International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy

Journal | Volume | Article


Phenomenological ontology and supervenience

Andrea Zhok

pp. 47-79


The term ‘supervenience’ has acquired central status in contemporary philosophy in the wake of Davidson’s discussion (1970) of mental e physical properties. We want to recover Davidson’s original setting and to tackle the same problem by an alternative route, which resorts to a phenomenological approach. The notion of supervenience emerges at the crossroad between three theses: 1) the background of ontological monism; 2) the interpretation of monism as physicalism; 3) the dependence of mental events on physical events. ‘Supervenience’ bears the task to express simultaneously the ontological dependence of the mental on the physical and the apparent irreducibility of the former to the latter. In this framework, we are going, first, to grant ontological monism while rejecting physicalism. We will argue for an ontological framework that acknowledges some of the reasons of classical idealism, without abandoning a materialist framework. Secondly, we are going to show why intentional phenomena can never be regarded as epiphenomena. This move recommends a renewed methodological ‘respect’ for phenomena, consistent with the phenomenological tradition. Thirdly, by reinterpreting the old notion of formal causality, we will make room for an understanding of ‘mental causation’ that avoids both dualism and any violation of the principle of conservation of energy. In conclusion, we are going to argue that the reasons that originally motivated the introduction of ‘supervenience’ are inconsistent and that, in the theoretical context that we argue for, resorting to the notion of supervenience is either superfluous or misleading.

Publication details

Published in:

Caminada Emanuele, Summa Michela (2015). Supervenience and the theory of experience. Metodo 3 (2).

Pages: 47-79

DOI: 10.19079/metodo.3.2.47

Full citation:

Zhok Andrea (2015). Phenomenological ontology and supervenience. Metodo 3 (2), pp. 47-79.