Chapter 2EMERGENCE: WHAT DOES IT MEAN AND HOW IS IT RELEVANT TO COMPUTER ENGINEERING?

Wesley J. Wildman1,2 and F. LeRon Shults3

1School of Theology, Boston University, Boston, MA, 02215, USA

2Center for Mind and Culture, Boston, MA, 02215, USA

3Institute for Religion, Philosophy and History, University of Agder, Kristiansand, 4604, Norway

SUMMARY

This chapter begins with a primer on basic philosophical distinctions pertaining to emergence: weak emergence, two types of strong emergence depending on affirmation of supervenience, and several types of reductionism. These distinctions are then related to the mathematics of complex dynamical systems and to the concerns and accomplishments of computer engineers, particularly in the domain of modeling and simulation. We contend that computer engineers are (perhaps unintentionally) effecting a transformation in philosophical disputes about emergence, steadily promoting confidence in theories of weak emergence and undermining the plausibility of both types of strong emergence. This is occurring through the systematic production of probable explanatory reductions using computer models capable of simulating real-world complex systems.

INTRODUCTION

Very few philosophers are interested both in analyzing the concept of emergence and in understanding what computer engineers are up to. Some of our heroes, all of whom are better philosophers than us, fall into this category. However, we were the only two philosophers that the editors of this ...

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