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jonathan dancy

Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192589.1993.x


A property P supervenes on a class of properties Q if and only if (1) if one thing A has P, any other thing which exactly resembles A in respect of all members of Q must have P, and (2) A cannot change in respect of P, cease to be P or become more P or less P, without changing in respect of some member of Q. In moral philosophy this notion is often used to claim that value and rightness supervene on natural properties. This true claim should not be confused with the equally true claim that the value of an object (or the rightness of an action) exists in virtue of (some of) those members of the class of natural properties enjoyed by the object or action. The latter is a relation between value/ rightness and some members of the class of natural properties, which is not a matter of supervenience at all. It is better expressed by saying that saying that the object's value results from (some of) its natural properties. ( But see Kim, 1984 .) In epistemology normative properties such as those of justification and reasonableness are often held to be supervenient on the class of natural properties in a similar way. The interest of supervenience is that it promises a way of tying normative properties closely to natural ones without exactly reducing them to natural ones; it can be the basis of a sort of weak naturalism . This was the motivation behind Davidson's attempt to say that ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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