Similarity structure and diachronic emergence

Samuel C. Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


I provide a formally precise account of diachronic emergence of properties as described within scientific theories, extending a recent account of synchronic emergence using similarity structure on the theories’ models. This similarity structure approach to emergent properties unifies the synchronic and diachronic types by revealing that they only differ in how they delineate the domains of application of theories. This allows it to apply also to cases where the synchronic/diachronic distinction is unclear, such as spacetime emergence from theories of quantum gravity. In addition, I discuss two further case studies—finite periodicity in van der Pol oscillators and two-dimensional quasiparticles in the fractional quantum Hall effect—to facilitate comparison of this approach to others in the literature on concepts of emergence applicable to the sciences. My discussion of the fractional quantum Hall effect in particular may be of independent interest to philosophers of physics concerned with its interpretation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8873-8900
Number of pages28
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 12 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Nature B.V.


  • Diachronic emergence
  • Fractional quantum Hall effect
  • Similarity structure
  • Spacetime emergence
  • Synchronic emergence
  • van der Pol oscillator


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