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emergentemergent (ger.)

  • An effect produced by a combination of several causes, but not capable of being regarded as the sum of their individual effects. (OED 2012)

    Thus, although each effect is the resultant of its components, the product of its factors, we cannot always trace the steps of the process, so as to see in the product the mode of operation of each factor. In this latter case, I propose to call the effect an emergent. It arises out of the combined agencies, but in a form which does not display the agents in action. 

    Lewes, G.H. (1875-1891). Problems of Life and Mind, 2 vols.: II, 368.

    The fact of emergence must be explained in terms of the synthetic rise of higher-order substances or functionally unified continuants. We must take relations and organization seriously as characteristics of nature

    Sellars, R.W. (1943). Causality and substance (in: id. (1970). Principles of Emergent Realism, 27-50): 44.


    emergent 1: An aquatic plant having most of the vegetative parts above water. 2: A tree which reaches above the level of the surrounding canopy; cf. submergent.

    Lincoln, R.J., Boxshall, G.A. & Clark, P.F. (1982). A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics: 78.