Supervenience : ATwo Way Aspect
In the desperate attempt to reduce the non physical to the physical has led to some materialists to try a
shortcut .The supervenience of all properties on physical properties is held by some to be all that a
physicalists could want or need. This is just a trial to show that physical is not unique with respect to
supervenience. It is equally true that nonphysical supervenes on the moral . The mental and the
In order to make moral/mental properties to be both real and irreducible, the physicalists added the
moral properties supervened upon andhence did not challenge the ontological primacy of physical
Supervenience can be seen as the relationship between a higher level and lower level of existence
where the higher level is dependent on the lower level. One level supervenes on another when there
can only be a change at the higher level if there is also a change at the lower level. (e.g., a set of
properties S supervenes upon a set of properties B when there cannot be an A difference without a B
If every pair in the domain has a B difference, then the supervenience of S on B follows immediately.
And if every pair also had a S difference , then B would also supervene on S . In a possible world in which
every object has a unique color then every property supervenes on color .this follows because in such a
world there would be no differences in shape , size , texture etc. . without a difference in color.
Actual physical language is far subtler and closer to an ideal physical language than actual moral
language is to ideal moral language . Actual physical language has incorporated mathematics while
actual moral language, despite the efforts has not this results in vast preponderance in the number of
physical distinctions we can make in the actual physical language compared to the actual moral
Mathematics is the tool that enables us to make infinite distinctions in as many dimensions as can be
mathematized. Our physical language permits infinitely fine graduations in mass , velocity , and many
other variables .physicalists must be willing to consider relational physical differences in the base
properties .Compare Joe on earth with max on twin earth . Joe believes that water is wet , max believes
that twin earth water is wet. Yet there is no internal difference between the two . Both say water is wet”
at appropriate times , but Joe speaks English and max speaks twin earth English. The difference in their
respective believes supervenes on and is explained by the difference between their immediate
environment , full of h20 and XYZ , not by the difference in their internal physical states .
The base property must include relations to non contemporaneous events .Being Indian currency does
not supervene on the quality of the paper or the pattern of ink marks on the paper .It supervenes on
who printed it . Being currency supervenes on the relational physical properties connected with the
causal history of the tokens in the question.so not only do the base properties include relations , they do
not even have to be contemporaneous with the supervenient property .
Physical properties are generally dispositional .Inertial mass , for example, refers to a body’s disposition
to resist changes in their state of motion . Two bodies could differ in their inertial masses even if they
suffer changes in the states of motion so long as counterfactually they would differentially accelerate if
subjected to equivalent forces
Finally base properties need not to be detectable , So the base properties n which the moral properties
supervenes include relations , non contemporaneous properties and disposition properties none of
which need to be detectable .moreover these properties mathematized to allow infinity of distinctions
to be drawn . recall that if every pair of the things differs physically, then the supervenience of
everything on the physical in this generously endowed physical language all but guarantees that this will
, in fact , be the case .
The idealization of physical language and especially mathematization of practically sufficient to
establish the supervenience of all other properties on the physical it is quite proper for philosophers to
consider idealization of the physical language in metaphysical contests . But idealization trivializes the
superveniencerelation , because it allows infinite distinctions to be made .
If there is a physical difference between every pair of individuals , then trivially thereis no difference
without a physical difference . But mathematization of the physical difference ensures that there is a
physical difference between every pair of individuals , this can be demonstrated even in very simple
possible worlds. If none is detectable by human sense organs then we use instruments. If none is
detectable by instruments then we will perfect or hypothesize better instruments. Onething is certain
we will never be forced to admit there is no physical difference.When we consider the complexity of the
world , plus the supervenience relation is supported by undetectable differences , relational properties ,
and dispositional properties , the mathematization of physics ensures supervenience.
If we idealize moral language in this way the everything will supervene on the moral .if we consider
undetectable dispositions relations , and noncontemporaneous moral properties and especially if we
make quantitative moral distinctions and not merely qualitative ones, we ensure that there will never be
a physical difference without a moral difference .
I don’tthink anyone can honestly object to idealizing moral language in this context .in casuistry , we
ought to use our actual moral language such as it is . but in metaphysics , we are trying to look at the
universe from God’s eye point of view .and idealization is appropriate . Just as it is unfair to allow one
team to use a different set of rules from another anther team , it is inappropriate to compare actual
moral language to idealized physical language . the let both teams play by the same rules and the result
is a draw.
The import of theser results for the supervenience of moral on physical properties . The intended
distinction between supervenient and the base properties requires that no two thing be morally
different and physically identical .otherwise moral difference would not only supervene on physical
differences but physical differences would also supervene on moral differences , which would destroy
the intended ontological primacy of the physical . but there is some moral distinction to be mafde ,
however small , between any two elements in the domain , the distinctions between supervenient and
base properties disappears .if we make moral distinctions as readily as physical distinctions and so the
supervenience argument for physicalism collapses .
Granting the same advantage to moral language produces the parallel result. Concerning the
supervenience of the physical in the mental , we need only remember idealism .we might object to
idealism but surely every physical difference in a table corresponds to some dispositional difference how
perceivers might perceive it . in fact every physical difference in a table supervenes on a host of
dispositional perceptual differences in how the table would look to observer n different positions . If we
make thedifference fall below the threshold of human senses then there are always instruments
.whenal else fail , we can always postulate superhumanly sensitive perceivers to pick up the remaining