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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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Adrian Morgan

I'm accustomed to the meaning of "emergent" as it's generally used in philosophy, i.e. where an "emergent process" is a process for which the only way to tell what happens is to wait and see, and an "emergent property" is a property that something acquires as a result of an emergent process.

The definition discussed in this article is confusing - I think they would often be far from easy to tell apart, even with considerable context. The domains in which the two definitions might be used seem rather similar, e.g. both may be relevant when talking about the evolution of the brain.
BLOGGER: I'm unfamiliar with the specialized definition given here. I believe the word, as used by Ross, relies on its primary meaning, coming into existence. Localized -- it exists somewhere at all times. Emergent--it exists nowhere until some process occurs. For example, semantics (or meaning) emerges from a process in the brain. It is not stored there.


Oh boy. Now we have two more definitions of emergent. Maybe it would be a good idea to avoid the word or to define it up front before using it. I have until now thought of it in its two apparent biological senses: 1) it appeared miraculously rather than by normal evolution 2) it did not appear miraculously but we do not have any idea how evolution produced it. I have thought of it as a cop-out word and read which type of cop-out from the context and author. You, blogger, have always had the benefit of the doubt.
BLOGGER: One thing about Reed, he does not seem to be the kind of fellow who leans on miracles. His paper reflects a sharp, materialist spirit. I think if you look at that fist example, you can see what I think he meant. The emergence of a fist is not a miracle, not unpredictable, but the fist does not exist until it is made. It is stored nowhere.

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