Social emergence: Distinguishing reflexive and non-reflexive modes

Christopher Goldspink*, Robert Kay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Emergence has a long and controversial history. In this paper we briefly review the primary strands of the debate, paying attention to its use in the fields of philosophy of science and mind, social science and systems theory including the theory of complex systems. We argue that it is important to recognize why emergence in social systems is fundamentally different from other natural systems. The key characteristics of reflexivity are discussed and a distinction between two classes of emergence proposed. Non-reflexive emergence: where the agents in the system under study are not self-aware, and Reflexive emergence: where the agents in the system under study are self-aware and linguistically capable. We specify the generative processes we believe are associated with each of these categories and argue for the adoption of this distinction in both theoretical and practical modeling of human social systems.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmergent Agents and Socialities
Subtitle of host publicationSocial and Organizational Aspects of Intelligence - Papers from the AAAI Fall Symposium, Technical Report
Place of PublicationMenlo Park, Calif.
PublisherAssociation for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781577353492
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes
Event2007 AAAI Fall Symposium - Arlington, VA, United States
Duration: 9 Nov 200711 Nov 2007


Other2007 AAAI Fall Symposium
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityArlington, VA


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