Letter | Published:

[Letters to Editor]

Naturevolume 120pages8182 (1927) | Download Citation



IF there be a valid distinction between resultant and emergent advance the question arises: How may this distinction be expressed with precision and clearness? One way of expressing it is that developed by Dr. Broad. It comes to this. There are certain integral wholes, composed of constituents in specific relations, of which it may be said that their characterising properties are not deducible from the most complete knowledge of the properties of the constituents taken severally in isolation, or taken collectively in some other set of specific relations. Such a whole is said to be emergent. The theory of emergence is on trial. Of it Dr. Broad says that “it is a matter of controversy whether it actually applies to anything”; but he adds that it embodies “a logically possible view with a good deal in its favour”. If, then, the theory be on trial as a scientific proposition—and such it purports to be—it must, I submit, be tried out on the basis of existing scientific knowledge. I should not designate this as an appeal to ignorance.

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