Intention and emergence

Take wind as a paradigm for emergence. (1) Something heats the ground, (2) making the air expand and drop in pressure, (3) making an air flow from higher to lower densities.

But the “something” at stage (1) can be the sun on a lake or the firestorm wind made by a bomber squadron, and so the paradigm for emergence is indifferent whether a natural or intentional process leads to an emergent property.

So what would it mean for the intentional as such emerge?  We can’t use a paradigm that allows for both intentional and non-intentional initiation and then say the intentional needs to arise emergently. Said another way, it can’t be the nature of the intentional to arise emergently. But isn’t the whole point of describing the intentional (or consciousness) as emergent to give an account of the sort of thing it is?



  1. David said,

    March 20, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    What paradigm that allows for non-intentional initiation would not also allow for intentional initiation? Or is that part of the point?

    • March 20, 2017 at 6:20 pm

      That’s one part of the point, along with the idea tat emergence is supposed to be a sufficient foundation of what emerges.

  2. Lucretius said,

    March 20, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Can someone help better understanding St. Thomas’ approach to Divine Omnipotence? In the Summa he says that God can do all things possible, but isn’t this circular, since God also determines what is possible?

    Christi pax.

    • The Lambton Worm said,

      March 21, 2017 at 4:02 am

      I think the answer is that God does not determine what is possible in the sense that would make this problematic. This is explained at length (by St Thomas) here: and in articles 5 and 7 of the same.

      • Lucretius said,

        March 21, 2017 at 7:07 am

        Yes, I know he uses the conflict of the terms themselves as the measure of what is impossible, but since God is the author of those terms, doesn’t this mean he is still determining possiblity?

        Christi pax.

    • t3ophilius said,

      March 21, 2017 at 7:59 am

      Possible is said of a being that potentially can exist. Hence God can do all the beings that potentially can exist. So “possible” is being-determinated.

    • March 21, 2017 at 9:38 am

      If you want to measure anything you need something that stands outside of it but can be commensurate with it, since otherwise all you end up saying is that the thing is as big as it is, or, in the case you’re worried about, that it has enough power to do whatever it does – a claim that is true of a thing whether it is omnipotent or not.

      This is why STA uses logical possibility to measure real possibility, and can in turn use this as a measure of omnipotence. HE can do this because the logical stands outside of the real but is still commensurate with it (in fact, in you and I the logical is broader than the real, since it includes things with hidden contradictions, though this would not be the case in an ideal human knower, say Adam, Christ, the Virgin, the Saints, or a hypothetical construction). Given that the logical and real are distinct, the one can measure the other. If we applied your objection that “ultimately God causes both the measure and the measured” this means that you want to consider the logical and real as not ultimately distinct.

      While I think you’re right that there is a way in which the logical and real coalesce, I would make three objections: (a) they only completely coalesce in a way that includes God and creation, and so not in the way the that is salient for a discussion of omnipotence. Omnipotence is modulated by what is causable since all active potencies are causes. (b) The logical and the real coalesce in being considered in its transcendence or meta-transcendence. This is a sense of being that goes beyond the metaphysical, at least so far as it is attainable by us at the moment. If we’re giving a metaphysical account of omnipotence, we are in a domain where the logical and the real are divided from one another. Most importantly (c) the two never coalesce completely for a created intellect as created.

      • Lucretius said,

        March 23, 2017 at 1:52 am

        Thank you. I’ve been reading your response over again, and if I have any more questions I’ll ask them. Again, thank you for the time and brainpower 🙂

        Christi pax.

  3. Kristor said,

    March 20, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Intention can be said to emerge – in the sense of “emerge” employed by advocates of emergence – only on the presupposition that it was not there to begin with. But how do you pull a rabbit out of a hat, so that it emerges from the hat, if the rabbit is not first in the hat? Even worse, how do you pull a rabbit out of a hat in a universe where there are not yet any such things as animals?

    On the sense of “emerge” suggested by its aetymology, the emergence of intention is an appearance of something that had been already present, but that had been, precisely, submerged in the flux of experience, so that it was not previously apparent.

    It seems clear to me that intention is what it is like to be finally caused.

%d bloggers like this: