Property Dependence and Non-Reductive Physicalism

Andrew Newman
The University of Nebraska at Omaha

Roughly, naturalism is the view that the spatio-temporal world, or nature, is all that there is, with an underlying idea that it forms some sort of unity in the sense that it is all equally amenable to scientific investigation. Non-reductive physicalism is a more specific version of naturalism that makes use of the notion of supervenience to explain that the world is a unity in being "essentially" physical: it is the doctrine that all properties either are physical properties or are supervenient on physical properties. If a property is a supervenient property, then it is a dependent property in the sense that it cannot (put in italics) occur unless determined by a physical property. The necessity here is usually supposed to be something like physical necessity; it has to be, since it is very likely logically possible that supervenient properties could occur undetermined by physical properties. I argue in this paper that the necessity associated with supervenience cannot be physical necessity -- though it could be logical necessity. I do this by considering the sorts of property dependence that are associated with known physical laws, and by considering what it would be for a physical law to say that undetermined supervenient properties cannot occur. It follows that non-reductive physicalism is untenable, and that all the physical laws taken together have no bearing on whether physicalism is true or false.

Copyright © Andrew Newman