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Balkan Journal of Philosophy

Volume 6, Issue 1, 2014

Social Ontology

Dave Elder-Vass
Pages 5-16

Social Emergence: Relational or Functional?

This paper outlines a relational variety of the theory of emergence and claims that it can be applied more fruitfully to sociology than the functional variety advocated by Keith Sawyer. Sawyer argues that the wildly disjunctive multiple realizability of social properties justifies a nonreductive approach to causal explanation in the social sciences (but also ontological individualism). In response, this paper argues, first, that the social properties he discusses are not wildly disjunctive, and secondly, that we can explain their causal significance more effectively with a relational emergence theory linked to the critical realist account of causal powers. Although these properties are multiply realizable, they are not emergent because they are multiply realizable, but despite being so.

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