Super dupervenience

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Superdupervenience or Superdupervenience is a technical philosophical term that was developed by the American philosopher Terence Horgan based on the term “ supervenience ” in the essay From Supervenience to Superdupervenience .

Supervenience and physicalism

According to Horgan, the term "super dupervenience" describes all supervenience relationships that are acceptable for a physicalist theory. By supervenience is meant a relationship between sets of properties, which is particularly significant in the debates of metaethics and the philosophy of mind . A set A of properties supervises over a set B of properties if A cannot change without B changing. In this sense, being six feet tall oversees a person's physical characteristics, as the person cannot change their size without changing their physical characteristics. It is now also assumed that mental or moral properties supervise physical properties. For example, if a person gets a headache, something biological or physical has to change too.

Supervenience relationships are often used to describe a materialistic or physicalistic philosophy . When the mental or moral supervises over the physical, there seems to be a dependency relationship that a physicalist should maintain. Horgan argues, however, that supervision alone is not enough to secure a materialistic theory. One can easily clarify this claim by noting that some dualistic theories of consciousness do support a supervenience thesis, among them epiphenomenalism and psychophysical parallelism .

Super dupervenience and physicalism

Horgans thesis is that materialistic theories are fixed on certain supervenience relations, the super dupervenience relations. Supervenience relationships are considered superdupervenience relationships if they can be explained by more fundamental physical relationships . Given this definition, the supervenience relationship assumed by epiphenomenalism cannot count as a superdupervenience relationship. In fact, epiphenomenalism postulates a nomological relationship between physical properties and immaterial mental properties. This psychophysical relationship cannot be explained by purely physical relationships, since immaterial entities are involved in it. In contrast, the supervenience relationship between water and H 2 0 is a super dupervenience relationship , since water can be reduced to H 2 0.

If mental or moral properties are super dupervenced with physical properties, it must be possible to explain why the mental or moral supervises over the physical. This would be possible if reductions were possible here . However, it is highly controversial whether the mental or the moral can be reduced to the physical, which is why Horgan asks the question whether one can postulate non-reductive super dupervenience relationships.


  • Terence E. Horgan: From Supervenience to Superdupervenience: Meeting the Demands of a Material World. In: Min. 102 (408), 1993, ISSN  0026-4423 , pp. 555-586.
  • Michael P. Lynch, Joshua M. Glasgow: The Impossibility of Superdupervenience. In: Philosophical Studies. 113, April 3, 2003, ISSN  0031-8116 , pp. 201-221.
  • Jessica M. Wilson: Causal Powers, Forces, and Superdupervenience. In: Graz Philosophical Studies. 63, 2002, ISSN  0165-9227 , pp. 53-78, online (PDF; 105 KB) .