• Don Wade
    185
    According to some sources life appears to be an emergent property: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence . My question to the Philosophy Forum is: Can reality itself also be considered an emergent property?
  • tim wood
    7.3k
    From the siTe referenced: "emergence occurs when an entity is observed to have properties its parts do not have on their own, properties or behaviors which emerge only when the parts interact in a wider whole."

    But reality would seem to be always already a whole in itself, therefore not emergent. Perception of reality a whole other topic; in as much as having itself properties its constituting parts do not have, then always already necessarily emergent. Hmm.
  • Don Wade
    185
    You're right. Perception of reality is often just spoken of as reality, but thinking about it I believe you're closer to being right.
  • tim wood
    7.3k
    You may care to make the acquaintance of the philosopher's friend, Herr Immanuel Kant. Not easy, but for life.
    As a first recommendation, the two prefaces to his CPR (Critique of Pure Reason).
  • Don Wade
    185
    Thanks for the note.
  • Banno
    13.5k
    Why start folk off on stuff that is wrong?
  • tim wood
    7.3k
    Wrong how? Sooner or later and imo better sooner. and the two prefaces introductory without being killer.
  • Gary Enfield
    142
    The core idea of 'emergence' is that something like the 'underlying stuff of existence' (Matter/Energy) comes from something else. That 'Cosmological Argument' is founded on a belief in strict causality.

    As mentioned elsewhere, the 'emergence' argument either suggests that there is something other than Matter/Energy propping up reality, or that there is true spontaneity and randomness which might allow existence to emerge without a prior cause. If there was only Matter/Energy, reality cannot be 'emergent' by the normal definition.

    The only scientist that I have read who advocated a true spontaneous start to existence was Steven Hawking. All other published scientists seemingly believe in an eternal existence that is evolving within Matter/Energy over time.

    Biblically (and indeed in other religions) the suggestion was that either God shaped an eternal chaos and changed it into the substance that we know today; or he produced reality out of nothing but his thoughts/will. That would either imply a spontaneous start, or potentially one which says that Matter/Energy came from another type of stuff - the stuff of God's thoughts.

    However it is possible to deploy the same argument without resorting to God, by simply saying that more than one type of stuff underpins reality. This is where we see the old philosophies of Dualism and Pluralism kick-in.

    Indeed, if you seriously consider the possibility that another type of stuff exists alongside Matter/Energy, there are some very easy ways to resolve some of science's most challenging issues - eg. like the dual slit experiments incl. the dubious principle of wave particle duality; the loophole free Bell Test experiments; and the whole concept of Entanglement.
  • Paul S
    146

    This is an interesting question for me.

    Just for reference, my understanding of emergence from a philosophical point of view is a new property of something that is not a property of any component of that system, but is still a feature of the system as a whole, or what Hartmann called categorial novum or a new category. Peter Corning's description of emergence being that it has features not previously observed in systems, consists of integrated wholes that maintain themselves over some period of time, evolves and can be perceived builds on this notion.

    So going by that last part "can be perceived" equates to human perception or perception we can at least augment with technology. Time is from a certain reference frame essentially abstract, we perceive the passage of time as humans but from the reference frame of light (photons) there is no time, there is only space. Our universe itself may have emerged form the big bang. It is a classic example of emergence if that is the case. Just going by the definitions alone, out reality is emergent. Time itself may be emergent. The very reference you cited would seem to suggest our reality is emergent.

    There is a paradoxical line of thought here though in my view. We emerge from the beginning of the universe and yet we define emergence from our very own admittedly? emergent nature. In essence, emergence is a very human concept, because we can perceive what we call emergence, and that the universe itself could appear that way to us.

    What is also interesting is that as we go further back to the origin, we see that our emergence is essentially a fluke. Our reality as we perceive it is more akin to rare once off mutation spawned from something possibly beyond time itself.

    You can get a grasp of the bizarre set of circumstances that led to our reality from this link:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_universe#Examples

    For example, Q, the ratio of the gravitational energy required to pull a large galaxy apart to the energy equivalent of its mass, is around 10ˆ−5. If it is too small, no stars can form. If it is too large, no stars can survive because the universe is too violent.

    Our universe seems to be finely tuned such that the minor tweaking of any of a number of sensitive parameters would mean our existence as we know it would not emerge, at least not in any way we can conceive of really.

    In a nutshell, the set of circumstances leading to our reality is so remote as to be almost impossibly coincidental which leads to its own philosophical musings, namely,

    1) Not only are we rare as sentient beings in the universe but the universe itself in its makeup to allow life to exist, would be incredibly rare.

    2) There is nothing random about it. We are in a simulation so to speak. The parameters were precisely selected in a divine design and we area part of that design, the irony being that the more religious interpretation is that we can think of it as a simulation.

    If you subscribe to 1) you are subscribing to the belief that our reality is indeed emergent in my view.

    2) doesn't negate the emergence per se but might redefine it as designed emergence.
  • Joshs
    1.7k
    Here ya go:

    Edmund Husserl, the founder of modern phenomenological philosophy, attempted to chart a course between realism and idealism by grounding all experience in perception and grounding perception in structures of intentionality in which the subjective and objective aspects(what he called the noetic and noematic poles) are inextricably dependent on each other and inseparable. He was very much influenced in his project by the work of Franz Brentano, but went beyond Brentano's notion of inentionality by abandoning Brrentano's naturalism.

    One of the key aspects of Husserl's approach was his explanation of the origin of spatial objects. Rather than defining an object in terms of its self-subsistence over time with its properties and attributes, he believed such entities to be , not fictions, but idealities. That is to say, what we , in a naive naturalist attitude, point to as this 'real' table in front of us, is the constantly changing product of a process of progressive constitution in consciousness. The real object is in fact an idealization.This process begins at the most primordial level with what he called primal impressions, which we can imagine as the simplest whiffs of sensation(these he calls actual, rather than real. Actual impressions only appear once in time as what they are. When we see something like a table, all that we actually perceive in front of us is an impoverished, contingent partial sense experience.

    We fill in the rest of experience in two ways. Al experience implies a temporal structure of retention, primal impression and protention. Each moment presents us with a new sensation, th4 retained memory of the just preceding sensation and anticipation of what is to come. We retain the memory of previous experiences with the 'same' object and those memories become fused with the current aspect of it. A the same time, we protend forward, anticipating aspects of the object that are not yet there for us, based on prior experience with it. For example, we only see the front of the table, but anticipate as an empty horizon, its sides, and this empty anticipation joins with the current view and the memory of previous views to form a complex fused totality. Perception constantly is motivated , that is tends toward toward the fulfillment of the experience of the object as integrated singularity, as this same' table'.

    Thus , through a process of progress adumbration of partial views, we constitute what we call and object. It must be added that not just the sens of sight, but all other sense modalities can come into play in constituting the object. And most importantly, there is no experience of an object without kineshthetic sensation of our voluntary movement in relation to the thing seen. Intrinsic to what the object means as object is our knowing how its appearance will change when we move our head in a certain way, or our eyes , or when we touch it. The object is what it is for us in relation to the way we know we can change its appearance relative to our interactions with it.

    In sum, what the naive realist calls an external object of perception, Husserl treats as a relative product of constant but regilated changing correlated modes of givenness and adumbrations composed of retentions and protentions. The 'thing' is a tentative , evolving achievement of memory , anticipation and voluntary movement.

    From this vantage, attempting to explain this constituting process in psychophysiological terms by reducing it to the language of naive realism is an attempt to explain the constituting on the basis of the constituted. The synthetic structure of temporal constitution is irreducible to 'physical' terms. On the contrary, it is the 'physicai' that rests on a complex constitutive subjective process that is ignored in the naive attitude.
  • Gregory
    3.6k



    The idea of zero is very interesting because we can play around with ideas of infinite zeros and how many infinite zeros equal a normal number. Just as in math you kinda have to postulate a number that can't be subdivided, so with infinity you can never logically a rule out another higher infinity with an infinity of more members. At what point do the zeros become a proper number? I don't know, nor if you can negate an infinity or zero without it just duplicating. Anyway, the idea of nothing has been a notion that many thinkers throughout time have found meaningful and productive. What is the most fundamental thing that can be a factor in any emergence??
  • jgill
    1.4k
    Here's an example of a (weakly) emergent object called Infinite Brooch.

    Infinite_Brooch.jpg

    The intricate details are largely unpredictable from a process of composing a lengthy set of complex functions in the complex plane. Some think that the only true example of strong emergence is human consciousness. Another area of mathematics yielding emergent objects is cellular automata.

    It seems inappropriate to consider reality as an emergent entity, for several reasons already mentioned. Weak emergence, on the other hand, can be fascinating.
  • 180 Proof
    4.8k
    Can reality itself also be considered an emergent property?Don Wade
    Well, it's reality all the way down ... so not "emergent" (vide Spinoza re: natura naturans or Goodman's irreality).
  • Gregory
    3.6k


    If someone says "I am lying that I am lying that I am lying that..." ( to infinity) we linguistically have negative infinity. Godel showed there are (1) infinite things in math that can be proven and (2) infinite things in math that cannot be proven. So we have many infinities, and to go from nothing to some thing is an infinite jump, but maybe infinite infinities can bridge it. If particles and anti-particles can annihilate each other, do you think we can, instead of thinking of something coming out of nothing, think of it as two things annihilating each over in reverse? This would be the absolute emergence.
  • Don Wade
    185
    There is a paradoxical line of thought here though in my view. We emerge from the beginning of the universe and yet we define emergence from our very own admittedly? emergent nature. In essence, emergence is a very human concept, because we can perceive what we call emergence, and that the universe itself could appear that way to us.

    What is also interesting is that as we go further back to the origin, we see that our emergence is essentially a fluke. Our reality as we perceive it is more akin to rare once off mutation spawned from something possibly beyond time itself.
    Paul S

    Good thinking Paul! You may also want to consider how we perceive anything (visual) to even be able to ask the question of emergence. Even our thoughts about an object are "emergent" within the brain. That kind of thinking can go all the way back to Plato's Cave. Personally, I don't think we've spent enough time in science on the subject of emergence. It still seems too vague for science to have a real interest - which leaves it up to philosophers.
  • Paul S
    146
    Thanks. Philosophy is itself derived from thought and is emergent. Consciousness as we define it can only exist from emergence.
  • Gregory
    3.6k
    That kind of thinking can go all the way back to Plato's CaveDon Wade

    I love that idea. It would be so cool to have asked Plato about brain mechanics and questions brought up by the likes of George Berkeley and others on this issue
  • Rxspence
    53
    My love of computer research was destroyed in the 80's when I realized the algorithms were skewed by
    desired outcomes.
    Seek and you shall find,
    In other words, when a large number of searches are detected, responses are provided.
  • Pantagruel
    1.7k
    I guess the only way this question makes sense is: Are emergent properties more real than the constituent elements of the systems from which they emerge?
  • Don Wade
    185
    The "rabbit-hole" is so deep we can't even see the bottom. We may even be asking the wrong question?

    It seems "all" the great philosophers have taken a shot at a perceived target...but nothing's there. I'm bitting myself in the back of the neck. We're all missing something...what?
  • Pantagruel
    1.7k
    Scheler and others I've read make no bones about the fact that different causal rules apply in different realms. This is also my perspective. However for an emergent whatever to be more real than the constituents from which it emerged, I think it would likewise have to be in some sense therefore independent of those constituents, and i find it hard to believe this could ever be the case. Equally real, but not more real.
  • Don Wade
    185
    Equally real, but not more real.Pantagruel

    After two-thousand years our greatest minds still cannot agree on: "What is real?" I really don't know why we can't even agree on a (simple answer) for a question like that.
  • Pantagruel
    1.7k
    Well, there is the fundamental divide, Buddhists believe that the material world is an illusion, the spiritual real; whereas most of the western world believes the opposite. However, both agree that "something is real." So I guess we all agree that something is real, and what is real is what is important.
  • Corvus
    474
    I feel that there are 3 aspects on reality.

    1. Reality as the preliminary condition for life and things. It must exist prior to all life and all things. Without the reality, nothing else can exist. In that sense, it is the same concept as "The World".

    2. Reality of an individuals in everyday life. What they see, hear, touch and interact with in their own environment. This is equivalent to the material world.

    3. Reality as a concept. When born and in early stage of life, one has no concept of reality. But as one grows and being educated about the world, countries and the planets etc, one get to have a concept of reality. This is evolutionary idea which changes and grows.

    So, no I don't believe that reality is a emerging property. I feel that it is a narrow and awkwardly pigeonholed concept.
  • Nickolasgaspar
    6
    I guess the correct way to describe reality is that, Reality is an abstract concept descriptive of the result produced by many emergent properties of different physical processes. Life is just one of them.
    We as observers identify as reality the world and its functions produced by the emergent properties of matter.
    Now our observations can focus on different scales of this world. That usually confuses us and make us think that only one scale can be the real or absolute reality. I think that it is an unwise approach. Our job as observers should be to understand the structure of reality, identify the causal relations between low level mechanism and high level features and understand how reality emerges in all scales and how it affects our existence.
  • Josh Alfred
    118
    Reality emerges from reality. In the same way that atoms move the body, and the body moves the atoms. To ask, what does reality emerge from other than itself?
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