I look forward to this. I am a fan of George FR Ellis’ work and routinely find myself in majority agreement most of the time.
I absolutely love where he writes about a hierarchy of computer systems as that’s a very familiar domain to me and despite believing I knew all there was to know I was astounded at how thorough and clearly (and easily!) explained why top-down causation functions in that case, allowing me to understand his other work as well.
I don’t know if it applies to “ultimate things” but it certainly applies to a dizzying array of systems.
Ah yes. This wasn’t my introduction to George FR Ellis – “a Crisis at the soul of physics” was (and I had to learn more about this man and what “philosophy of science” meant) but it was this that held me.
How downwards causation occurs in digital computers
Digital computers carry out algorithms coded in high level programs. These abstract entities determine what happens at the physical level: they control whether electrons flow through specific transistors at specific times or not, entailing downward causation in both the logical and implementation hierarchies. This paper explores how this is possible in the light of the alleged causal completeness of physics at the bottom level, and highlights the mechanism that enables strong emergence (the manifest causal effectiveness of application programs) to occur. Although synchronic emergence of higher levels from lower levels is manifestly true, diachronic emergence is generically not the case; indeed we give specific examples where it cannot occur because of the causal effectiveness of higher level variables.