Monday, April 19, 2010

J. P. Moreland on Supervenient physicalism

Perhaps the supervenience theorist can simply accept the supervenience relation as an unexplained brute fact. However, as J. P. Moreland argues, this is also deeply problematic for the supervenience theorist: First, he highlights the claim made by supervenience theorist Terence Horgan that in a broadly materialist the truths of supervenience must be explainable rather than sui generis. As Horgan points out, if there are going to be any brute unexplainable givens in a materialist universe it must be the the physical facts themselves, not some fact concerning inter-level supervenience.70 Second, the truth of supervenience does not look like something science could possibly have discovered, and so to accept supervenience as a brute fact would be to accept the idea that there are truths about the world that can be figured out by philosophical, rather than scietnfic means, and this is anathema to most contemporary naturalists.71 Also, this position begs the question against people like Swinburne and Robert Adams, who maintain that the supervenience of the mind stands in need of a theistic explanation.72

Second, debate about just what kind of supervenience holds between physical and mental states is not a scientific question, and cannot be settle by scientific theorizing. Further, supervenience theory involves terms and concepts that are not the terms and concepts of natural science. As Moreland puts it:

Naturalists criticize Cartesian dualism and its problem of interaction between radically different sorts of entities. In my view, the dualist has the resources to answer this problem because of her commitment to entities, relatiosn, and causation that go beyond those in the physical sciences. But the same cannot be said for naturalism, and what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Naturalists have the very same kind of problem that they claim as a difficulty for the Cartesian. And given the philosophical constraints that follow from accepting the naturalist epistemology, etiology, and ontolgy, it is more difficult to see how a naturalist could accept menta;/physical supervenience than it is to understand how a Cartesian without those constraints could accept mental/physical interaction.73
VR: This is based on J. P. Moreland's essay "Should a Naturalist be a Supervenient Physicalist?"

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