The Concept of Emergence. A Brief History and a Philosophical Analysis of an Ontological Regulative Principle of Organization


Emergence is it is a concept that should undergo more careful philosophical analysis. This paper aims to promote the idea that “emergence” should be taken as an ontological regulative principle (rather than a conceptual instrument able to provide a quick empirical answer to many concrete scientific problems). The usefulness of the proposed approach rests in the fact that it could work as an overarching theoretical framework for the ever-growing body of theories and empirical data provided by natural and social sciences; it could also help to overcome (at least partly) the extreme overspecialization that characterizes contemporary knowledge. Further-more, it could work as a programmatic framework for comparing and combining data and theories belonging to very different fields – from the natural to the social sciences – but related to one single, very complicated entity, that is, Man.  So, after a short history of the concept of emergence, an analysis of its ontological nature will follow; then some specific philosophical problems – like the metaphoric aspects of the emergentist approach, or the ontological unification of every kind of emergence – will be discussed. Afterward this paper will provide a few reasons for supporting a regulative approach to emergence and will illustrate its advantages – supplying an example/proposal taken from the debate about free will.



English (en)


Roberto ManzoccoCity University of New York


Orbis Idearum Volume 6, Issue 2 (2018), 11-32
Orbis Idearum