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Abstract: Discussion of the supervenience relation in the philosophical literature of recent years has become Byzantine in its intricacy and diversity. Subtle modulations of the basic concept have been tooled and retooled with increasing frequency, until supervenience has lost nearly all its original lustre as a simple and powerful tool for cracking open refractory philosophical problems. I present a conceptual model of the supervenience relation that captures all the important extant concepts (and suggests a few new ones) without ignoring the complexities uncovered during work over the past two decades. I test my analysis by applying it to the problem of defining physicalism, concluding that the thesis of physicalism is best captured by the conjunction of two supervenience relations
Abstract: In this paper I examine the question of whether the characterization of physicalism that is presupposed by some influential anti-physicalist arguments, namely, the so-called conceivability arguments, is a good characterization of physicalism or not. I compare this characterization with some alternative ones, showing how it can overcome some problems, and I defend it from several objections. I conclude that any arguments against physicalism characterised in that way are genuine arguments against physicalism, as intuitively conceived
Abstract: It is commonly held that there are two obstacles to precisely formulating the doctrine of physicalism: Hempel’s Problem, and Hume’s Problem.2 Hempel’s Problem is that if physicalism is to be formulated in terms of physics—or in terms of any science, for the problem is fully general if it is a problem at all—whether to use the current or future science. If physicalism is formulated in terms of current physics, then it is most likely false because current physics is at least very likely to be false and is perhaps known to be incomplete or inconsistent. If physicalism is formulated in terms of future physics, then (the worry goes) physicalism will prove to be trivial, vacuous, or simply of indeterminate content. Horgan offers no direct guidance on Hempel’s Problem, though he seems to adopt a future-physics view.3
Abstract: Abstract. Alleged counter-examples based on conceptual thought-experiments, including those involving sense or content, have no force against physicalist supervenience theses properly construed. This is largely because of their epistemological status and their modal status. Still, there are empirical examples that do contradict Kim-style theses, due to the latter's individualism. By contrast, non-individualist supervenience, such as "global" supervenience, remains unscathed, a possibility overlooked by Lynne Baker, as is clear from a physicalist account of sense in the case of non-human biological adaptations that are for producing things about affairs in the world
Abstract: Many authors have taken up the challenge of formulating physicalism as a supervenience thesis. These endeavors have met with varying response, but it seems that the general consensus still remains that a supervenience thesis that is both sufficient and necessary for physicalism has yet to be developed. Terence Horgan1 and Jaegwon Kim2 have most famously argued that supervenience theses are not sufficiently strong for physicalism. Nonetheless, several recent articles suggest that there are philosophers who still hold out hope for some type of supervenience of the mental upon the physical being, if not both sufficient and necessary, at least necessary for physicalism.3 In this paper, I will 1) investigate some of the motivation for finding a supervenience thesis that characterizes physicalism, 2) briefly review the types of supervenience theses that have been proposed as necessary (or necessary and sufficient) for physicalism, and 3) investigate in some detail the recent supervenience thesis proposed by Frank Jackson and expounded upon by Gene Witmer. Jackson, in his recent book, claims to have a supervenience thesis that is both necessary and sufficient for physicalism
Abstract: Horgan (1993) proposed that "superdupervenience" - supervenience preserving physicalistic acceptability - is a matter of robust explanation. I argued against him (1999) that (as nearly all physicalist and emergentist accounts reflect) superdupervenience is a matter of Condition on Causal Powers (CCP): every causal power bestowed by the supervenient property is identical with a causal power bestowed by its base property. Here I show that CCP is, as it stands, unsatisfactory,for on the usual understandings of causal power bestowal, it is trivially satisfied or falsified. I offer a revision of CCP which incorporates the evident fact that causal powers are grounded in fundamental forces.
Abstract: The standard formulations of the supervenience relation present the supervenience of one set of properties on another in terms of property correlations, without placing any constraints on the dependency relation concerned. As Horgan notes, this does not ensure that properties supervening upon physicalistically acceptable base properties are not themselves emergent in a way at odds with materialism; hence he concludes that what physicalism needs is "superdupervenience" -- supervenience plus robust ontological explanation of the supervenient in terms of the base properties. I argue that, where supervenient and base properties are instanced in the same individuals, Horgan's requirement of robust explanation is neither sufficient nor necessary for superdupervenience. In particular, his paradigm case is compatible with the supervenient property's being emergent. This and other unacceptable possibilities may be ruled out by means of a metaphysical constraint on the supervenience relation: each individual causal power in the set associated with a given supervenient property must be numerically identical with a causal power in the set associated with its base property. Satisfying this condition is all that is needed to render supervenience superduper. I go on to show that a wide variety of physicalist accounts, both reductive and non-reductive, are implicitly or explicitly designed to meet this condition, and so are more similar than they seem
Abstract: The many and varied formulations of physicalism instantiate the following schema: Physicalism: All entities are nothing over and above physical entities. Supervenience-based accounts of “nothing over and aboveness” also instantiate a schema: Supervenience-based Nothing Over and Aboveness: The A-entities are nothing over and above the B-entities if the A-entities supervene on the B-entities. The four main approaches to filling in the latter schema correspond to different ways of characterizing
the modal strength, the supervenience base, or the supervenience connection at issue. I consider each approach in turn, and argue that a physicalism based on the associated account of nothing over and aboveness is compatible with physicalism’s best traditional rival: a naturalist emergentism.
Others have argued that supervenience-based formulations of physicalism fail. My aim here, besides addressing the full spectrum of supervenience-based approaches, is to show how certain philosophical
and scientific theses concerning naturalism, properties, and laws give us new reasons to think that supervenience-based formulations of physicalism are untenable.