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1 2 3


Alex J. Ryan, 2006. How is something (to be submitted) to the arXiv? The paper looked interesting enough for me to dig around and see if anyone else in the actual field had looked at it. (talk) 19:43, 14 August 2008 (UTC)

The link to this paper is broken. -- Brinticus 06:16, 31 October 2009 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Work in Progress[edit]

The current focus of work is Talk:Emergence/NewVersion. Hu 09:40, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Bickering archived[edit]

As everyone agrees that the nonsense before does nothing to get the article improved, I have moved it, as the page was back to over 50k in length. Fourdee 02:51, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Not strictly true, not all of what went before was nonsense.Talk:Emergence/Archive_3#A_Medium_Revamp Also, I note that you made a last remark and immediately archived the discussion. However, since Psychohistorian graciously agreed to not contest any last word you wanted to make on a thread there, it is perhaps just as well to archive it. Hu 02:58, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Eh, we can always put more remarks on here :) Seems like there's plenty of space now! - JustinWick 05:40, 13 December 2006 (UTC)


Excessive indentation uses up valuable space on the left. When comments are placed in chronological order, it is not necessary to indent further. However, if an editor goes back to reply out of chronological order to a prior remark then incrementing the indentation is a good idea. Occasionally it makes sense to outdent to the margin to reset indentation. A conservative approach to indentation preserves the flow of the discussion. Hu 02:23, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Back to First Sentence[edit]

How about "There is no firm consensus on a precise definition of Emergence."? That seems to be the result of a lot of discussion here. I am still convinced that if the article is made whole and healthy, then the introduction will emerge naturally, and from that the first sentence will emerge. However, if I'm in the minority on that conviction, then it is reasonable to attempt the first sentence and I've given it my try. Hu 02:31, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

How have we even established this much? How can we improve the article by adding more uncited statements? This is still a waste of time, whether or not I agree with what you are saying, because we are not working from content that will improve the verifiability of the article. Fourdee 02:46, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

A sourced definition of "emergence" can be found here. It is, however, expressed mathematically and, if we use it, we'll need to translate it into language that common people can understand. It translates into what I already offered as a definition, but if someone wants to translate it in some other way, please present your alternative.-Psychohistorian 03:06, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
That looks more like a proof of the plausibility of emergence than a definition, but it should prove useful for you in forming an introduction, and given your familiarity with this subject I don't think it would be untoward to suggest that you are the best qualified to do it. The article refers the reader elsewhere for the definition: "We will here use emergence in the general sense defined by Baas (1994a)." Sounds like Baas has what we are looking for. Fourdee 03:16, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
The first sentence should give the shortest possible relevant characterization of the subject. If the subject is amenable to definition, the first sentence should give a concise one that puts the article in context. Rather than being typically technical, it should be a concise, conceptually sound, characterization driven, encyclopedic definition. It should be as clear to the nonspecialist as the subject matter allows. WP:GtWBA#TFS (Indented to same level as Ph's remark since it flows in chronological order.) Hu 03:13, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

So, now that you (Fourdee) can't even agree to disagree, and you call working on the first sentence a waste of time and for you working on the article instead of working on the introduction is not an option, I think you have boxed yourself into a corner and I suggest you withdraw from the article entirely. (Note: the indentation of this remark is at the left since all three remarks are in chronological sequence. Please leave as is.) Hu 03:05, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Fourdee: can you find a good, citable definition somewhere? Anyone else, can you? I think Fourdee has some perspectives on this that are correct, and I'm afraid the discussion would be a bit unbalanced was Fourdee to withdraw, but I think at some point, Fourdee, you are going to have to find some citations for this stuff as well. I think it is reasonable to cite the fact that Emergence has different meanings in different fields, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have any definition. Man, this would be so much easier if we were like Nobel laurates and world-renowed philosophers. Who the heck came up with an encyclopedia based on random grad students and amateurs, heh. (I guess I count myself with the random grad students, even though I recently graduated that) - JustinWick 05:44, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

I empathize with your desire, Justin, to understand things as well as a Nobel laureate, but I think it is actually a good thing that we aren't, because that level of understanding does not always correspond well with the ability or desire to communicate and teach. In other words, if we can communicate the subject well enough at our level, we can explain it to each other and to others who might be entering college or merely "well-read". Furthermore, the more experienced among us know how to work Wikipedia cooperatively to produce results that are greater than any one of us or any one expert could produce. We are well situated to be the bridge between the "experts" and the core demographic of Wikipedia readers. Hu 08:51, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Foundations of Articles and Implications for Introductions[edit]

One theory about writing good Wikipedia articles holds that statements in the introduction should not be given citations or be studded with Wiki links, if two things are true about them, two things that would be true about a well written article anyway. 1) Every statement in the introduction should be expanded upon in depth in the article. 2) Those expansions should be properly provided with references. The theory goes that by keeping the introduction relatively free of Wiki links and citations and footnotes, it will be more readable and therefore more people will actually read it and then read the article. The introduction is not the foundation of the article, it is the storefront window that quickly shows people an overview and entices them into the article. The foundation of the article or the framework (pick your metaphor) is the structure of the section headings and sub-section headings, and then the key concept of each individual paragraph, which can be thought of as headerless sub-sub-sections. Get the organization of the concepts right and then it becomes easier to fill it out. This is part of my reasoning why it is better to write the article and then the introduction. Similarly, the size of the introduction depends on the size of the article. Note to skeptics: Despite scurrilous statements to the contrary (by one editor in particular), I am thoroughly in favor of citations and references in the body of the article. I also advocate not disrupting the article (by extension of Wikipedia) to make a point. Hu 09:36, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Reasonable Citations[edit]

I have limited interest in doing the footwork for this article when my position is merely that the uncited statements should be removed. However a quick search yielded the following useful practical explanations of "emergence" from this paper [1] (which also has a lot of citations of its own):

These citations have been archived to /References to save space here. Fourdee 07:26, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

These quotes offer the sort of supportable, carefully phrased, factually accurate, logically correct explanations of Emergence we should be using. It's not difficult or time-consuming to find this kind of citation. Fourdee 10:02, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

These are excellent quotes - defining Emergence under the guises of "classical" science. Now we just need quotes for all of the other definitions of emergence. Ph, got any for Systems Science? Is there a philosopher in the house? - JustinWick 05:51, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I should also mention that I especially like the second quote, it really hits the nail that is Weak Emergence on the head. The third quote is very cool, but should also be very, very obvious to anyone with training in physics. The first quote addresses only a small subset of Weak Emergence (in this case, it seems to be related to some branch of mechanics). - JustinWick 05:54, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Un-notified Litigation by Fourdee against Psychohistorian[edit]

There is a discussion about "un-notified litigation" available at Talk:Emergence/Litigation which was moved because it does not directly relate to the content of the article.

There is more than one definition of "emergence"[edit]

My investigations of the subject have convinced me that there is more than one definition of "emergence". I visited the page with the vague intention of changing it accordingly. The new version is in fact pretty much what I was aiming at, so it only remains for me to lend my support to it. 1Z 02:54, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Thank you, I like it too; hopefully something along those lines will survive the debate. Right now we are trying to build a body of citations and quotes to work from, as the current new version of the introductory paragraph appears to be contested. Fourdee 03:31, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes there's more than one definition, this needs to be made very, very clear, and the separate definitions should be addressed separately - JustinWick 06:12, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Here are several perspectives and definitions from Aristotle to modern times - there are a couple of other related quotes in here as well

The extensive list of citations Psychohistorian provided has been archived to /References along with other quotes and removed from here to free space. Fourdee 07:24, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Thank you psychohistorian for the quotations. They mostly look solid, however I am concerned with the relevance of Aristotle aside from historical reference (is Plato's Idealism next?), and the Kauffman quote seems to be very sparse on context. It is the "whole is more than the sum of the parts" statements which are the most contentious and need clear context for what the expert means by that. But thank you again for the obviously thorough effort you've undertaken. It should be possible between all these references to develop a good introduction. Fourdee 15:10, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I provided the Aristotle reference just for historical reference. As for Kauffman, I included it because, aesthetically, I like "spontaneous crystallization". I think we can use it strictly for its aesthetic appeal.-Psychohistorian 15:31, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Ok I have just now reviewed your edits to the New version of the article and I must say: excellent work! I have also added a section on the subjectivity of complexity with the quote I provided above. While we have a lot of quotes at the moment, if someone later wants to refine these into careful paraphrases, I think we can leave that to them (or ourselves when the inclination presents). This article is looking very good and as far as I'm concerned there is no NPOV, Verifiability, Original Research or other dispute with the new version. We could proceed to have the article unprotected replaced with the improved one. Any citations of the remainder of the article could proceed at a leisurely pace and I see no reason even to mark anything as needing citation, although I haven't carefully reviewed the entire article. Fourdee 22:01, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Please review my section on subjectivity for accuracy. I wasn't sure how to phrase it properly, as I initially said that in both theories of emergence, complexity and organization are considered subjective, however after looking at it again, I'm not certain that is the case of all theories of strong emergence, so I reworded the section to say that strong emergence may claim something concrete has arisen at the higher level of organization. Fourdee 22:13, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
I believe I can dig up some quotes on that subject which might help with the NPOV and OR issues. I'll just need some time.-Psychohistorian 03:25, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Looks great. I'm going to ask that the article be unprotected and replaced with this version. Fourdee 06:28, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
I like the new version too, good work. And it's been a fascinating discussion. Kyle Cronan 06:45, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

--Greg Royston Molineux (talk) 00:35, 10 May 2010 (UTC)==Unprotection Requested==

I have requested unprotection at Wikipedia:Requests_for_page_protection#Current_requests_for_unprotection. This version looks pretty solid; it could use more work and someone will probably be interested in adding detail, more citations and subsections. You guys may also be interested in using some of these references for improving weak emergence and strong emergence which were pretty sparse (and probably somewhat incorrect) the last time I looked at them. This is an important article and I'm glad we managed to get past the arguing and put a quality overview together for it. Thanks guys. Fourdee 06:48, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

I have updated the strong emergence article with material from this one. Fourdee 07:38, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
I believe that the new strong vs. weak emergence section covers both perspectives better than the articles on the respective perspectives and, consequently, that the articles on the respective subjects should be replaced with redirects to the new emergence article.-Psychohistorian 12:06, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Sounds fine to me. I'm no longer going to be regularly monitoring the talk page here. Thanks for your work on this, the article looks great. Fourdee 20:42, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

--Greg Royston Molineux (talk) 00:35, 10 May 2010 (UTC)emergence and strong emergence are degrees of the same thing, strong emergence should be a sub heading of emergence as you could also have weak emergence and dysfunctional emergence —Preceding unsigned comment added by Greg Royston Molineux (talkcontribs) 00:31, 10 May 2010 (UTC)

Consider putting the key definitions in "History" (including the corrected Aristotle citation), replace definition with description and use the arc + arc + arc = circle explanation. Just a simple one followed by a more complete description if required by philosophical argument. Consider this: If there are different definitions then either (a) one is wrong (the frog is green, the frog is orange), (b) they are similes (the frog croaked, the frog riddiped), (c) they are used in a different context (the frog is green, the frog is wet).Tkyoung (talk) 02:37, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

Quotes subpage - /References[edit]

Perhaps we should move all the quotes so far collected to a subpage of Talk:Emergence so they can survive this page being archived - we could put a link to it at the top. I'll give it a shot and you can undo it if you don't agree. Fourdee 06:48, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Seems like a reasonable thing to do. Hu 07:00, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Ok I have put all the quotes I could find in the article and talk pages in /References and added a link to it in the archive box up top. Also added another quote to the strong vs. weak emergence section. The "not widely held in the physical sciences" bit could probably be removed from the section if it's unwelcome, it would be hard to find a citation for that. Fourdee 07:22, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

I have also removed them from this page, if anyone objects (not sure if it was the right thing to do or not), feel free to revert. Fourdee 07:28, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Good job all![edit]

Looks like all the major problems were fixed, and people are in agreement about the outcome. Wish I had been able to help more, but I know little about this subject. Thanks to everyone for helping, questioning, and figuring out the truth of the matter. - JustinWick 05:48, 18 December 2006 (UTC)


What is controversial about emergence? It's briefly mentioned in the opening of the article and not thoroughly addressed anywhere. 18:15, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

If you read the various archives of the talk page, you'll see that "emergence" means different things to different people. There are strict scientific meanings, as well as mystical/philosphical meanings, and even things in between. Most of these are noteworthy and it is difficult for people to agree on the meaning and potential consequences of this term. This probably should be explained in the article, but since the big fight over it cooled off here, I think everyone is reluctant to add *more* contraversial material to the article. - JustinWick 18:38, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

quote of a passage that quotes?[edit]

Can somebody rewrite the beginning? The quotes are unneccessarily confusing. Dreamer.redeemer 08:07, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Can anyone think of examples of emergence in large distributed software systems ?[edit]

The main page provides an example of emergence in the WWW. Can anyone think/share examples of emergence in a large network of software systems? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 01:30, 12 March 2007 (UTC).

Wikipedia is an example of the emergence of a global infrastructure which was unexpected. See history of Wikipedia -- (talk) 14:36, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
The large-scale cooperation to be found in Wikipedia, on a global basis, far transcends any other project, based on Wikipedia:Five Pillars, to state the obvious. -- (talk) 14:39, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

See Also section[edit]

The large number of links in this section is rather silly & not helpful for someone wanting to find genuinely related articles. For example, the link to Free will, which has little to do with emergence, and Rampancy, which is a ridiculous article. Perhaps someone else with more time & expertise than I could cut most of these. 19:10, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

Space/time and string theory?[edit]


I noticed this:

"In some theories of particle physics, even such basic structures as mass, space, and time are viewed as emergent phenomena, arising from more fundamental concepts such as the Higgs boson or strings."

However, strings do not create space and time. Space and time do not emerge from them -- they move in space and time. The strings still have a spacetime that they inhabit. mike4ty4 01:32, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

See, for example, Lee Smolin's Three Roads to Quantum Gravity ; see chapter 10 for a theory of how spacetime emerges from loops and knots. -- (talk) 14:42, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

New para[edit]

I have removed the following pending discussion.

A simple way to unify all kinds of emergent phenomena is to understand them as having a common process of emerging, rather than similar features or consequences. The emergence of all recognized emergent properties appears to take place by processes that begin and end, displaying the growth (and decay) of the internalized networks of self-organizing processes that bring them about. Identifying the autonomous growth of systems is also a rich source for finding new new forms of emergence. The developing methods for doing this are efficient and seemingly testable and reliable. The hypothesis that growth and emergence are actually the same thing has not yet been fully discussed, but has potential.

This is hard to understand and seems WP:OR-ish. (Is there a simple way to understand emergence? is emergence about complexity?) 1Z 14:15, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

Cites need additional work[edit]

The level of cites in this article is good, but there are still quite a few un-cited assertions.
Additionally, we should make the citation format uniform throughout the article. -- Writtenonsand 17:52, 7 May 2007 (UTC)

commond mode of causation comment[edit]

I inserted the following on 5/6/07 in the lead paragraph: "The probable common mode of causation is the self-organization of internal loop networks, or 'systems', growing from imperceptible beginnings in the regions of gradients". Someone appropriately inserted "[citation needed]" The citations available are mostly to unpublished work, though the research has been quite successful. No one has been willing to discuss the very substantial additions to the scientific method required. What's needed to study emergence as a process is a way of closely examining individual events, which I now have published on the web at some length in the "physics of happening". I did go into the matter sufficiently to point the way in a paper for the Society for General Systems Research in 1984 conference, "Directed Opportunity, Directed Impetus: New tools for investigating autonomous causation" now republished as Well it's missing most of the details, and the specific wording of the claim above, but the main substance is there. The fact is that the 'perfect formula' is the one you *look through*, not the one you *look at*. The basic reorientation of methods needed was done as part of a study of daily climate evolution in solar homes in the late 70's and the math and software done in the 90's. My best work is a piece on a fantastic little example of punctuated equilibrium for a plankton. If anyone has any idea of some journal that would be knowledgeable enough about evolving systems to consider it, I'd be delighted to finish up my latest (10th) version of the paper and submit it again.

Phil Henshaw —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Pfhenshaw (talkcontribs) 11:43, 8 May 2007 (UTC).

None of that adds up to notability. Please read the guidelines. 1Z 15:54, 8 May 2007 (UTC)

Emergence happens only in the mind[edit]

The concept of Emergence like chaos, exists only in our imaginations. Take for example the fact that iron has the property of hardness. The iron atom does not have this property. But the property hardness doesn't really exist, it is just how our primitive senses interpret the properties of the iron atom when they are combined together. So emergence really does happen but it happens only in our minds not in reality.

Cmatrix 10:58, 14 July 2007 (UTC)

"The concept of Emergence like chaos, exists only in our imaginations." Are you saying that emergence is emergent? If so, it might be written somewhere. 22:30, 13 November 2007 (UTC)

Hardness is a mechanical property rated on a scale with diamond the hardest (if not the hardest) material(s) known. also, maths is a hard nut because it is "tough" to crack.Tkyoung (talk) 02:17, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

Emergence and Dialectical Materialism[edit]

This article appears to have a clear ideological bias; so it's not a mystery why the most important, fundamental framework of emergence -- marxist dialectical-materialism -- is wholly absent from it. However, since Wikipedia pretends to objectivity over the long-term, there's no way this issue can be avoided indefintely, simply because one party is generally always first off the mark with getting their POV "out there".

I mean, is there "thinktank" organizing behind this systematic Rightwing article-writing, or something..? Poor show, people. This is not true objectivity at work here.

Pazouzou 06:50, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Emergence is not that complicated[edit]

About the mathematical proof of the emergence. can not any closed figure be used as a simpler proof??

I mean, you can make a circle of bend lines, and only when all the lines are put into place the emergence shows.

Emergence in political philosophy removed ?? and Economics[edit]

The following section is removed today:

Economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek wrote about emergence in the context of law, politics, and markets. His theories are most fully developed in Law, Legislation and Liberty, which sets out the difference between cosmos or "grown order" (that is, emergence), and taxis or "made order". Hayek dismisses philosophies that do not adequately recognize the emergent nature of society, and which describe it as the conscious creation of a rational agent (be it God, the Sovereign, or any kind of personified body politic, such as Hegel's state or Hobbes's leviathan). The most important social structures, including the laws ("nomos") governing the relations between individual persons, are emergent, according to Hayek. While the idea of laws and markets as emergent phenomena comes fairly naturally to an economist, and was indeed present in the works of early economists such as Bernard Mandeville, David Hume, and Adam Smith, Hayek traces the development of ideas based on spontaneous-order throughout the history of Western thought, occasionally going as far back as the presocratics. In this, he follows Karl Popper, who blamed the idea of the state as a made order on Plato in The Open Society and its Enemies.

This section is removed with the argument:

sect - it's an unreferenced, OR essay

Now this seems a bit radical. The text seems ok. Why not just add a reference-needed tag? - Mdd 19:32, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

I restored the text per your suggestion and added an OR tag. —Viriditas | Talk 10:46, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
Isn't that the whole point of the invisible hand? A political philosophy of leaving everything alone and it'll spontaneously create joy and wealth for everyone.

-G — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:48, 4 December 2012 (UTC)

@ and Viriditas:I believe mention of Adam Smith's Invisible hand may be useful in the Economic section. There is a paper on "The Emergence of Economic Organization" by Peter Howitt and Robert Clower which looks in detail of how markets organize.Jonpatterns (talk) 19:17, 12 March 2014 (UTC)
That's fine, but the entire section is still unsourced. It would help if you would just rewrite it with good sources. Viriditas (talk) 19:35, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

"Fads and Beliefs" section[edit]

Slimmed this section down some, and added an OR tag. It's mostly about "Emergent Concepts", which from a quick google is a term that seems to exist but not with the technical sense that the paragraph implies it has.

From what I can gather, this section posits an emergent concept as something like what Darwinism was in its first introduction, in the sense that at first Darwinism was greeted with widespread skepticism in the scientific community, but is now widely accepted in the same as one of the two pillars of Modern evolutionary synthesis.

Also, this section probably needs a new header, as it isn't really about fads or beliefs.--BlackAndy 01:11, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

string Theory[edit]

"In some theories of particle physics, even such basic structures as mass, space, and time are viewed as emergent phenomena, arising from more fundamental concepts such as the Higgs boson or strings." - Given that String Theory is pretty speculative, non-predictive, and as far as I know entirely unfounded in any sort of empirical data (no one's ever seen a string, or a Higgs boson - they're purely theoretical constructs), I don't think this is a great example of emergence. Mass Space and Time are the basic structures, and higgs bosons etc are derived by mathematical reverse engineering from them (and to a large extent in spite of them - mass space and time don't seem to have nine dimensions). It isn't really plausible to say they "emerge" from the interaction of Higgs Bosons. ElectricRay (talk) 16:43, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

Refined definition of Emergence[edit]

This article defines emergence strictly as high-level complexity resulting from low-level simplicity. However, it is the inverse and somewhat counter-intuitive definition which really is the relevant concept to science (and philosophy). It is the emergence of comprehensible high-level simplicity from low-level complexity that defines emergence. We can comprehend some of the mechanisms of natural processes at a high level (for example, psychologic impulses which may underpin behavior) even though we could not possible derive such insights from a consideration of molecular processes which are the unimaginably complex fundamental building blocks of our brains. We can formulate fairly simple physical laws such as the gas laws which describe the behavior of gases without consideration of the quantum uncertainties which surround the individual sub-atomic particles which, after all, are the root structure of the gas molecules. This complexity leading to emergent simplicity is the key feature which allows us to comprehend the world at our scale, and the mechanism by which we can reach some understanding of physical processes when reductionism fails us. The whole can indeed be greater than the sum of its parts. The British physicist David Deutsch has a beautiful exposition of the subject in his book The Fabric of Reality. I think this article needs major revision to include these concepts.Cd195 (talk) 05:16, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

the two articles emergence and strong emergence should be merged

Problem with "References and bibliography"[edit]

  • The References Section is gummed up with everyone and his brother adding his recently published (or simply arXiv'd) "magisterial" paper on the subject. Perhaps there should be a separate section for older, dare I say, canonical or classical works on emergence such as Kant, Mill, and Lewes (and Anderson, which is often referenced in the literature). In any event, the arXiv references need to be segregated or removed; they are not peer reviewed and, alas, form an inferior class. JKeck (talk) 00:25, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

Aristotle really??![edit]

"The concept have been used since Aristotle", says the text. Is this not just a typical confusion of general descriptions with terms? Terms require contexts and I would wager Aristotle had quite a different context than modern philosophy and systems theory. ... said: Rursus (bork²) 10:09, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

Mathematics Section[edit]

I think using the mobius strip in the mathematics section is misleading; a sphere can be built up in the same way and any subset of the triangles will be isomorphic a square, but not the whole; a torus can be built up cylinders so that no subset is connected and of genus 1; same goes for a circle, a triangle, etc. with line segments. Additionally, every prime can be written as a sum of composites so that no subsum is prime. And so on. At any rate, since their are an arbitrary number of predicates that can be applied to objects and decompositions of them, it is inevitable that one can make almost any mathematical object into an example of emergence; thus, I feel that the mobius strip is misleading since the average reader will see the mobius strip as more exotic than spheres and primes, and that this will cause them to think that there is greater depth to this concept than is true(at least, in so far as mathematics is concerned.) Phoenix1177 (talk) 04:35, 4 March 2009 (UTC)

Additionally, the fact that the world wide web obeys a power law doesn't seem remarkable since there is no such thing as randomness, it's bound to follow some form of laws. I think my problem here is that if the world wide web(or any of the other examples here) exhibited some other laws/structures, then this page would work just aswell by pointing out those different laws/structures. In other words, all your pointing out is that these complex objects obey laws of some form, and that these laws are sensible to humans; the later part is the only remarkable feature, but the page gives the impression asif it were otherwise. Phoenix1177 (talk) 04:42, 4 March 2009 (UTC)

Sorry to keep blathering on, I realize that in my second comment, above, I left out the part about no substructure having that property; nonetheless, we can always point something out about it that will satisfy this, unless we limit ourselves in what we can point out(which does not seem to be going on here.) For example, if we limit ourselves to topology and structures built up out of triangles, then we will not be able to find a distinction between two triangles joined into a square and a single triangle; however, we will be able to find such distinctions if we are allowed to talk about the number of sides when the complex is a polygon. I guess I would like to see more criticism of the topic, or have it pointed out that this phenomenon is nontrivial, in the vast majority of cases, only if we limit what properties we are allowed to refer to. (talk) 09:00, 4 March 2009 (UTC)

Incorrect translation of Aristotle[edit]

I am no expert on emergence but the translation given for Aristotle is wrong. The text is :

περὶ δὲ τῆς ἀπορίας τῆς εἰρημένης περί τε τοὺς ὁρισμοὺς καὶ περὶ τοὺς ἀριθμούς, τί αἴτιον τοῦ ἓν εἶναι; πάντων γὰρ ὅσα πλείω μέρη ἔχει καὶ μὴ ἔστιν οἷον σωρὸς τὸ πᾶν [10] ἀλλ᾽ ἔστι τι τὸ ὅλον παρὰ τὰ μόρια, ἔστι τι αἴτιον, ἐπεὶ καὶ ἐν τοῖς σώμασι τοῖς μὲν ἁφὴ αἰτία τοῦ ἓν εἶναι τοῖς δὲ γλισχρότης ἤ τι πάθος ἕτερον τοιοῦτον. ὁ δ᾽ ὁρισμὸς λόγος ἐστὶν εἷς οὐ συνδέσμῳ καθάπερ ἡ Ἰλιὰς ἀλλὰ τῷ ἑνὸς εἶναι.

which is translated by Hugh Tredennick ( Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1933, 1989) as

With regard to the difficulty which we have described in connection with definitions and numbers, what is the cause of the unification? In all things which have a plurality of parts, and which are not a total aggregate but a whole of some sort distinct from the parts, there is some cause ; inasmuch as even in bodies sometimes contact is the cause of their unity, and sometimes viscosity or some other such quality.But a definition is one account, not by connection, like the Iliad , but because it is a definition of one thing.

This seems to be quite different to the translation given in the footnote which is unsourced: "Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book 8.6.1045a:8-10: "... the totality is not, as it were, a mere heap, but the whole is something besides the parts ...", i.e., the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Unless anyone objects I will change the translation in the footnote. But it seems to me that he is not explicitly saying the whole is greater than the sum of the parts but rather that there is a cause why the parts cohere into a whole.

Any comments?

Seneca_2007 (talk) 00:57, 28 October 2009 (UTC)

Emergence and Intelligent Design[edit]

On 21 Oct 2010, added a bunch of Intelligent Design propaganda. I don't know (or care) enough about the topic of emergence to address all of the changes, but I thought someone might want to take a look. (And it appears that this wouldn't be this user's first run in with the authorities.) Steve in Appalachia (talk) 17:18, 24 October 2010 (UTC)

It would be great if also there was a simple explanation of 'how' the sum of parts are (made) greater than the whole. Tkyoung (talk) 02:26, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

Ceramic self-assembly[edit]

The following assertion is made in the Ceramic Engineering article:

"Self-assembly" is the most common term in use in the modern scientific community to describe the spontaneous aggregation of particles (atoms, molecules, colloids, micelles, etc.) without the influence of any external forces. Large groups of such particles are known to assemble themselves into thermodynamically stable, structurally well-defined arrays, quite reminiscent of one of the 7 crystal systems found in metallurgy and mineralogy (e.g. face-centered cubic, body-centered cubic, etc.).

I think this is a good non-living example of emergence at the molecular level in inorganic structures. I'm not incorporating any of this in the Emergence article today however as the sourcing was a bit unclear. When it is better sourced in that article, it might make a useful example for this one as well. Cheers. N2e (talk) 04:41, 29 December 2010 (UTC)

"Bangkok can be seen as an example of spontaneous order"[edit]

Not by anyone familiar with bangkok traffic. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:02, 5 March 2011 (UTC)

The definition of "emergence"[edit]

In May 2007, a multi-disciplinary conference on "Understanding Complex Systems" was held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with the participation of researchers from various academic disciplines and industry. Later, in 2009, an invited article [1] resulting from the conference, appeared in the journal Complexity, a cross-disciplinary journal focusing on the science of complex adaptive systems. The article describes a general understanding of complex systems dynamics, without formal definitions, and provides a good background for understanding the accepted meaning of terms such as emergence and self-organization.

I believe we should be content for now with this level of understanding. Emergence is under intense scrutiny, and many researchers find the term useful and appropriate for their needs. Scientific terms are frequently defined by their use in science. Nobody knew what was Physics until somebody said "this is Physics". Researchers working on emergence are telling us what they mean by "emergence" as clearly as they can.

The other factor, is that the discipline itself is progressing very fast. There is a great deal of new understanding, which makes much of the preceding discussion look somewhat obsolete. The article has some structural problems, and it must be rebuilt and updated. But it also has some very useful material, which should be preserved. SergioPi (talk) 19:51, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Concern about positive bias[edit]

Emergence is very fascinating yet not always beneficial - the point is omitted in the article, yet examples create only positive impression. Even with good or neutral individual intentions, emergence in human groups may produce stunningly good or bad organizations. Corporations' cultures are an example of emergence with potentially sustained priorities misalignment w/society's long term interests. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Didenko (talkcontribs) 00:34, 20 October 2011 (UTC)


  1. ^ M. Prokopenko, F. Boschetti, and A. J. Ryan. An Information-Theoretic Primer on Complexity, Self-Organization, and Emergence. Complexity, 15, 11-28 (2009)


Money is discussed in this article as an emergent property of economic systems. Indeed, I do believe it is an emergent property of modern complex economic systems. However, as described an related to "Austrian economics" this cannot be true. There is nothing in the "Austrian economic approach" (what the approach actually says is difficult to pin down) that has emergence in it, it is just the opposite. I think if money is an emergent property of complex economic systems, we need to find some references and develop a section that really establishes this. If this cannot be done soon, I think the money section should be deleted because as it stands, it is not an example of emergence.--I am One of Many (talk) 18:46, 19 March 2013 (UTC)

Your reasoning is that since the Austrian School of Economics is not an example of an emergent property, but money is an example of an emergent property, you'd like to delete the section on money? I did not get the sense that the section was only talking about the Austrian School, but rather, money in general. So I do not understand your reasoning or your suggestion.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 21:11, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
I don't want to delete it. I want a better section on emergence. Money is an emergent property of complex economic systems, we just need to find the research if any that backs it up. The Austrian School just can't do it. There is no concept of emergence in that school of economics. On their view, economics is deducible from one or a few principles. I only think it should be deleted if we cannot ultimately create a better section. As with most things on Wikipedia, it is best to go slow. But if we can't figure out how to come up with a better section by say this summer, may be it should be deleted?--I am One of Many (talk) 21:46, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
Still trying to understand what you're saying. Your last paragraph begins "I don't want to delete it." Then it ends with "may be it should be deleted?" So, I'm trying hard to follow the logic here, or maybe what you're saying is that somebody please improve this section, and to motivate such an effort, we'll consider chopping the section. My sense is: each individual step we do should be to improve the encyclopedia, to take it forward, to make it better, inch by inch. Sometimes that means adding; sometimes tagging; sometimes deleting (if it makes it better -- that is, if the encyclopedia is better with the information removed). So, that's my issue here -- in this instance, I don't think the encyclopedia will be better with the Money section removed. So, how about improving it? Adding references? Making it better?--Tomwsulcer (talk) 22:28, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
As is, I don't think it demonstrates emergence. I think it can and I want to help work on it. But, if we ultimately cannot find sources to back it up, then and only then it should be deleted as an unverified case of emergence. I'm convinced we will succeed. --I am One of Many (talk) 22:58, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
Okay. Maybe I can help later but probably not for a few months. I still think that money, as a subject, is itself an example of emergence, if I understand the concept correctly.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 01:18, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
As I have said, I think money is an example of emergence and I think it is possibly one of the more interesting examples. Once upon a time, the value of money depended on the intrinsic valued of the tokens used for money. The value of money in large part depended on the supply of material (gold or silver) the tokens were made out of. Later paper notes appeared that in principle could be exchanged for gold and silver. Now the value of money does not depend on being tokenized with a valuable metal or a note promising such metal, instead the value of money is an emergent property of economic systems. This is just a very rough account of what I think is interesting about money as emergent. What we will have to find (and I'm looking and that is what got me interested in this) is sources that give emergent accounts of money. I don't know of any yet. Probably, it will take a long time to work this out. I just wanted to let people know that we ought to be thinking about issue.--I am One of Many (talk) 19:31, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
Yes. It would be nice if we received emergent amounts of money for our volunteer contributions emerged in our wallets, but maybe this kind of remuneration is yet to emerge.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 20:01, 20 March 2013 (UTC)

Does the Central Limit Theorem describe an emergent property?[edit]

If you're going to talk about aggregate properties, I think the CLT would at least shed some light on the subject from a historical perspective. I'm not an expert in emergence, so if anyone could provide some feedback as to whether "the CLT qualifies as emergence" that would be quite helpful. DavidBrooksPokorny (talk) 21:32, 30 March 2013 (UTC)

Formal system[edit]

Biology emerges from chemistry which emerges from particle physics. Each of these is a Formal system with its own objects, actions, and rules. They are all just protons, electrons, and neutrons therefore they are all made of the same objects so they must differ in their actions or rules. See Deductive system and Axiomatic system. Just granpa (talk) 20:57, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

Semantics - this can't be right[edit]

In Emergent properties and processes: " . . the fallacy of division is a fallacy" is ambiguous at best. s/b the theory of division is a fallacy? or the fallacy of division is correct? Jrdoubleyou (talk) 15:08, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

Irreducible complexity[edit]

On rationalwiki is say Irreducible complexity (as proposed by some creationists) was taken from systems theory, can Irreducible complexity (emergence) redirects here. Maybe a mention of this theory could be added to the article? Jonpatterns (talk) 08:54, 26 May 2014 (UTC)

Difference Between Strong and Weak Emergence Poorly Explained[edit]

In previous versions of this section, I thought the difference was well explained. The present article seems to do a poor job of detailing the philosophical differences between the two. Simply saying that one can be explained by computer simulations while the other cannot does nothing to provide the reader with a real understanding of the philosophical differences between the two. Obviously this is a big problem for uneducated readers who come here seeking to understand how the two relate to our understanding of awareness. The real difference remains obtuse to the casual reader.

It would be better if this section included a treatment of how the two relate to awareness. Strong emergence precludes matter containing elements of awareness, while weak emergence assumes matter must have elements of awareness to it. This key difference is not readily understandable from the article.

It's almost like weak emergence is simply being treated as if it's a microscopic version of strong emergence, rather than the separate philosophical structure that it is. Assuming matter contains elements of awareness is a big deal. It should be emphasized. Weak emergence treats awareness as a fundamental constituent of the universe, rather than being a product of a material system. This is not explained at all in the current article. (talk) 23:10, 1 July 2014 (UTC)

Two further comments on this topic (may require elaboration / correction by relevant specialists): (1) A large part of this section reads like a cross between a review of Bedau's book, and self justification. (2) Perhaps liken it to a mechanical arm+hand (+strings attached). An arm can reach and an hand can grab. Together they can reach and grab (weak emergence), you can line it up to grab an apple (following the above paragraph, is it that awareness exists but is not applied?). Strong emergence: If the apple is moved, it needs that external 'awareness' (lets call it that) to be able to (a) 'sense' its position, and (b) realign with the apple. Of course there is the pulling of strings too but I believe that is transfer of energy besides the philosophical construct. I think the difficulty here starts with the definition "weak emergence is a type of emergence in which the emergent property is amenable to computer simulation", partly because what a computer can simulate is still in development, and partly because a computer is a sum of parts and its own capabilities depend on what those parts are (E.g. WE can simply just easily add a complete mathematical model of the universe along with full decision tree to a computer, then set parameters to simulate whatever we want).Tkyoung (talk) 02:02, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

Removed link[edit]

Since this paper is not published in English, it has no relevance in a Wikipedia article written in English

  • Määttä, Urho (2000), "Mistä on pienet säännöt tehty?", Virittäjä 2: 203–221