Philosophical Studies

, Volume 150, Issue 2, pp 285–300 | Cite as

Shoemaker on emergence



Sydney Shoemaker has recently given an account of emergent properties according to which emergent properties are a special type of structural property and the determination relation holding between emergent properties and their base properties is one of “mere nomological supervenience.” According to Shoemaker, emergent properties are what he calls type-2 microstructural properties, whereas physical properties are type-1 microstructural properties. After highlighting the advantages of viewing emergent properties as a special class of microstructural properties, I show how according to his own causal theory of properties type-2 microstructural properties actually reduce to type-1 microstructural properties, and thus do not truly count as emergent. I then suggest an alternative view according to which emergent properties are actually a third type of microstructural property, one not considered by Shoemaker. I conclude with reflections why we might view the dependence relation between emergent properties and their physical base properties as a causal relation rather than one of mere supervenience.


Emergence Sydney Shoemaker Microstructural property Supervenience Emergent properties Jaegwon Kim Realization 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana University South BendSouth BendUSA

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