POST 23 – 3-12-2014


For on-line version go to https://warraba.wordpress.com

In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is conceived as a process whereby larger entities, patterns, and regularities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities that themselves do not exhibit such properties. In philosophy, almost all accounts of emergence include a form of irreducibility (either epistemic or ontological) to the lower levels.[1] Also, emergence is central in theories of integrative levels and of complex systems. For instance, the phenomenon life as studied in biology is commonly perceived as an emergent property of interacting molecules as studied in chemistry, whose phenomena reflect interactions among elementary particles, modeled in particle physics, that at such higher mass—via substantial conglomeration—exhibit motion as modeled in gravitational physics. Neurobiological phenomena are often presumed to suffice as the underlying basis of psychological phenomena, whereby economic phenomena are in turn presumed to principally emerge.

Emergence seems a rather passive concept, suggesting that things emerge only when a special set of conditions arises by some sort of natural process. This may be true of natural occurrences but once humans get involved, there may be intentional human intervention that can provide a more active process – perhaps “breakthrough”. – or is there some better word?

The definition I have quoted above suggests that the emergent entity or phenomenon will be more complex than the predecessor. This may not always be the case, for example the biological evolutionary process may lead to specialisation with a simpler outcome such as in the case of parasites organisms including viruses appear to have evolved from more complex beings.


As I awoke from a recent afternoon nap I was ruminating about my last blog post about CREATIVITY, and began to consider whether I could ask Helen Kennedy, an artist I know, to take some of the ideas from that and paint something from its immateriality.

Helen had an exhibition of some of her work in 2012. The media release associated with the show said:

The prints and paintings of Helen Kennedy enquire into the relationships between colour and the phenomenon of light. Kennedy’s work investigates the many contradictions and dualities of light, both its immateriality and its ability to create three dimensional spaces. Her work explores the empty space between areas of structure or matter, and light between the visible and invisible worlds.

I was attracted to her ability to give a reality to her concepts of light and colour. If she could do that I guessed she might attempt to do so for the phenomenon of emergence.

I wondered, idly, whether I could have a go at it myself, as the ideas are mine, not anyone else’s. My lack of skills in that medium discouraged me.

Then the variant thought came to me. It should have been quite obvious but it was not.

My medium is words, especially on occasions of deep emotion, poetry.

I got up and went to the computer and produced this:


The new thing, the variant, springs into the mind as a surprise in there, and it will blend with the old. It will merge to give me something new that emerges for me to understand, to explain, to depict, to share. It calls upon my skill to convey its meaning so others will share the new idea. This brainchild from my own journey, my experience. My gift to you and to others. How do I depict emergence?


My mind is full

Of all those things

Accumulated over the years

From instinct, emotion, experience

From experiment, from learning

Held together by memory

Fitting together in a fugitive story

Recalled in a mix of the real and the imagined

Held in the prepared soil of the mind’s effort to see reality

And then a surprise, the unexpected, is there

A variant, an error, a mutant

Blend it, merge it, test it

Grasp it, hold it, never let it go

It may be precious.

Something new may have emerged

Mould and manipulate it

To show its message, its meaning

So as to be real to me

So I can make something that will be real to you


Paul Gilchrist


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