Recent work on supervenience

Philosophical Books 39 (2):81-91 (1998)
At the core of the concept of supervenience are certain general maxims— notably, that there can be no A-differences without B-differences and that Bindiscernibility must bring A-discernibility. Supervenience is thus conceived as a matter of modal covariance between two sets of things in a given category, usually properties. The perennial issues surrounding supervenience concern: (a) the variety of specifically formulated theses that serve the core maxims and the patterns of entailment that obtain among these theses, and (b) the relations that obtain between supervenience theses and such salient concepts of metaphysics as reduction, dependence and determination. The regions of philosophical inquiry that gave rise to contemporary analytic philosophical interest in supervenience, and in which the notion is still most prominently applied are, famously, meta-ethics and the philosophy of mind. In the former case the history of supervenience can be traced back through Hare to Moore; in the latter case the line can be traced back from the pathfinding work of Kim through the famous resurrection of the notion of supervenience in Davidson’s work to the emergentist theorists of mind in the early part of this century.1 Publication on the topic of supervenience has exploded so that a brief treatment of recent work could provide an even remotely comprehensive survey only by degenerating into a list.2 So I shall settle for concentrating on the two groups of issues that were identified above, that is those concerning the logical character and metaphysical significance of supervenience theses, interposing some comments on the specific topic of supervenience in the philosophy of mind. I will emphasise and sympathise with that deflationary strand of recent work that invites soberand cautious re-appraisal of the role of supervenience theses in philosophical enquiry
Keywords Language  Metaphysics  Mind  Supervenience  World  Horgan, T
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DOI 10.1111/1468-0149.00097
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