousness and the naturalization project have, however, proven to be stubbornly resistant to physicalists efforts. The impasse has contributed to renewed interest in epiphenomenalism (some of which interest has been tracked in N_rretranders book, The User Illusion). Here I look in particular at the failure of supervenience to anchor the claim of the causal efficacy of consciousness and consider some implications for the mind as an epiphenomenal engine.
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