I am trying to look for resources to deepen some topics presented in this workshop Moving Naturalism Forward. Especially the point on emergence (and secondarily on evolution and determinism, but here to not be too generic I am asking only about emergence/reduction). So I am looking for resources (hopefully books rather than papers, but everything considered helpfull is welcomed) about emergentism and reductionism in philosophy of science. In particular concerning what happens in physics, (for example in condesed matter theory, phase transition or even theory of fundamental interactions), given "new" point of views that followed the development of renormalization group theory and the idea of effective theory. If it deals even with relation between different disciplines like physics, biology or economics it is even better, but the main interest concerns philosphy's point of view on these topics in physics.

to give a bit of context I am a physics student at graduate level, and I have studied statistcal physics, quantum field theory, renormalization group theory... this just to specify that the presence of rigorous concepts from this theories in the philosophical point of view is strongly welcomed. While from the point of view of philosphy the only book I read concerning this topics is "The devil is in details" by Robert Batterman. Thanks a lot for the help

2 Answers 2


To get an overview of the concepts and discussions, I recommend the collection

Emergence by Mark A. Bedau and Paul Humphreys

  • That looks good. Paper copies aren't cheap though!
    – CriglCragl
    Jun 18, 2021 at 14:16
  • thanks a lot for the help
    – Ratman
    Jun 18, 2021 at 17:56

My experience is philosophers are deeply sceptical of strong emergence (eg in relation to accounting for consciousness, and qualia), and typically dismissive of the significance of weak emergence.. David Chalmers (who coined 'the hard problem of consciousness') explains why he tries to avoid using the word emergence here.

I went to a philosophy department talk about the nature of time, and honestly as a physicist it was just embarrassing to witness, in terms of lacking a real grounding in the modern issues. It's fair enough to not expect post graduate mathematical formalisms, but a lot of work remains to bridge between philosophy & physics on things like emergent dimensions (eg Loop Quantum Gravity). I thought this paper was a good example of such bridging: 'On the Emergence of Time in Quantum Gravity' C.J.Isham, J. Butterfield. It gives a good introduction to supervenience, which is a very useful term to have for philosophy connected to emergence.

A couple of discussions for a sense of us covering emergence as a topic on here:

What are the alleged reasons for emergence?

What's the "opposite" of emergence?

Have you read Douglas Hofstadter? Strange loops and tangled hierarchies seem very key to. In philosophy they help build an anti-foundationalist picture, towards replacing objectivity with intersubjectivity.

I don't know of any good books, but I'm following Deutsch & Marletto's work on universal constructor theory with great interest. It seems to offer an advance on understanding the emergence of life. If you can help clarify my picture of this theoretical approach, which it sounds like you might, then I'd love to hear your answer to thus question: Is VonNeumann's universal constructor ontologically distinct from the universal Turing machine?

You might get more references on Physics SE, eg can renormalization group evolution be used to capture emergence.

Welcome to the group. I like your question, and I look forward to your contributions here.

  • 1
    Thanks a lot for the various references, I think I am going through the SEP article linked in "what are the alleged reasons for emergence", to get the general view. About Marletto's work I heard about it for the first time few days ago, but still didn't try to watch it carefully, and unfortunately I don't have the competence to help about your question (maybe in the future, it seems interesting). I hope to contribute positively, probably more with questions than answers, as my limited competence in philosophy allows me
    – Ratman
    Jun 18, 2021 at 17:55

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