Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Arthur Falk

Second Advisor

Sylvia Culp

Third Advisor

Kent Baldner

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Jaegwon Kim's definition of strong supervenience has found application in such areas as the mind-body problem, aesthetics, morality, and the relationship between physics and the special sciences. The main reason for the popularity of supervenience is that it purportedly has a long laundry list of virtues. For instance, it has been claimed that supervenience accounts are non-reductive, capable of empirical verification, simple with respect to ontology, and explanatorily powerful.

In this paper, I examine Kim's definition of strong supervenience, arguing that a fundamental ambiguity in the definition makes it impossible for strong supervenience to possess all of these virtues simultaneously. This ambiguity stems from the fact that Kim's definition is written in second-order quantified modal logic, a logic which lacks a standard interpretation. I outline various ways in which we might give a consistent interpretation to this definition. It is seen that each interpretation forces the supervenience theorist to abandon certain purported virtues of supervenience theory.

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Philosophy Commons