Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type




First Advisor

Dr. Robert Rupert


Emergence as a general concept has had an interesting and varied history. In this paper, I critically analyze various emergentist concepts within the context of philosophy of mind. In this portion of the project, I first analyze the history of emergentism, paying great debt to the contributions of a group of philosophers known as the British Emergentists. Building upon their foundation, I then highlight a few concepts of great interest for emergentism as a mind-body theory, and, from there, build a definition of an emergent property. I highlight irreducibility as the main concept for the emergentist. The irreducibility claim for the emergentist is made up of four separate claims: 1) emergent properties supervene on base properties with nomological necessity, but not logical necessity, 2) emergent properties are not reductively explainable in terms of their basal constituents, 3) the laws relating emergent properties with their basal properties are fundamental, irreducible laws, and 4) emergent properties have causal powers of their own and these properties are not reducible to the causal powers of their constituents. Given this definition, I argue that emergentism is something much closer to property dualism as opposed to physicalism. This is a significant result, because it is generally thought that emergentism is one of the paradigmatic examples of a nonreductive physicalist theory. Thus, the emergentist must deal with the same problems as the property dualist, most importantly the problem of mental causation. To highlight this problem, I present Jaegwon Kim’s exclusion argument. From there, I offer a possible solution on behalf of the emergentist, but argue that this solution does not solve the problem. Thus, the emergentist still faces the issue of explaining how an irreducible mental cause can fit into a physical world.