Monday, February 22, 2010

Supervenience, Australian and American

Do Australians and Americans tend to use the term "supervenience" in different ways? The way I've heard Aussies (and honorary Aussie David Lewis) use the term fits the characterization in the Stanford Encyclopedia: "there cannot be an A-difference without a B-difference". But I've heard some Americans use the term to mean something that adds a conjunct to make supervenience something much stronger: "there cannot be an A-difference without a B-difference, and A's aren't reducible to B's." Were these Americans just being weird?

7 comments:

Aidan said...

They're being weird.

Colin Caret said...

Actually I think I've witnessed the latter sort of claim myself, although I don't know whether that view can be attributed to being American. In fact, the person I've heard characterise supervenience in those terms was English.

Bargaining Sheep said...

Reduction entails supervenience (well, given a few relatively uncontroversial assumptions). So, by the Maxim of Quantity, to say that A's supervenes on B's is to implicate that A's are not reducible to B's.

djc said...

They're weird. I'd be interested to see if you could find an instance of that definition in print. I've read an enormous number of papers on supervenience (by people of many nationalities) and don't recall ever seeing it. As for implicature: I don't think this is quite right, as some (e.g. Lewis) think that supervenience entails reduction, others use it to play some of the roles that reduction might be invoked to play, while still others use it as a way of staying neutral on issues about reduction.

Clayton said...

I can't say about tendency, but if that's what some Americans are doing and there are no Australians doing it, some Americans ought to follow their lead.

Justin Tiehen said...

You've already gotten the answer, but I also note that it's generally allowed that the A's (trivially) supervene on the A's. So, physical properties (trivially) supervene on physical properties. Since the A's also (trivially) reduce to the A's, supervenience had better be compatible with reduction.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Okay, thanks guys.