Emergence in the physical and biological world: A notion in search of clarification

Erice (Italy), April 12-16 2008



Organizing Committee:

- Pier Luigi Luisi and Pasquale Stano, UniRoma3, Italy

- Hugues Bersini, IRIDIA - UniversitÚ Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

- Paul Gailey and Jan Walleczek, The Fetzer Institute, USA

- Gianluca Bocchi, Scuola di Dottorato in Antropologia ed Epistemologia della ComplessitÓ - Univ. Bergamo, Italy

- Fondation Jean-Marie Delwaert


12 April 2008    Arrival day

13 April 2008    Working day #1

14 April 2008    Working day #2

15 April 2008    Working day #3

16 April 2008    Departure day




Invited Speakers:

Sandra Mitchell - Univ. of Pittsburg, US

Paul Humphreys - Univ. of Virginia, US

Robert Richardson - Univ. of Cincinnati, US

Mark Bedau - Reed College, Portland, US

Brian McLaughlin - Rutgers Univ., US

Terrence Deacon - Univ. California, Berkeley, US

Gianluca Bocchi - Scuola di Dottorato in Antropologia ed Epistemologia della ComplessitÓ - Univ. Bergamo, IT

Philippe Huneman - Univ. Paris I, FR

Luisa Damiano - Ritsumeikan Univ. Kyoto, JP

Eschel Ben-Jacob - Tel Aviv Univ., IL

David Batten - CSIRO, AU

Peter Corning - Inst. Study Complex Systems, US

Paul Gailey - The Fetzer Inst., US

Robert Batterman - Univ. Western Ontario, US

Jim Crutchfield - Univ. California, Davies, US

Michel Bitbol - CREA CNRS/Ecole Polytechnique, FR

Jan Walleczek, The Fetzer Inst., US

Achim Stephan - Univ. OsnabrŘck, DE 

Jacques Debucs - IHPST, Univ. Paris I, FR

Pier Luigi Luisi - Univ. Rome III, IT

Hugues Bersini - IRIDIA Univ. Bruxelles, BE

Leonardo Bich - Scuola di Dottorato in Antropologia ed Epistemologia della ComplessitÓ - Univ. Bergamo, IT


The notion of emergence is widespread in several fields of the natural and human sciences, and, due to such a large variety of applications and aims, tends to become slurry and even confuse. Plausible examples of emergence are now discussed in diverse scientific fields, including the study of complex systems, solid state physics, elementary particle physics, artificial life, sociology, evolutionary biology, among others. We thought that it would be important to organize a meeting aimed at identifying the basic epistemological ingredients of emergence, so as to agree on a common denominator and possibly identify a common language across the various disciplines.

The meeting will be three days long, and will consist in six sessions, one in each morning and one in each afternoon. Each session will focus, rather freely, on a particular aspect of emergence. There will be three speakers in each session (max. allotted time, with discussion, 45 min.), and ample time will be devoted to panel discussions. Detail will follow, but we foresee sessions on the epistemology of emergence, e.g., on emergence and reductionism; on predictability of emergent properties; on downward causality, and then illustrations of emergent properties in sciences, in human enterprise, in evolution, economy.

The meeting is open to everyone who is interested into Emergent Properties, Emergence, Self-Organization, Systems, and similar topics, also applied in different fields.

Invited speakers will be contacted directly by the organizers. The following instructions are for all other participants.

In order to take part to the meeting, follow the instruction below:

1) Fill this form and send it by e-mail or fax to  - Fax (+39) 06 5733 6321. DEADLINE is: March 15th 2008

2) The conference fee has been fixed to EUR 200.00 (for academics), and EUR 100.00 (for students).

3) The "Ettore Majorana" Centre in Erice will host you at the rate of EUR 100.00/day all included (single room, breakfast, lunch, dinner, transportation by private taxi from/to Erice/Palermo Airport ). Notice that lodging in other hotels is forbidden.

4) You can pay cash or via bank transfer. Payments cannot be done by credit cards.

5) On the basis of first comes first, the number of participants is limited to 50.

6) If you are accepted as participant, communicate - before March 28th 2008 - your arrival and departure time/day from Palermo Airport (using the same form as before). Fax it or send it by e-mail to the above mentioned addresses.


How to reach Erice

Flight to Palermo International Airport "Falcone-Borsellino (Punta Raisi)". As soon as you fix your trip to Palermo, communicate to the organizers ( (1) the flight number inclusive of  (2) airline name and (3) provenance/destination airports, (4) the date and (5) the time of arrival and departure from Palermo airport. A private taxi will pick you at the exit of Palermo Airport. Similarly, a private taxi will bring you from Erice to Palermo Airport when you leave. Travelling between Palermo and Erice takes generally 45 minutes.



General Information about Erice and Erice Schools at Ettore Majorana Centre

More information on Erice Schools can be found at


Poetic touch. According to legend, Erice, son of Venus and Neptune, founded a small town on top of a mountain (750 metres above sea level) more than three thousand years ago. The founder of modern history - i.e. the recording of events in a methodic and chronological sequence as they really happened without reference to mythical causes - the great Thucydides (~500 B.C.), writing about events connected with the conquest of Troy (1183 B.C.) said: "After the fall of Troy some Trojans on their escape from the Achaei arrived in Sicily by boat and as they settled near the border with the Sicanians all together they were named Elymi: their towns were Segesta and Erice." This inspired Virgil to describe the arrival of the Trojan royal family in Erice and the burial of Anchise, by his son Enea, on the coast below Erice. Homer (~1000 B.C.), Theocritus (~300 B.C.), Polybius (~200 B.C.), Virgil (~50 B.C.), Horace (~20 B.C.), and others have celebrated this magnificent spot in Sicily in their poems. During seven centuries (XIII-XIX) the town of Erice was under the leadership of a local oligarchy, whose wisdom assured a long period of cultural development and economic prosperity which in turn gave rise to the many churches, monasteries and private palaces which you see today. In Erice you can admire the Castle of Venus, the Cyclopean Walls (~800 B.C.) and the Gothic Cathedral (~1300 A.D.). Erice is at present a mixture of ancient and medieval architecture. Other masterpieces of ancient civilization are to be found in the neighbourhood: at Motya (Phoenician), Segesta (Elymian), and Selinunte (Greek). On the Aegadian Islands - theatre of the decisive naval battle of the first Punic War (264-241 B.C.) - suggestive neolithic and paleolithic vestiges are still visible: the grottoes of Favignana, the carvings and murals of Levanzo. Splendid beaches are to be found at San Vito Lo Capo, Scopello, and Cornino, and a wild and rocky coast around Monte Cofano: all at less than one hour's drive from Erice


Erice, Sicily


About the weather: in Erice there is a large temperature range between day and night. Bring some warm clothing. Weather in Erice

As Erice is situated on top of a mountain at an altitude of 750 metres, it is much cooler than at sea level. Therefore, we would advise you to bring some warm clothing, and a windbreaker or anorak, even in the summer. The weather is rather unpredictable in Erice and the temperature can suddenly change.





Further information

Hugues Bersini

Pier Luigi Luisi

Pasquale Stano