New Paper published in Erkenntnis: Mossio, M., Bich, L. and Moreno, A. (2013). “Emergence, closure and inter-level causation in biological systems”


In this paper, we advocate the idea that an adequate explanation of biological systems requires appealing to organisational closure as an emergent causal regime. We first develop a theoretical justification of emergence in terms of relatedness, by arguing that configurations, because of the relatedness among their constituents, possess ontologically irreducible properties, providing them with distinctive causal powers. We then focus on those emergent causal powers exerted as constraints, and we claim that biological systems crucially differ from other natural systems in that they realise a closure of constraints, i.e. a higher-level emergent regime of causation such that the constituents, each of them acting as a constraint, realise a mutual dependence among them, and are collectively able to self-maintain. Lastly, we claim that closure can be justifiably taken as an emergent regime of causation, without admitting that it inherently involves whole-parts causation, which would require committing to stronger ontological and epistemological assumptions.

Mossio, M., Bich, L., and Moreno, A. (2013). Emergence, closure and inter-level causation in biological systems. Erkenntnis. (HERE)

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  • "To say that a system is complex […] is to say that we can describe the same system in a variety of distinct ways […]. Therefore a system is simple to the extent that a single description suffices to account for our interaction with the system; it is complex to the extent that it fails to be true." (Robert Rosen, 1978)
  • “Complexity is not an intrinsic property of a system nor of a system description. Rather, it arises from the number of ways in which we are able to interact with the system. Thus, complexity is a function not only of the system’s interactive capabilities, but of our own”
    (Robert Rosen, 1985)

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