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In the theory of evolution, the rise of a system that cannot be predicted or explained from antecedent conditions. The British philosopher of science G.H. Lewes (1817–78) distinguished between resultants and emergentsphenomena that are predictable from their constituent parts (e.g., a physical mixture of sand and talcum powder) and those that are not (e.g., a chemical compound such as salt, which looks nothing like sodium or chlorine). The evolutionary account of life is a continuous history marked by stages at which fundamentally new forms have appeared. Each new mode of life, though grounded in the conditions of the previous stage, is intelligible only in terms of its own ordering principle. These are thus cases of emergence. In the philosophy of mind, the primary candidates for the status of emergent properties are mental states and events.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on emergence, visit Britannica.com.