Emergence and reductionism: An awkward baconian alliance

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses the relationship between emergence and reductionism from the perspective of a condensed matter physicist. It argues that in practice, they complement one another, forming an awkward alliance in a fashion envisioned by the philosopher-scientist, Francis Bacon. The chapter shows that the connection between emergence and reductionism continues to provide a powerful driver for frontier scientific research, linking the lab with the cosmos. Emergence, by contrast, is the intriguing idea that as matter comes together, it develops novel properties and unexpected patterns of collective behavior. The chapter presents a pragmatic middle ground: arguing that reductionism and emergence are mutually complementary and, quite possibly, inseparable. Biologists trace the idea of emergence back to Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, and the use of the term in science began in biology. One of the most remarkable developments has been the discovery of a topological connection to emergence.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Emergence
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781317381501
ISBN (Print)9781138925083
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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