Perhaps the problem with merely “emergent phenomena” is the “merely“?
It’s certainly not with the emergentist account, itself. It’s when one further characterizes the phenomena in terms of variously weak & strong emergence and strong & weak supervenience.
Otherwise, emergentism is “merely” a heuristic device, which bookmarks determinate reality’s most intractable aporia, locating various origins of novelty in terms of “aboutness.” The most familiar include quantum, cosmic & biogenetic origins as well as those for consciousness (sentience) and symbolic language (sapience).
At each level of increasing complexity or ontological density, novel nomicities present, which suggest, in my view, analogous teloi & not some univocal telos. This is to say that not all of reality appears telic in a robustly teleological sense, which implicates end-intendedness.
Nomologically, we also encounter realities that are variously end-unbounded, at quantum origins, let’s say teleopotent; end-stated, at cosmic origins, or teleomatic; end-directed, at biogenetic origins, or teleonomic; and end-purposed, when sentience emerges, or teleoqualic.
Now, these are just phenomenological denominative connotations that don’t imply anything robustly denotative in a determinative sense. They aspire to successfully refer, semantically, to some rather distinct aboutnesses that we’ve encountered along our way, but without pretending to successfully describe, ontologically, those same realities in terms of various primitives, givens, axioms & such. They’re only vague nomological categories, where different law-like properties emerge, none of which completely lend themselves to either epistemic or ontological reduction.
Now, if those vaguely referenced teloi serve as a mere exploratory heuristic rather than a robustly explanatory account, how much more vague is our Aristotelian telos & how much less should anyone pretend it’s an explanatory system?
As CS Peirce noted, it’s easy to be certain; all one has to do is to remain sufficiently vague!
Now, I’m personally drawn to an hylomorphic heuristic with its formal causal acts in potency to final causes. But I use it to help me keep my modal ontological categories straight, not to adjudicate competing quantum interpretations, cosmogonic accounts, biogenetic hypotheses, philosophies of mind or language origin theories. For sure, it doesn’t tell me which of reality’s generalities & nomicities are merely regularist or clearly necessitarian, which indeterminacies are epistemic or ontic, in/determinable or in/determined. Sure, some are ontologically suggestive but none are metaphysically decisive.
Bottomline, we mustn’t be too quick to charge other heuristic accounts with all manner of irrationalities, as long as they employ, in my view, a weak principle of sufficient reason in the form – not of the epistemic equivalent of a 1st Principle, but – of a “mere” metanomological heuristic, which honors both the laws of nature and of logic and not, instead, some inflated sense of rationality, which flirts with a metaphysical rationalism & naive realism.
Any coherent metanomological heuristic or PSRmn would not deny that there must, in principle, necessarily be some noncausal ultimate explanations that would refer, denominatively & determinatively, in different ways and to various extents, to some primal-ultimate reality, which, lacking a causal explanation, must be explained in terms of its own nature. Who, though, is to a priori specify whether that nondeterminate nomicity would govern, bound & condition divine energeia versus some dynamical energy plenum?
I appreciate that certain philosophies of mind & cosmologies & philosophical anthropologies prove too much. But they all seem to deny too much, too, sometimes. Those flaky accounts, whether deflationarily ignostic & eliminative of various true aporia or inflationarily gnostic & apodictic with their expansive use of self-evidentials, deserve cursory dismissals. But there are other highly nuanced & self-critical competing a/theological accounts that are, in my view, equiplausible, which can serve us all as much better foils to tighten up our competing tautologies?
This approach is further developed here: