Similarity structure and emergent properties

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3 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-301
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

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