Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Philosophy

Supervisor

Dr. Robert Batterman

Abstract

The past decade or so has witnessed an increase in the number of philosophical discussions about emergence and reduction in science. However, many of these discussions (though not all) remain too abstract and theoretical, and are wanting with respect to concrete examples taken from the sciences. This dissertation studies the topics of reduction and emergence in the context of a case study. I focus on the case of chemistry and investigate how emergentism can help us secure the autonomy of this discipline in relation to the underlying microphysics. I develop an account of emergence (called functional emergence) that is, I argue, capable of answering the question of why we have chemistry instead of just applied quantum mechanics. I argue that functionally emergent properties in chemistry -- properties that are defined by their behaviour, not by some shared microphysical constituent -- can help us defend the autonomy of chemistry; they allow for the existence of sui generis chemical regularities, which can be used in sui generis chemical explanations. Functional emergence generates difficulties for some accounts of inter-theoretic reduction, but unlike other theories of emergence it is compatible with weaker forms of reductionism.


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