Strong Emergence as a Defese of Non-Reductive Physicalism


  • Carl Gillett Illinois Wesleyan University



Jaegwon Kim, and others, have recently posed a powerful challenge to both emergentism and non-reductive physicalism by providing arguments that these positons are committed to an untenabie combination of both 'upward' and 'dounward'  determination. In section 1, I illuminate how the nature of the realization relation underlies such skeptical arguments However, in section 2, I suggest that such conclusions involve a confusion between the implications of physicalism and those of a related thesis in 'Completeness of Physics' (CoP). I show tht the truth of CoP poses a very serious obstacle to realized properties being efficacious in a physicalist universe and suggest that abandoning CoP offers hope for defending non-reductive physicalism. I then fornulate a schema for a physicalist metaphysics, in section 3, which rejects CoP. This scenario is one where microphysical properties have a few conditional powers that they contribute to individuals when they realize certain properties. In such a situation, I argue, though physicalism holds true there is still plausibly both `upward' and 'downward' determination, where the latter is crucially an underappreciated form of determmation I term 'non- causal'. Ultimately, I conclude that this metaphysical schema offers a coherent account of Strongly ernergent properties that preserves the truth of NRP, albeit in a form that is purged of any committment to CoP. Finally, in section 4, I carefully explore which of Kim's assumptions and arguments this metaphysics undermines.

Author Biography

Carl Gillett, Illinois Wesleyan University

Dept. Philosophy, Northern Illinois Univ.,
Personal Details
Date and Place of birth: 1967 - Oxford, UK.
UK Citizen and US Permanent Resident.
Ph.D., 1997, Philosophy.  Rutgers University, New Brunswick.
Thesis: Naturalization: Physicalism and Scientific Theory Appraisal.
Committee: Jerry Fodor (Adviser), Barry Loewer and Stephen Stich.
B.A., 1989, Philosophy.  Cambridge University.
Areas of Specialization:           Philosophy of Mind/Psychology; Metaphysics; Philosophy of Science.
Areas of Competence:             Philosophy of Religion; Philosophy of Neuroscience
2007-          Associate Professor, Northern Illinois University.
2003-2007  Associate Professor, Illinois Wesleyan University.
2003-04      Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Notre Dame.
1997-2002  Assistant Professor, Illinois Wesleyan University.
1996-97      Instructor, Illinois Wesleyan University.
Edited Books
2001: Physicalism and its Discontents. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Co-edited with Barry Loewer).
Completed Manuscript: The Roots of Reduction and Fruits of Emergence.
Under Contract (Due 2010): Building the Brain: Revisiting the Foundations of Neuroscience and Psychology. New York: Blackwell. (With Kenneth Aizawa).