Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Supervenience, philosophy of mind: supervenience is an expression for a restricted dependency between areas. Elements of a region B are dependent on changes of elements of an area A, but not vice versa. Supervenience is used by some authors to explain the relationship between mental and physical processes. The assumption of a supervenience serves to circumvent more powerful assumptions like, e.g. the identity theory. See also covariance, dependency, identity theory, materialism, reductionism.

Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Item Summary Meta data
I 33
Supervenience/Chalmers: supervenience is in general a relation between two sets of properties:
B properties: higher-level properties
A properties: lower-level properties (for us physical properties). The specific nature of these properties is not relevant to us.
Basic pattern:
Definition Supervenience/Chalmers: B-properties supervene on A-properties, if two possible situations are not identical with regard to their A-properties and at the same time differ in their B-properties.
For example, biological properties supervene on physical ones insofar as two possible physically identical situations are also biologically identical.
Local/Global Supervenience/Chalmers: we distinguish global supervenience, depending on how the situations under consideration, refer to individuals or possible worlds.
Local Supervenience/Chalmers: B supervenes locally on A when the A properties of an individual determine the B properties of that individual.
I 34
E.g. form supervenes on physical properties.
Definition Global Supervenience/Chalmers: when A facts about the world determine B facts about the world. That is, there are no two possible worlds which are identical with respect to A, which are not also identical with regard to B. For example biological properties supervene globally on physical properties.
Definition local supervenience implies global supervenience, but not vice versa. E.g. two physical organisms can differ in certain biological characteristics, one individual can be fitter than the other, triggered by environmental conditions. ((s)> extrinsic properties,> niches).
Chalmers: For example, one could imagine that two physically identical organisms might belong to different species, if they had different evolutionary stories.
Consciousness: here it will be more about local supervenience.
I 35
Logical Supervenience/Chalmers: logical supervenience is conceptual and stronger than natural supervenience.
Natural Supervenience/Chalmers: this term is used to distinguish between logical supervenience.
I 38
A situation would be conceivable in which laws that automatically produce B facts might not produce these for once. (Kripke 1972, 1980)(1).
I 39
Logical Supervenience/Chalmers: Problem: There could be a possible world which is identical to our actual world, but not additionally with non-physical elements such as angels and ghosts. These could be physically identical with us, but biologically different from us.
This has led some authors (Haugeland 1982(2), Petrie 1987(3)) to say that the logical possibility and logical necessity are too strong terms for our supervenience relations.
Solution/Chalmers: we must explicitly refer to our actual world or specified possible worlds.
I 40
Other problems have to do with negative existence statements about what does not exist in our world, or does not exist in other possible worlds. Such problems can never be determined by local facts or local characteristics.
Supervenience should always be determined by reference to positive facts and characteristics.
I 84
Name/Supervenience/Explanation/Chalmers: E.g. according to Kaplan (1989)(4) the name "Rolf Harris" simply picks out its speaker directly.
Does that mean that the property to be Rolf Harris does not logically supervene on physical facts?
Secondary intension of the name: what resulted from a certain egg and sperm in all possible worlds. This supervenes logically on facts.
Primary intension of the name: is that what results from the linguistic usage, of those who have, or had assiociate with Rolf Harris, or heard of Rolf Harris. The primary intension may be absent, which is a problem for the supervenience
I 87
Logical Supervenience/Chalmers: apart from conscious experience, indexicality, and negative existence theorems everything supervenes logically on physical facts, including physical laws.
I 88
Supervenience/Horgan/Blackburn/Chalmers: Question: (Blackburn 1985)(5), Horgan (1993)(6): How do we explain the supervenience relation itself?
Primary Intension/Chalmers: For logical supervenience on primary intensions, we simply need to present a conceptual analysis, together with the determination that the reference over possible worlds remains preserved (is rigid). Thereby, the supervenience conditional is an a priori conceptual truth.
I 89
Secondary Intension: here, the logical supervenience can be explained by saying that the primary intension of the concept picks out a referent of the actual world, which is projected unchanged to other physically identical worlds (by rigidifying operations). Such facts are contingent. (See Horgan and Timmons 1992b.(7))
Natural Supervenience/Chalmers: natural supervenience is - as opposed to the logical - contingent. This is ontologically expensive, so we can be glad that logical supervenience is the ussual case.
I 124
Supervenience/Consciousness/Chalmers: we have seen that conscious experience does not logically supervene on the physical facts, but not that it does not supervene at all!

1. S. A. Kripke, Naming and Necessity, Reprint: Cambridge 1980
2. J. Haugeland, Weak supervenience. American Philosophical Quarterly 19, 1982: pp. 93-103
3. B. Petrie, Global supervenience and reduction. Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 48, 1987: pp. 119-30
4. D. Kaplan, Demonstratives. In: J. Almog, J. Perry and H. Wettstein (Eds) Themes from Kaplan. New York 1989
5. S. Blackburn, Supervenience revisited. In: I. Hacking (ed) Exercises in Analysis: Essay by Students of Casimir Lewy. Cambridge 1985
6. T. Horgan, From supervenience to superdupervenience: Meeting the demands of a material world. Mind 102, 1993: pp. 555-86
7. T. Horgan and M. Timmons, Troubles for new ware moral sentiments; The "open question argument" revived. Philosophical Papers 1992.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Cha I
D. Chalmers
The Conscious Mind Oxford New York 1996

Cha II
D. Chalmers
Constructing the World Oxford 2014

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2020-03-29
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