Reply To: Emergence is a conceptual phenomenon, not physical

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    Posting for vandermude

    I watched the video before I posted. I will re-read the relevant pages.

    These comments originally arose from a careful reading of Terry Deacon’s Incomplete Nature and the article in Zygon, which I quoted in the original post.

    So you might see that I have covered what you are getting at already in my previous post.

    “We are now poised to introduce a key concept, emergence, that we will encounter on many occasions throughout this book. Stable chemical relationships between materials often generate what are called emergent properties – “something else from nothing but.” A water molecule is nothing but an oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms bonded in a V-shaped configuration, but when many such molecules are frozen, they form an open lattice with the emergent property called buoyancy – ice floats. A crystalized mineral displays the emergent property called its hardness; materials that foster the flow of chemical reactions possess the property called catalytic potential. ”

    “We can now consider the autogen in the context of emergence. Each of the soup molecules, and each of the catalysts, and each of the capsid subunits, is nothing but atoms-bonded-together, but their interactions generate something else – the emergence of distinctive molecular shapes that allow the cycle to run and the capsid to assemble.”

    “In addition to these shape-based emergent properties, the autogen also displays what are called emergent dynamics. Autocatalysis and capsid assembly are dynamic in that they are causally connected over time — one thing leads to the next to the next. In these cases, the molecular shapes serve as the nothing-buts. It is the dynamics – the operation of the cycle, the construction of the capsid — that are emergent.”

    “Autogens and subsequent lifeforms are not just any chemistry. They are highly constrained chemistry, chemistry restricted to the regenerative interactions that keep them alive. The law of entropy describes what happens in the absence of constraint – a drift into random homogeneity. In lifeforms, constraints are generated by favored shape-shape and catalyzed interactions that progressively reduce possible alternatives and hence render some paths increasingly probable. By constraining material interactions via emergent dynamics, lifeforms generate both order and potential novelty.”

    You are claiming emergence is real. Like swim bladders. A way I think of it is like the chair I am sitting in, which is actually a quantum mechanical cloud of electrodynamical forces. Or like a cube of ice. You can pick them up and hold them.

    My point goes deeper:

    What is meant by “real”?

    I am not denying that emergent properties such as ice, such as a swim bladder are real. We both agree on that. What I am getting at is the nature of reality. To get technical, I am a substance monist, like most naturalists are (it’s in the name), but I am a property dualist.

    To reduce things to real objects, like this description of an autogen as emergent in effect ignores the importance of information and the existence of abstract objects – ideas, if you will.

    Where do ideas come from? What is their nature?

    My published work in this field is entitled “Causally Active Metaphysical Realism”. I am making the case that ideas are not an epiphenomenon that is kind of an illusion that comes out of reality and is contingent on it. Instead, I am saying that ideas help cause reality down to the Quantum Mechanical level.

    In this view of reality, emergence is real, but it is a way of thinking about the world. This is a form of reality just as real as a water molecule is. Actually, it is at the same level, since a water molecule is an abstract idea too. What is does is make the distinction between reality and your conception of reality.

    I would suggest you read my Medium essay that summarizes this:

    “Hylomorphic Functions: Is Consciousness Quantized?”

    Then you can see why I am making the case that emergence is very real but it is real on the conceptual level. It is the adjective (the concept) that modifies the noun reality (the real world).

    Once we both understand where we are coming from, then we can have a useful discussion.

    The reason I am making this distinction is this: I want to get away from a reductive materialism, as do you. This is important in Religious Naturalism, otherwise all we have is a bare Naturalism. But I do not think it is helpful to postulate emergent objects as if they exist in reality. That still leaves us with a bare materialism. It does not account for ideas. Considering emergence as being part of the conceptual basis of reality leads to a better functioning and more realistic concept of reality.