Supervenience arguments under relaxed assumptions

Philosophical Studies 155 (1):133 - 160 (2011)
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When it comes to evaluating reductive hypotheses in metaphysics, supervenience arguments are the tools of the trade. Jaegwon Kim and Frank Jackson have argued, respectively, that strong and global supervenience are sufficient for reduction, and others have argued that supervenience theses stand in need of the kind of explanation that reductive hypotheses are particularly suited to provide. Simon Blackburn's arguments about what he claims are the specifically problematic features of the supervenience of the moral on the natural have also been influential. But most discussions of these arguments have proceeded under the strong and restrictive assumptions of the S5 modal logic. In this paper we aim to remedy that defect, by illustrating in an accessible way what happens to these arguments under relaxed assumptions and why. The occasion is recent work by Ralph Wedgwood, who seeks to defend non-reductive accounts of moral and mental properties together with strong supervenience, but to evade both the arguments of Kim and Jackson and the explanatory challenge by accepting only the weaker, B, modal logic. In addition to drawing general lessons about what happens to supervenience arguments under relaxed assumptions, our goal is therefore to shed some light on both the virtues and costs of Wedgwood's proposal

Author Profiles

Mark Schroeder
University of Southern California
Johannes Schmitt
Universit├Ąt Konstanz


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