By Nancey Murphy
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Extra resources for Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethics
The value of recognizing both the supervenience relation and the multiple realizability of subvenient states is that it allows us to understand how properties (actions, events) of a single system but pertaining to different levels of analysis are related. A causal relation is inappropriate (my being cruel to animals does not cause me to be morally evil). Nor is identity the proper relation (there are more ways to be morally evil than by the killing of animals, and killing animals is not always wrong).
The crucial metaphysical assumption embodied in this view of the sciences is that the parts of an entity or system determine the character and behavior of the whole and not vice versa. This is metaphysical atomism-reductionism. 2. Catachretical Extensions of Atomism The atomism that for the Greeks was pure metaphysics has become embodied in a variety of scientific research programs; it has become scientific theory. Yet, I suggest, it continues to function metaphysically, though in a looser sense than that in which Democritus’s thesis is metaphysical.
In philosophy of language, if language ordinarily gets its meaning from what it represents in the world, then some account has to be given of nonfactual forms of discourse such as ethics, aesthetics, and religion. The modern answer has generally been some form of expressivist theory, such as that of the emotivists in ethics. So here we have not so much a spectrum of views but correlative theories of language, both assuming that normative meaning must be referential. Again, the individualists in the modern period have always heard from a minority of theorists who favored the social group as a focus of analysis; however, modern forms of holism have tended to assume the same generic view of the individual as their reductionist opponents—the view that individuals are all alike for the purposes of social, political, and ethical theory.