Emergence and Reduction in Science

Emergence and Reduction in Science Workshop

23-25 Oct 2014

IHPST, 13 rue du Four, Paris 75006. Map here

For practical information scroll to the end of this page


Tentative Schedule

Thursday, Oct. 23

10:00 Olivier Sartenaer: Emergent Evolutionism, Determinism and Unpredictability
11:00-11:15 Coffee break
11:15 Robin Hendry: Emergence vs. reduction: where is the evidence?
12:15-13:45 Lunch break at University Restaurant
13:45 Sandra Mitchell: Biological Robustness and Emergence
14:45-15:00 Coffee break
15:00 Paul Humphreys: Transformational Emergence
16:00 Ken Aizawa: Compositional Realization

Friday, Oct. 24

10:00 Sergio Chibbaro: Some considerations on Determinism, Chaos and Reductionism: Probability as an emergent property
11:00-11:15 Coffee break
11:15 Alex Manafu: From Multiple Realization to Tamed Emergence
12:15-13:45 Lunch break at University Restaurant
13:45 Alex Rosenberg: Making mechanism interesting
14:45-15:00 Coffee break
15:00 Robert Batterman: The Mathematics of Autonomy and Minimal Modeling
16:00 Andreas Hüttemann: Reduction and Coherence
19:00 Conference Dinner at Bouillon Racine (3 rue Racine, Paris. map here).

Saturday, Oct. 25

10:00 Eric Scerri: The electronic configurations of atoms and what they tell us about the epistemological reduction of chemistry
11:00-11:15 Coffee break
11:15 Jagdish Hattiangadi: Entities that Emerge by Chance, and in Time
12:15-13:45 Lunch break (everyone on their own)
13:45 Carl Gillett: Mutualism versus Fundamentalism: Understanding our Ongoing Battles over Reduction and Emergence
14:45-15:00 Coffee break
15:00 Laura Franklin-Hall: Making Sense of Autonomous High-Level Explanation via Causal Economy


Kenneth Aizawa Compositional Realization

In recent years, Carl Gillett and I have worked on an account of the compositional relations among entities in the sciences.  (See, for example, Aizawa, 2013, forthcoming, Aizawa and Gillett, 2009a, 2009b, and Gillett, 2002, 2003, 2013.)  For this talk, I will draw attention to features of the account that may be relevant to the work of other participants in the workshop.  The account a) shows how multiple realization is possible, b) illuminates theories of the multiple realization of selected functions, and c) is a theory that is relevant to the philosophy of chemistry.


Robert Batterman The Mathematics of Autonomy and Minimal Modeling

Bridging or connecting the descriptions and models of systems across widely separated scales is a deep problem that permeates many areas of scientific investigation.  Unfortunately, philosophical discussion of this problem is often contextualized as an “all or nothing” dichotomy between reductionism and emergentism. This is much too crude.

This paper will discuss a set of mathematical techniques including the renormalization group and homogenization theory designed to upscale from  models of systems that exhibit heterogeneities at small/micro scales to models that are homogeneous at continuum/everyday scales.  The focus will be on two aspects of the use of such techniques.  On the one hand, they appear to be essential to explain the existence of certain kinds of patterns in nature and the \emph{relative} autonomy of the continuum scale models from the lower scale details. Why, for example, do the equations that govern the scaling behavior of different fluids at criticality work so well when they completely ignore molecular scale details?  Why, do the Navier-Cauchy equations for bending elastic beams work so well when they, too, essentially fail to reference any atomic or lower scale details?

On the other hand, we can also sometimes use models (toy models or minimal models) to investigate and understand the behavior of real systems. For example, we can employ the Ising model and lattice gas automata to study the behavior of real systems—actual fluids that look absolutely nothing like these models at lower scales. (Real fluids do not look like molecules on a lattice.) The mathematics of the renormalization group and other techniques provide an account of how such non-representative minimal models can be explanatory and can provide understanding.  The paper discusses the importance of these mathematical techniques for answering the questions of autonomy, and the role and effectiveness of minimal models.



Sergio Chibbaro Some considerations on Determinism, Chaos and Reductionism: Probability as an emergent property

In this lecture we would like to analyse the relation between determinism, predictability and complexity, considering the role of deterministic Chaos and singular limits. This allows to get insights on reductionism in classical systems.

The precise definition of these concepts is blurry and a debate is going on since the famous words of Laplace. Historically determinism has been improperly associated with reductionism. Thus to bring the analysis on firm basis, it is useful to consider the more general philosophical notions of reductionism and emergence. In this framework, the deterministic chaos appears to play an important role. The existence of Chaos distinguishes clearly determinism from predictability, because of the sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Furthermore, the details of the time evolution of dynamical systems are hidden in initial conditions, which are almost all algorithmically complex. This leads to the necessity of a probabilistic approach which reveals one more instance of singular limits. New statistical laws emerge in this singular limit, showing that chaotic macroscopic phenomena cannot be reduced to deterministic mechanistic laws. In this framework, probability is an emergent property, at least in a strong epistemic sense, of chaotic systems. This result seems relevant to present debate on biological systems.


Laura Franklin-Hall Making Sense of Autonomous High-Level Explanation via Causal Economy

This paper sketches an account of scientific explanation designed to sustain the judgment that higher-level, detail-sparse explanations—particularly those offered in biology—can be as explanatorily valuable as lower-level counterparts. The motivating idea is that complete explanations maximize (what I call) causal economy: they cite that aspect of an event’s causal run-up that offers the biggest-bang-for-your-buck, by costing less (in virtue of being abstract) and delivering more (in virtue of making the event to be explained stable or robust). After spelling out the relevant notions of abstractness and stability, and showing how explanations recommended by the Causal Economy account line up with those framed by working scientists, the paper concludes by reflecting on just why explanatory norms should take a Causal Economy form—not just for us humans, but also for any finite mind embedded in a complex universe.


Carl Gillett Mutualism versus Fundamentalism: Understanding our Ongoing Battles over Reduction and Emergence

I contend that our theoretical frameworks for debates over ‘reduction’ and ‘emergence’ are badly lagging, often even obscuring, the ongoing debates, the competing live views, and deeper issues in the sciences. To support this point, I outline what I take to be more adequate frameworks and reconstruct the debates at the ‘local’ level of concrete scientific cases to show the rather different character of on-going disputes. Reconstructing the claims of self-identified scientific emergentists, I outline what I term ‘Mutualism’, highlight why it shows the most common argument for scientific reductionism is invalid, and how it frames one of the live views about successful cases of compositional or inter-level mechanistic explanation in the sciences. I then provide a valid argument for scientific reductionism in cases of compositional explanation and highlight its high evidential demands. I consequently detail two live views for scientific reductionists in what I term ‘Simple’ and ‘Conditioned Fundamentalism’. Most importantly, I detail the issues between the live Mutualist and Fundamentalist views in concrete ‘local’ cases and I outline why, as yet, none of these competing views about ‘reduction’ and ‘emergence’ has successfully been established in a concrete scientific case.

Jagdish Hattiangadi Entities that Emerge by Chance, and in Time

An element of chance and anisotropic time, is assumed in the hypothetical model being offered. Indeterminacy and irreversible change were assumed to be true of individual things in the ancient conception of the cosmos (e.g., Plato, Aristotle) but given up in modern science and philosophy (e.g. Galileo, Descartes.) Friendly concepts that were in use in ancient Greece will be exploited in this paper , in terms of which modern scientific and philosophical issues will be (mostly) recast. We can distinguish between two kinds of truth of things: truths of the natural motions of things, and truths of their resultant distribution in the world. We suppose that a thing’s nature does not determine its distribution, due to chance. This is one way of interpreting quantum mechanics. Stable entities, moreover, have natures that cannot be reduced to the principles of mechanics operating on uniform corpuscles, which supports a chemical rather than a mechanical universe (Bohr.) New kinds of entities can come to exist by chance, due to an accidental co-presence of its elements. Some new entities are so organized, by chance, as to be stable and self-perpetuating, explaining their subsequent survival, which is illustrative of many biological phenomena. This model will offer a schematic description that is consistent with interpretations of modern natural science, but it will suggest that a kind of “quasi-reductionism” is true which the ancients had not anticipated (to use a modern concept.) Reductionism is only apparently true on this model, though not in reality. In reality, it is suggested, there is stage by stage emergence of entities of new and unprecedented kinds (Maynard Smith and Szathmary) with ever surprising natures.


Robin Hendry Emergence vs. reduction: where is the evidence?

Reductive physicalists may try to settle their debate with strong emergentists in two ways: (i) rejecting the causal terms in which strong emergentism can be formulated, or (ii) finding evidence in the sciences for reductive physicalism. In this talk I look at the prospects for finding a basis for (ii) in the complex interaction between chemistry and physics during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During this time, chemistry discovered molecular structure, and the two sciences together then investigated its physical basis.

Physicalist arguments that I will explore are based on: mereological relationships, theoretical identities, the universality of physical law and fruitful reductionist research programmes. I argue that each of these arguments has decisive emergentist responses. The interaction between chemistry and physics is, I argue, neutral between reductive physicalism and strong emergentism.


Paul Humphreys Transformational Emergence

I shall argue that a certain kind of diachronic ontological emergence, which I call transmutational emergence, satisfies historical criteria for emergence due to Mill and Broad, and results from the failure of forms of atomism that drove much of twentieth century metaphysics, beginning with Russell and Moore. Transmutational emergence is a generalization of fusion emergence and is less open to objections that have been raised against the latter.  I shall also argue that we need to reconsider what is taken to be a fundamental entity in the light of transmutational emergence and conclude by comparing the abstract formulation of transmutational emergence with candidate examples from the natural world that seem to satisfy the constraints of the formulation.


Andreas Hüttemann Reduction and Coherence


Reduction may mean a lot of different things. Despite this diversity, a common thread running through different accounts of reduction is a concern with coherence between two or more theories, models or other forms of descriptions. Acknowledging these two points helps us to better understand some controversial cases of reduction concerning e.g. quantum mechanics or the relation between statistical mechanics and thermodynamics.


Barry Loewer The Mentaculus Vision

In Time and Chance David Albert presents a vision of a framework for a complete scientific theory of the world that has come to be called “the Mentaculus”. It contains the ingredients for an account of how macroscopic phenomena of thermodynamics, other special sciences, objective probabilities, causation, and time’s arrows connect to fundamental physics. It is an ambitious and breath-taking proposal.  In this paper I will  show why the Mentaculus deserves to be taken seriously, and discuss a number of issues that arise for those who take it seriously.


Alex Manafu From Multiple Realization to Tamed Emergence


Sandra Mitchell Biological Robustness and Emergence


Self-organization and homeostatic mechanisms permit biological organisms to maintain system properties (e.g. internal temperature) or tune system properties (e.g. nectar stored) in response to both internal and external changes in the properties of their component parts. I have argued that this feature supports a claim of ontological or dynamic emergence for those system properties and structures. However, at the same these system level features may be explainable and predictable. I will address some ways in which system robustness arises and is maintained, and how that relates to both the ontological and epistemological interpretations of emergence.

Alex Rosenberg Making mechanism interesting

I note the multitude of ways in which, beginning with the classic paper by Machamer, Darden and Craver (2000), the mechanists have qualify their methodological dicta, and limit the vulnerability of their claims by strategic vagueness regarding their application. I go on to generalize a version of the mechanist requirement on explanations due to Craver and Kaplan (2010) in cognitive and systems neuroscience so that it applies broadly across the life sciences in accordance with the view elaborated by Craver and Darden in “In Search of Mechanisms” (2013). I then go on to explore what ramifications their mechanist requirement on explanations may have for explanatory “dependencies” reported in biology and the special sciences. What this exploration suggests is that mechanism threatens to eliminate instead of underwrite a large number of such “dependencies” reported in higher levels of biology and the special sciences. I diagnose the source of this threat in mechanism’s demand that explanations identify nested causal differences makers in mechanisms, their components, the components further components, and so forth.


Olivier Sartenaer Emergent Evolutionism, Determinism and Unpredictability

The prime objective of this paper is to map the space of the possible, consistent approaches one can adopt in order to vindicate the claim that there exist in nature thoroughly deterministic systems whose future behavior cannot be predicted, no matter how advanced or fined-tune our cognitive and technical abilities turn out to be. In particular, three approaches are identified and exemplified on the basis of a specific theoretical (scientific or philosophical) framework. They are respectively grounded in the fact that (i) it is not always possible to formulate (the right form of) a predictive algorithm [chaos theory], (ii) it is impossible to precisely specify the state of a system in order to plug this specification into a predictive algorithm [Bohmian mechanics], or (iii) it can happen that a new irreducible law appears between the moment a prediction is made and the time at which it is supposed to come true [emergent evolutionism]. While the first two strategies have received much attention during the last decades, the third one, older, is often overlooked as a consistent -though metaphysically heavy- alternative way of vindicating the idea that determinism and unpredictability can peacefully coexist.


Eric Scerri The electronic configurations of atoms and what they tell us about the epistemological reduction of chemistry

The present author has previously been an advocate of the failure of the epistemological, or theoretical, reduction of chemistry to physics. However, in recent years I have become increasingly persuaded of the opposite view. I will present arguments concerning the electronic configuration of atoms, the relative occupation of 4s and 3d orbitals in transition metal atoms, the occurrence of anomalous electronic configurations and the Madelung rule in order to illustrate my new position. In each of these cases the apparent lack of reduction that has been claimed by some authors may be due to one particular way of thinking of electronic configurations. The lecture will present an alternative view.



Workshop location

The workshop will take place at the IHPST, which is in the center of Paris. The address of the IHPST is: 13 rue du Four, Paris 75006. Map here The subway station closest to the IHPST is Mabillon (on line 10) or Saint-Germain-Des-Pres (on line 4). The entrance door is on the corner of the building (if you come with line 10, the door is one meter from the metro exit).

Some of the hotels where the participants in this workshop will be staying are within walking distance from the IHPST. Other hotels are some stations away, but still pretty close (by subway). To open the door and enter the building where the IHPST is located you need to push the big round button on the panel located at the entrance, to your right; this will open the door. The IHPST is at the third floor (or etage 2 by the French system/elevator). The door of the institute is marked “IHPST” . The workshop will take place in the Salle de Conference, immediately on your left as you enter the main door of the IHPST.


How to get from the Roissy Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport to the center of Paris

 The cheapest and easiest way to get from the CDG airport to Paris is by taking a subway train called RER B. The RER B departs right from the airport and it gets you to the center of Paris. It takes about 40-50 minutes. After you get off the plane, look for RER B indicators in the airport. They look like this:

In the airport, before you get on the escalator and descend to the RER B station, there is a lobby where you can find automated ticket machines and also an information desk. Subway employees wearing red are often there to help. A ticket to Paris for the RER B costs about 9.75 euros. Cabs are much more expensive (50-70 euros or even more).

The RER B stations in the Latin Quarter (i.e., the center of Paris where the Sorbonne and the IHPST are located) are: Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame and Luxembourg.  The subway station closest to the IHPST is Mabillon (on line 10) or Saint-Germain-Des-Pres (on line 4).

Here’s the website of the Paris public transit system: http://www.ratp.fr/en/



If you would like to attend the workshop please send an email with the subject “workshop registration” stating your name, position and institutional affiliation to alexmanafu*gmail.com (replace * by you know what sign). Note that the number of seats is limited and we might not be able to accommodate everyone.

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