Supervenience and ‘Should’

Arto Siitonen


The essay concerns the concept of supervenience and the issues contained by it. What
does it mean that between x and y there
is the relation of supervenience? This entails that x and y are facts or properties, y is
reducible to x and explained through reducing it to x. Then, y is said to “supervene on x”. Supervenience is both a conceptual and an empirical
dependence: y is not possible without x, and y is an effect of the development of x. These claims lead to a theory of strata and evolution of
reality, as well as to a theory of how to order the reality. The basic stratum of
reality consists of physical facts.

One may wonder how in the context of supervenience it is possible to account for
values and norms, as distinguished from valuating and commanding. Behind this
question lies the problem of how to build the moral dimension into the world of
facts. The claim presented in the article is that this can be done only by accepting
the irreducibility of values and norms. In treating this issue, we come across a
problem that concerns the expressive possibilities of language.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; value; norm

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