• Dave Elder-Vass


The concept of emergence is routinely invoked in critical realist theory, but rarely examined. Yet emergence is fundamental to the realist account of cause. This paper aims to improve critical realism's understanding of emergence by discussing, first, what emergence is and how it works; second, the need for a compositional account of emergence; and third, the implications of emergence for causation. It goes on to argue that the theory of emergence leads to the recognition of certain hitherto neglected similarities between real causal powers and actual causation.


  • cause
  • critical realism
  • emergence
  • reductionism
  • causal powers
  • emergent properties

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