Emergent Wholes and the Porosity of Dynamic Objects
Thebolt, Gabriel Arthur
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Claims in the metaphysics of strong emergence, featuring autonomous and possibly reflexive downward causal capacity, methodologically require, though ultimately ignore, units of analysis qua unified wholes. I argue that this avoidance of mereological and wider metaphysical debates denies the metaphysics of emergence clarity and cohesion and urgent application to conceptions of structure and agency. In this thesis, using a refined, non-linear, irreproducible, non-ontologically reductionist open-system physicalism and empiricism, I show that claims in the metaphysics of emergence hastily assume first the integration and subsequently the individuation of objects that become the subject of these strong claims. These assumptions, I believe, are actually the cause for the insurmountable gap between pure ontological reduction on the one side, and pure ontological and irreducible property emergence on the other. Furthermore, in using this new physicalism in the context of strong emergence, the traditional boundary between ontology and epistemology—going far beyond the standard weak-strong divide in the emergence discourse—can no longer be respected. As such, the nature of emergent properties is critical to assessing the nature of objects qua wholes with respect to the conditions for their integration and individuation. The major contribution to the metaphysics of emergence that this thesis provides is the realisation that, when we assume all physical objects are open and porous, all claims for persisting, emergent wholes are necessarily based on physical assumptions of integration and individuation. Synthetically I offer a method for understanding the individuation of ‘quidditious’ objects via properties when such a physicalist framework is employed.
PhD in Politics