What does it mean to say that some thing, quality, relation, or constellation of combinations of any of the above (as well as whatever I might not have mentioned) is “emergent”? What does it mean for something to be genuinely new, for the universe to be genuinely creative?
One obvious response falls out along the lines that, “Well, something is there now that wasn’t there before.” Despite its initial plausibility, I would suggest that such an account is badly off-base. For one thing, the reliance on a difference over time is quite naïve. The evolution of eukaryotic cells on the primordial Earth took place over time, and in a sense such nucleated cells “emerged” from an earlier situation where they did not exist. But this is a kind of “weak tea” emergence that is easily accounted for within ordinary evolutionary theory. No, when philosophers speak of emergence, they mean something radically new, seemingly unaccountable within the existing scheme of things. In a very real sense, they mean something genuinely creative.