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Title: Understanding emergence : a pragmatic interdisciplinary approach
Author: McDonald, Diane
ISNI:       0000 0004 2680 199X
Awarding Body: University of Strathclyde
Current Institution: University of Strathclyde
Date of Award: 2009
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Emergence is a concept which has been the subject of resurgent interest in recent years. The term is often used to describe the appearance of new macro-level properties or capabilities, which are not manifest in the individual micro-level components. Equally, it is associated with irreducibility of explanation, novelty and downward causation. Despite a long history, during which the concept has been adopted by different disciplines, there is little agreement on the real nature of emergence. This, I claim, is due to different philosophical and disciplinary perspectives as well as some lack of conceptual clarity. The aim of this thesis is not to resolve the extremely hard problem of what emergence is; rather it is to provide clearer insight into the nature of emergence. The thesis is therefore conceptual and analytical in nature. The focus of the research is pragmatic investigation of the different perspectives, apparent disputes and real-world examples associated with emergence, in order to improve understanding of both the concept and instances of emergence. My thesis is that emergence is usefully conceptualised as fuzzy with three 'dimensions' - ontological, epistemological and complexity. This leads to the proposal of a typology of emergence which supports interdisciplinary discourse on the subject and a method of defining emergence in differing contexts. Both of these, it is argued, are vital to the development of shared meaning and the ability to engage in analytical discourse across the sphere of influence for emergence. The final proposal is a framework for investigation of real-world emergents which, while neutral to disciplinary or philosophical stances, enables exploration of the key of emergents. Together, the proposals provide a conceptual scaffold for understanding both the concept and instances of emergence. This claim is assessed through consideration of classical putative emergents and real learning communities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral