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Aggregativity: Reductive Heuristics for Finding Emergence

William C. Wimsatt
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 64, Supplement. Proceedings of the 1996 Biennial Meetings of the Philosophy of Science Association. Part II: Symposia Papers (Dec., 1997), pp. S372-S384
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/188418
Page Count: 13
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Aggregativity: Reductive Heuristics for Finding Emergence
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Abstract

Most philosophical accounts of emergence are incompatible with reduction. Most scientists regard a system property as emergent relative to properties of the system's parts if it depends upon their mode of organization--a view consistent with reduction. Emergence can be analyzed as a failure of aggregativity--a state in which "the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts." Aggregativity requires four conditions, giving tools for analyzing modes of organization. Differently met for different decompositions of the system, and in different degrees, these conditions provide powerful evaluation criteria for choosing decompositions, and heuristics for detecting biases of vulgar reductionisms. This analysis of emergence is compatible with reduction.

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