I have to introduce the term emergence at thispoint.

Parade, Cusco, Peru, 27. 8. 1989
Parade, Cusco, Peru, 27. 8. 1989

Complex systems cannot be explained by the mere description of their parts. Even the most precise knowledge of the individual parts cannot lead to an understanding of the system. This phenomenon is referred to as emergence i.e. the appearance of new properties that do not result from the properties of the subsystems.

The concept of emergence has played an important role in the question of whether biological systems, e.g. cells, can be explained with the theoretical framework of physics or chemistry. The answer: However important the understanding of physical and chemical processes in the cell may be for the overall understanding, the biological system alone cannot explain the cell.

There are emergent biological properties in cells that can only be explained using the theoretical framework of biology. The same applies to the spirit and culture of people; human beings and their culture are a highly complex system with characteristics that emerge from their biological parts.

To refresh your memory: Darwin and Mayr spoke of gradual differences between animal and human souls as well as of the gradual evolution of the human ability to have culture. If there were no emergent qualities of human culture, the images of Salvador Dali and Hegel’s philosophy could be described with biological terminology; but that is obviously not the case.

Leave a Reply