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Similarity Structure and Emergent Properties

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

The concept of emergence is commonly invoked in modern physics but rarely defined. Building on recent influential work by Jeremy Butterfield, I provide precise definitions of emergence concepts as they pertain to properties represented in models, applying them to some basic examples from space-time and thermostatistical physics. The chief formal innovation I employ, similarity structure, consists in a structured set of similarity relations among those models under analysis—and their properties—and is a generalization of topological structure. Although motivated from physics, this similarity-structure-based account of emergence applies to any science that represents its possibilia with (mathematical) models.

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Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

Thanks to audiences in Pittsburgh (October 2015), Oxford (November 2017), Valparaiso (March 2018), Nantes (June 2018), Seattle (November 2018), and Amsterdam (May 2019) for their comments as this project evolved, especially Esteban Céspedes and two outstanding anonymous referees.

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