The Status of Emergence

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					Classic Paper: The Status of Emergence
E:CO Issue Vol. 11 No. 4 2009 pp. 71-85                                                  Classical

                                      Classic Paper Section
   The Status of Emergence
   Paul Henle (with an introduction by Jeffrey A. Goldstein)
Originally published as Henle, P. (1942). “The status of emergence,” Journal of Philosophy, 39(18):
486-93. Reprinted with kind permission.

The Hard Problem of Emergence is its                the substrate out of which they emerged. This
Property of Self-transcendence                      is very much pertinent to current complexity

    first read this classic paper on emergence      science inspired disputes placing the idea of
    by the American philosopher Paul Henle          emergence against reductionist strategies of
    over ten years ago. Rereading it, I am sur-     explanation.
prised by several themes which did not strike               Looking over these themes now, I sug-
me so the first time around. First is Henle’s       gest we view Henle’s argument as his unique
early avowal—this article is after all from the     grappling with the central conceptual crux of
early nineteen forties and was published in         the idea of emergence, what I’ll call here the
the prestigious Journal of Philosophy—that          “hard” problem of emergence, borrowing the
the idea of emergence had become generally          phrase (but altering the meaning a bit as I shall
accepted as a corollary to the theory of evo-       say more about below) from the Australian
lution “and there can be little doubt as to its     philosopher David Chalmers’s famous char-
truth.” Clearly the idea of emergence was not       acterization of the refractoriness of conscious-
just a fly-by-night notion that was awaiting        ness to scientific explanation (see, e.g., Chalm-
for complexity science to give it substance. On     ers, 1995-1997; see also Rosenberg, 2004,
the contrary, Henle’s paper and others like it      for a intriguing answer to Chalmers’s hard
around that time touched on many issues con-        problem by incorporating emergence into the
cerning emergence that were hotly debated,          fundamental nature of nat
Description: The Status of Emergence, by Paul Henle, is reviewed.
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