The emergence of macroscopic regularity

Meir Hemmo, Orly Shenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Special sciences (such as biology, psychology, economics) describe various regularities holding at some high macroscopic level. One of the central questions concerning these macroscopic regularities is how they are related to the laws of physics governing the underlying microscopic physical reality. In this paper we show how a macroscopic regularity may emerge from an underlying microscopic structure, and how the appearance of multiple realizability of the special sciences by physics comes about in a reductionist-physicalist framework. On this basis we explain how complexity at the high level can arise due to a sort of harmony between the microscopic dynamics and observer-dependent macroscopic properties. We show that observer-dependent properties, which underlie the emergence of macroscopic properties and of macroscopic complexity, are objective physical facts. We argue that such physical properties remove the mystery from the multiple realizability of special sciences’ kinds, since the latter are grounded in shared physical properties. Finally we explain how and in what sense in our reductive physicalist approach the special sciences are still autonomous after all.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-244
Number of pages24
JournalMind and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful for the meticulous and extremely valuable comments of Yakir Levin, and for the very helpful suggestions and the critical reading of Itzhak Aharon and two anonymous reviewers. All of these helped us improve this paper substantially. This research is supported by the Israel Academy of Sciences Grant Number 713/10 and by the German-Israel Foundation Grant Number 1054/09.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Complexity
  • Emergence
  • Macroscopic regularity
  • Macrostates
  • Macrovariables
  • Microstates
  • Multiple realization
  • Reduction
  • Special sciences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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