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With one water molecule we don't have any properties like 'wetness' or 'boiling point'. When we put a bunch of water molecules together, they now have new emergent properties and we have water.

If "A is A" how come, bunch of 'A's can have properties that no 'A' separately can have before!? These emergent properties can't be explained by mere actions/arrangement of bunch of 'A's.

Another simple example: hydrogen molecules & oxygen molecules combine to form water. We can see plenty of examples for "whole is greater than sum of its parts" in the study of Emergence It seems 1+1 is not just 2, something bigger than 2 happens in the above examples.

How does objectivism handle the above question!?

asked Jun 18 '13 at 10:48

dragonfish's gravatar image


edited Jun 18 '13 at 10:51

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Definition for water.

(1) a transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid, a compound of hydrogen and oxygen, H 2 O, freezing at 32°F or 0°C and boiling at 212°F or 100°C, that in a more or less impure state constitutes rain, oceans, lakes, rivers, etc.: it contains 11.188 percent hydrogen and 88.812 percent oxygen, by weight.

(2) a special form or variety of this liquid, as rain.

(3) Often, waters. this liquid in an impure state as obtained from a mineral spring: Last year we went to Marienbad for the waters.

(Jun 18 '13 at 14:52) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

(4) the liquid content of a river, inlet, etc., with reference to its relative height, especially as dependent on tide: a difference of 20 feet between high and low water.

(5) the surface of a stream, river, lake, ocean, etc.: above, below, or on the water.

Conclusion: Water is a type of liquid. A single molecule cannot be water because it is not a liquid.

There is no contradiction because A(water) <> B(molecule)

(Jun 18 '13 at 14:52) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

@Humbug, I understand water <> molecule, the question focuses on emergent properties. Objectivist logic doesn't seem to account for such 'emergent' stuffs or does it? if it does how? With LOI(Law Of Identity) and causation (i.e LOI applied to action) on hydrogen & oxygen molecules, we don't seem to reach (or compute logically) all the properties of water! Few things seem to emerge out from nowhere or from outside LOI. So does LOI need an upgrade just like Newtonian physics needed an upgrade after Einsteins work? or am I the one needed a thought upgrade :) ?

(Jun 18 '13 at 23:20) dragonfish dragonfish's gravatar image
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The Law of Identity only says that everything is what it is, whatever that is. Or: A is A, for any/each A. To see emergent properties as violating Identity, you would need to equivocate on what you are talking about the identity of -- so clearing up that equivocation should clear away the seeming puzzle.

My favorite example of emergence involves half-spheres that are magnetic on the flat side. A half-sphere has an identity such that, on a flat surface like the bottom of a box, you would find it exhibiting either stillness (flat side down), or wobbliness (curved side down). Throw one in a box and you'll find it exhibiting one of these two properties.

Now consider a system with lots of them at once, like putting several in the box and shaking it up a bit. You'd expect to see the above stillness and wobbliness, for sure. But some pairs could also end up flat-side to flat-side, forming a sphere. Ooooh, in that case we'd see rolliness in the box, which is neither stillness nor wobbliness -- that's an emergent property of systems of half-spheres!

Notice that nowhere in the above description will you find a half-sphere acting in some way contrary to its identity. The stillness and the wobbliness are expressions of a half-sphere acting alone on the bottom of the box. And the rolliness we see when half-spheres come together is likewise an expression of the identities of those half-spheres (when acting in concert). Again, no violation of identity.

You can only see a violation of identity here by conflating the properties of the system for properties of the system's constituents. Just keep straight what you're talking about the identity of at any given time, and the puzzle goes away.

answered Jun 19 '13 at 00:21

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

edited Jun 19 '13 at 12:06

Another way of saying it would be that the 'emergent properties' of the molecules are an example of the law of causality: the interactions between the individual molecules with their host environment produces the entity that we've defined as 'water'. At no time do the molecules act 'outside of their nature'.

(Jun 20 '13 at 10:51) empiric ♦ empiric's gravatar image

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Asked: Jun 18 '13 at 10:48

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Last updated: Jun 20 '13 at 10:51