Inference Rules, Emergent Wholes and Supervenient

  • Ingvar Johansson Institute for Formal Ontology and Medical Information Science, Saarland University
Keywords: image retrieval, inference rule, emergent whole, supervenient property, David Lewis


Computer images are “emergent wholes” in relation to their pixels. This may seem to suggest that there cannot be any valid formal inference rule connecting such images with their constituents. However, there is one; one that applies to many kinds of emergent wholes. The rule is extracted from R.M. Hare’s writings on supervenience, and is here baptized the supervenience rule for emergent wholes. This rule is distinct from both the plain rule for emergent wholes, which is invalid, and David Lewis’ corresponding rule and concept of supervenience, which do not differentiate between cases of reduction and non-reduction. In philosophical ontology, Lewis’ definition of “supervenience” obliterates the distinction between emergent and non-emergent entities, while in informatics and computer science it may complicate computing.