Chili. Specifically, chili with beans. Chili, clearly, is not the beans. However, the dish is frequently called “chili con carne,” literally “chili with meat,” and can often be made vegetarian. So it’s clearly not the meat. In that case, what is chili? If it has neither beans nor meat, what is left?

Sadly, as interesting and fun as the original thought train was, research led to the conclusion (seen at the Wikipedia article above) that it is, in fact, in the chili is in the chiles, which was the original term. It’s mostly in the mixture of spices, with things like beans and meat being added for substance as much as for flavor. Nonetheless, it can be seen, even in this mundane example, that no individual part can be said to be the essence, and that the essence is an emergent property of the parts when put together.


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