Emergence, evolution, and the geometry of logic: Causal leaps and the myth of historical development

Stephen Palmquist*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


After sketching the historical development of "emergence" and noting several recent problems relating to "emergent properties", this essay proposes that properties may be either "emergent" or "mergent" and either "intrinsic" or "extrinsic". These two distinctions define four basic types of change: stagnation, permanence, flux, and evolution. To illustrate how emergence can operate in a purely logical system, the Geometry of Logic is introduced. This new method of analyzing conceptual systems involves the mapping of logical relations onto geometrical figures, following either an analytic or a synthetic pattern (or both together). Evolution is portrayed as a form of discontinuous change characterized by emergent properties that take on an intrinsic quality with respect to the object(s) or proposition(s) involved. Causal leaps, not continuous development, characterize the evolution of human life in a developing foetus, of a thought out of certain brain states, of a new idea (or insight) out of ordinary thoughts, and of a great person out of a set of historical experiences. The tendency to assume that understanding evolutionary change requires a step-by-step explanation of the historical development that led to the appearance of a certain emergent property is thereby discredited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-37
Number of pages29
JournalFoundations of Science
Issue number1
Early online date24 Oct 2006
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007

Scopus Subject Areas

  • General
  • History and Philosophy of Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Analysis and synthesis
  • Causality
  • Emergence
  • Evolution
  • Geometryand logic
  • Insight
  • Intrinsic properties
  • Kant


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