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Supervenience Thesis, Valid or Not?

  1. Nov 23, 2008 #1


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    For those interested in cognitive science, the supervenience thesis seems to be one of those fundamental axioms which goes unsaid. If it needs to be said however, I think Tim Maudlin1 summed it up best:
    Seems that all other philosophers have the same views of supervenience, and in fact, the term has a unique meaning in philosophy. Philosophers widely accept that phenomenal properties supervene on physical properties. Most however, don’t refer to this as the “supervenience thesis” but simply as supervenience.

    Another good explanation of supervenience is in the Stanford online encyclopedia of philosophy where the use of A and B things is common terminology:
    Ok, so that sounds easy enough. The obvious example would be that A represents mental or phenomenal states and B represents physical states, though the terminology can be used also for other, less controversial concepts. However, there are obvious issues that arise when we apply this concept, such as:
    And also the problems with mental causation:

    So what should it be? Is the supervenience thesis valid or not?

    1. Maudlin, T; 1989, ‘Computation and Consciousness’, Journal of Philosophy 86:407-432
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2008 #2
    The fixed B-properties are too open to allow
    meaningful fixing of the A-properites, unless
    she (God) stipulated conditions such as 'I am
    done' etc.

    Increased complexity in A-properties (for example
    informatic manipulation) would allow indistinguishable
    apparently unrelated ontologies to occur.

    So, my vote is that supervenience is not a valid theory.
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