Supervenience and dependence

Abstract
“Supervenience”, though a philosophers’ notion, has a venerable history. It was used by Leibniz to say that relations are nothing over and above the intrinsic properties of their relata, by Sidgwick to say that moral characteristics covary with non-moral ones, by Moore to say that the former are grounded in the latter, by Hare to say that they stand in some relation of strict implication and by Davidson (1970: 214) to say that “mental characteristics are in some sense dependent, or supervenient, on physical characteristics” (cf. Kim 1990: 136–138). Here is what Robert Stal- naker (1996) says about the “intuitive ideas that motivate the attempts to articulate concepts of supervenience”:
To say that the A-properties or facts are supervenient on the B-properties or facts is
to say that the A-facts are, in a sense, redundant, since they are already implicitly
specified when one has specified all the B-facts. A-facts are not fact ‘over and above’
the B-facts, not something ‘separate’. To state an A-fact, or ascribe an A-property, is
to describe the same reality in a different way, at a different level of abstraction, by
carving the same world at different joints. (Stalnaker 1996: 87)
Kim (1990: 140) identifies three key features of our concept of supervenience: covariance, depend- ency and nonreducibility (where “non-reducibility” means that the supervenience of A-features on B-features is consistent with the former not being reducible to the latter).1 Explanation, sometimes required for reducibility, is absent : supervenience claims state that some patterns of property covariation hold, without explaining why they hold.2.
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