Quantum mechanics, emergence, and fundamentality

Peter Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quantum mechanics arguably provides the best evidence we have for strong emergence. Entangled pairs of particles apparently have properties that fail to supervene on the properties of the particles taken individually. But at the same time, quantum mechanics is a terrible place to look for evidence of strong emergence: the interpretation of the theory is so contested that drawing any metaphysical conclusions from it is risky at best. I run through the standard argument for strong emergence based on entanglement, and show how it rests on shaky assumptions concerning the ontology of the quantum world. In particular, I consider two objections: that the argument involves Bell’s theorem, whose premises are often rejected, and that the argument rests on a contested account of parts and wholes. I respond to both objections, showing that, with some important caveats, the argument for emergence based on quantum mechanics remains intact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-75
Number of pages23
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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