Emergence and epiphenomena (2)

Salinas17 at aol.com Salinas17 at aol.com
Wed Mar 1 14:42:15 UTC 2006

In a message dated 3/1/06 4:54:13 AM, oesten at ling.su.se writes:
<< It seems to me that Dennett has in fact made quite a few observations 
about troublesome concepts of this kind (after all, that’s what he’s paid for, 
being a philosophy professor), but to say that they have been “unappreciated” 
would certainly be rather misleading. >>

Hey, it wasn't me who said Dennett was unappreciated, it was Dennett -- in 
the very quote you used:  "although I have pointed this out time and again, no 
one seems to care."
I was just pointing out that there's plenty of opportunity in the 
terminological jungles out there for Dennett to feel even more unappreciated.  It might 
start with evolutionists who try to "reduce" evolution to an "algorithm" -- 
wink, wink.

<<In my book, I point out that although “emergence” was originally used in 
an anti-reductionist spirit, later uses in linguistics of “emergence” and 
“epiphenomenon” reveal a reductionist attitude.>>

There's a word that needs some disciplined defining -- reductionism.  Does it 
just mean "opprobrium" or something like that?  Copernicus, Newton and Darwin 
were all reductionists.  I wonder why a reductionist attitude is always a bad 
thing to have?

I'd argue that Lewes use of "emergence" did have a definite "reducing" 
intent.  He was aiming for a coherent explanation of the body-mind duality problem, 
and emergence was a way of explaining how body and mind could be seen as parts 
of a single entity.

And later, C. Lloyd Morgan, in his "Emergent Evolution" (1923), was to some de
gree countering the creationist argument that Darwinian evolution could not 
account for new forms, only "the re-grouping of pre-existing events."  In this 
sense, emergence was used to "reduce" alledgedly unexplainable novelty to a 
scientific principle.

Steve Long

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