Workshop with Prof. George Ellis (Cape Town) on “Top Down Causation and the Brain”

9 – 12  a.m.

Life emerges out of physics in a bottom-up way: atoms are made of electrons and protons, molecules of atoms, cells of molecules, physiological systems (including brains) out of cells, and organisms out of physiological systems. Is there genuine emergence in this hierarchy, with our minds having genuine causal powers, or are higher levels just epiphenomena, with the real action taking place only at the lower levels? I will make the case that all levels are equally real, as claimed by Denis Noble, this emergence of causally effective higher level dynamics being made possible by top-down causation, whereby lower levels are conscripted to higher level purposes. In particular this enables the causal powers of the mind and of social constructions such as  language, money, and  laws. I will discuss the different kinds of top-down causation that occur, and why this dynamic is possible.

The discussion is based on the book How can Physics Underlie the Mind? Top Down Causation in the Human Context:  and the papers  “Top down causation and emergence: some comments on mechanisms”,  “The Dynamical Emergence of Biology from Physics: Branching Causation via Biomolecules”,  and “Top-down effects in the brain”

Attendance is free.

Further information: Marin Geier,

Date: 24/06/2019
Location: Conference room IZPH
Poppelsdorfer Allee 28
2nd floor (elevator)