Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 E - Emergent

Emergent: Rising out of a surrounding medium.

C.D. Broad used the term emergent in his fine "The Mind And Its Place In Nature" to qualify the type of materialism he was prepared to defend, namely emergent materialism, since for Broad it seemed as if the mental qualia do arise out of a physical substratum, without being fully reducible to that substratum, since mental qualia have properties and relations non-mental things or processes lack.

The word has since been used by many in a more or less similar sense, but the actual process by which new properties and relations arise from a set of things and its context or medium is rarely well explained, and indeed may be quite complicated.

Even so, the notion is sound, if not obviously easily applicable to the relation between mental qualia and the physics and chemistry of brains, since most biological development (from baby to graybeard, from grub to butterfly) seems to involve emergent qualities.

Also, the notion is sound in the elementary sense that it seems quite obvious that thing with parts (that are usually also things) do have some properties the parts do not have. The problem of emergence with regards to qualia or life is how mental qualia or properties characteristic for living things can arise ("emerrge", be produced) from the properties of parts that lack them.


See also: Materialism, Physicalism


Broad, Leibniz

 Original: Aug 27, 2007                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top