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Emergence : de la fascination à la compréhension

Abstract : Is life an emergent phenomenon? Is life a case where truly novel properties appear at the level of a whole, such properties being irreducible to the properties and organization of the components of this whole, or unpredictable on the basis of these same elements? The philosophical notion of emergence owes much to 19th century philosophers and has evolved in close relationship with the problem of the essence of life and the problem of its origins: life would result neither from a vital force nor from a mechanical process but would be an emergent phenomenon (Mill 1843, Lewes 1875, Broad 1925). Today, after several decades of observational, theoretical and experimental work, very sophisticated physico-chemical scenarios try to account for the appearance of life on Earth. These advances unveil the astounding complexity of bio-molecular systems, and trigger also a renewed interest in emergence as a means of characterizing life (Luisi 2002, Aderem 2005, Hazen 2005). In this contribution, I propose to adopt a pragmatic conception of emergence according to which emergence is a contextual notion that depends on the description of the so-called emergent phenomenon, and on the possibility, or not, to provide a reductive explanation of it. I argue that, depending on the context within which the phenomenon of life is evaluated, for instance historical or physico-chemical, the qualification of the appearance of life as emergent appears, or not, justified.
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Contributor : Christophe Malaterre <>
Submitted on : Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 2:02:17 PM
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  • HAL Id : halshs-00792151, version 1


Christophe Malaterre. Emergence : de la fascination à la compréhension. Les origines de la vie : émergence ou explication réductive?, Hermann, pp.280, 2008, Visions des sciences. ⟨halshs-00792151⟩



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