Brian Epstein’s radical metaphysics

Brian Epstein is adamant that the social sciences need to think very differently about the nature of the social world. In The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences he sets out to blow up our conventional thinking about the relation between individuals and social facts. In particular, he is fundamentally skeptical about any conception of the social world that depends on the idea of ontological individualism, directly or indirectly. Here is the plainest statement of his view:

When we look more closely at the social world, however, this analogy [of composition of wholes out of independent parts] falls apart. We often think of social facts as depending on people, as being created by people, as the actions of people. We think of them as products of the mental processes, intentions, beliefs, habits, and practices of individual people. But none of this is quite right. Research programs in the social sciences are built on a shaky understanding of the most fundamental question of all: What are the social sciences aboutOr, more specifically: What are social facts, social objects, and social phenomena—these things that the social sciences aim to model and explain? 

My aim in this book is to take a first step in challenging what has come to be the settled view on these questions. That is, to demonstrate that philosophers and social scientists have an overly anthropocentric picture of the social world. How the social world is built is not a mystery, not magical or inscrutable or beyond us. But it turns out to be not nearly as people-centered as is widely assumed. (p. 7)

Here is one key example Epstein provides to give intuitive grasp of the anti-reductionist metaphysics he has in mind — the relationship between “the Supreme Court” and the nine individuals who make it up.

One of the examples I will be discussing in some detail is the United States Supreme Court. It is small— nine members— and very familiar, so there are lots of facts about it we can easily consider. Even a moment’s reflection is enough to see that a great many facts about the Supreme Court depend on much more than those nine people. The powers of the Supreme Court are not determined by the nine justices, nor do the nine justices even determine who the members of the Supreme Court are. Even more basic, the very existence of the Supreme Court is not determined by those nine people. In all, knowing all kinds of things about the people that constitute the Supreme Court gives us very little information about what that group is, or about even the most basic facts about that group. (p. 10)

Epstein makes an important observation when he notes that there are two “consensus” views of the individual-level substrate of the social world, not just one. The first is garden-variety individualism: it is individuals and their properties (psychological, bodily) involved in external relations with each other that constitute the individual-level substrate of the social. In this case is reasonable to apply the supervenience relation to the relation between individuals and higher-level social facts (link).

The second view is more of a social-constructivist orientation towards individuals: individuals are constituted by their representations of themselves and others; the individual-level is inherently semiotic and relational. Epstein associates this view with Searle (50 ff.); but it seems to characterize a range of other theorists, from Geertz to Goffman and Garfinkel. Epstein refers to this approach as the “Standard Model” of social ontology. Fundamental to the Standard View is the idea of institutional facts — the rules of a game, the boundaries of a village, the persistence of a paper currency. Institutional facts are held in place by the attitudes and performances of the individuals who inhabit them; but they are not reducible to an ensemble of individual-level psychological facts. And the constructionist part of the approach is the idea that actors jointly constitute various social realities — a demonstration against the government, a celebration, or a game of bridge. And Epstein believes that supervenience fails in the constructivist ontology of the Standard View (57).

Both views are anti-dualistic (no inherent social “stuff”); but on Epstein’s approach they are ultimately incompatible with each other.

But here is the critical point: Epstein doesn’t believe that either of these views is adequate as a basis for social metaphysics. We need a new beginning in the metaphysics of the social world. Where to start this radical work? Epstein offers several new concepts to help reshape our metaphysical language about social facts — what he refers to as “grounding” and “anchoring” of social facts. “Grounding” facts for a social fact M are lower-level facts that help to constitute the truth of M. “Bob and Jane ran down Howe Street” partially grounds the fact “the mob ran down Howe Street” (M). The fact about Bob and Jane is one of the features of the world that contributes to the truth and meaning of M. “Full grounding” is a specification of all the facts needed in order to account for M. “Anchoring” facts are facts that characterize the constructivist aspect of the social world — conformance to meanings, rules, or institutional structures. An anchoring fact is one that sets the “frame” for a social fact. (An earlier post offered reflections on anchor individualism; link.)

Epstein suggests that “grounding” corresponds to classic ontological individualism, while “anchoring” corresponds to the Standard View (the constructivist view).

What I will call “anchor individualism” is a claim about how frame principles can be anchored. Ontological individualism, in contrast, is best understood as a claim about how social facts can be grounded. (100)

And he believes that a more adequate social ontology is one that incorporates both grounding and anchoring relations. “Anchoring and grounding fit together into a single model of social ontology” (82).

Here is an illustrative diagram of how the two kinds of relations work in a particular social fact (Epstein 94):

So Epstein has done what he set out to do: he has taken the metaphysics of the social world as seriously as contemporary metaphysicians do other important topics, and he has teased out a large body of difficult questions about constitution, causation, formation, grounding, and anchoring. This is a valuable and innovative contribution to the philosophy of social science.

But does this exercise add significantly to our ability to conduct social science research and theory? Do James Coleman, Sam Popkin, Jim Scott, George Steinmetz, or Chuck Tilly need to fundamentally rethink their approach to the social problems they attempted to understand in their work? Do the metaphysics of “frame”, “ground”, and “anchor” make for better social research?

My inclination is to think that this is not an advantage we can attribute to The Ant Trap. Clarity, precision, surprising conceptual formulations, yes; these are all virtues of the book. But I am not convinced that these conceptual innovations will actually make the work of explaining industrial actions, rebellious behavior, organizational failures, educational systems that fail, or the rise of hate-based extremism more effective or insightful.

In order to do good social research we do of course need to have a background ontology. But after working through The Ant Trap several times, I’m still not persuaded that we need to move beyond a fairly commonsensical set of ideas about the social world:

  • individuals have mental representations of the world they inhabit
  • institutional arrangements exist through which individuals develop, form, and act
  • individuals form meaningful relationships with other individuals
  • individuals have complicated motivations, including self-interest, commitment, emotional attachment, political passion
  • institutions and norms are embodied in the thoughts, actions, artifacts, and traces of individuals (grounded and anchored, in Epstein’s terms)
  • social causation proceeds through the substrate of individuals thinking, acting, re-acting, and engaging with other individuals

These are the assumptions that I have in mind when I refer to “actor-centered sociology” (link). This is not a sophisticated philosophical theory of social metaphysics; but it is fully adequate to grounding a realist and empirically informed effort to understand the social world around us. And nothing in The Ant Trap leads me to believe that there are fundamental conceptual impossibilities embedded in these simple, mundane individualistic ideas about the social world.

And this leads me to one other conclusion: Epstein argues the social sciences need to think fundamentally differently. But actually, I think he has shown at best that philosophers can usefully think differently — but in ways that may in the end not have a lot of impact on the way that inventive social theorists need to conceive of their work.

(The photo at the top is chosen deliberately to embody the view of the social world that I advocate: contingent, institutionally constrained, multi-layered, ordinary, subject to historical influences, constituted by indefinite numbers of independent actors, demonstrating patterns of coordination and competition. All these features are illustrated in this snapshot of life in Copenhagen — the independent individuals depicted, the traffic laws that constrain their behavior, the polite norms leading to conformance to the crossing signal, the sustained effort by municipal actors and community based organizations to encourage bicycle travel, and perhaps the lack of diversity in the crowd.)

Are emergence and microfoundations contraries?

image: micro-structure of a nanomaterial (link)

Are there strong logical relationships among the ideas of emergence, microfoundations, generative dependency, and supervenience? It appears that there are.

The diagram represents the social world as a laminated set of layers of entities, processes, powers, and laws. Entities at L2 are composed of or caused by some set of entities and forces at L1. Likewise L3 and L4. Arrows indicate microfoundations for L2 facts based on L1 facts. Diamond-tipped arrows indicate the relation of generative dependence from one level to another. Square-tipped lines indicate the presence of strongly emergent facts at the higher level relative to the lower level. The solid line (L4) represents the possibility of a level of social fact that is not generatively dependent upon lower levels. The vertical ellipse at the right indicates the possibility of microfoundations narratives involving elements at different levels of the social world (individual and organizational, for example).
We might think of these levels as “individuals,” “organization, value communities, social networks,” “large aggregate institutions like states,” etc.
This is only one way of trying to represent the structure of the social world. The notion of a “flat” ontology was considered in an earlier post (link). Another structure that is excluded by this diagram is one in which there is multi-directional causation across levels, both upwards and downwards. For example, the diagram excludes the possibility that L3 entities have causal powers that are original and independent from the powers of L2 or L1 entities. The laminated view described here is the assumption built into debates about microfoundations, supervenience, and emergence. It reflects the language of micro, meso, and macro levels of social action and organization.

Here are definitions for several of the primary concepts.

  • Microfoundations of facts in L2 based on facts in L1 : accounts of the causal pathways through which entities, processes, powers, and laws of L1 bring about specific outcomes in L2. Microfoundations are small causal theories linking lower-level entities to higher-level outcomes.
  • Generative dependence of L2 upon L1: the entities, processes, powers, and laws of L2 are generated by the properties of level L1 and nothing else. Alternatively, the entities, processes, powers, and laws of A suffice to generate all the properties of L2. A full theory of L1 suffices to derive the entities, processes, powers, and laws of L2.
  • Reducibility of y to x : it is possible to provide a theoretical or formal derivation of the properties of y based solely on facts about x.
  • Strong emergence of properties in L2 with respect to the properties of L2: L2 possesses some properties that do not depend wholly upon the properties of L2.
  • Weak emergence of properties in L2 with respect to the properties of L1: L2 possesses some properties for which we cannot (now or in the future) provide derivations based wholly upon the properties of L1.
  • Supervenience of L2 with respect to properties of L1: all the properties of L2 depend strictly upon the properties of L1 and nothing else.
    We also can make an effort to define some of these concepts more formally in terms of the diagram.

Consider these statements about facts at levels L1 and L2:

  1. UM: all facts at L2 possess microfoundations at L1. 
  2. XM: some facts at L2 possess inferred but unknown microfoundations at L1. 
  3. SM: some facts at L2 do not possess any microfoundations at L1. 
  4. SE: L2 is strongly emergent from L1. 
  5. WE: L2 is weakly emergent from L1. 
  6. GD: L2 is generatively dependent upon L1. 
  7. R: L2 is reducible to L1. 
  8. D: L2 is determined by L1. 
  9. SS: L2 supervenes upon L1. 

Here are some of the logical relations that appear to exist among these statements.

  1. UM => GD 
  2. UM => ~SE 
  3. XM => WE 
  4. SE => ~UM 
  5. SE => ~GD 
  6. GD => R 
  7. GD => D 
  8. SM => SE 
  9. UM => SS 
  10. GD => SS 

On this analysis, the question of the availability of microfoundations for social facts can be understood to be central to all the other issues: reducibility, emergence, generativity, and supervenience. There are several positions that we can take with respect to the availability of microfoundations for higher-level social facts.

  1. If we have convincing reason to believe that all social facts possess microfoundations at a lower level (known or unknown) then we know that the social world supervenes upon the micro-level; strong emergence is ruled out; weak emergence is true only so long as some microfoundations remain unknown; and higher-level social facts are generatively dependent upon the micro-level.   
  2. If we take a pragmatic view of the social sciences and conclude that any given stage of knowledge provides information about only a subset of possible microfoundations for higher-level facts, then we are at liberty to take the view that each level of social ontology is at least weakly emergent from lower levels — basically, the point of view advocated under the banner of “relative explanatory autonomy” (link). This also appears to be roughly the position taken by Herbert Simon (link). 
  3. If we believe that it is impossible in principle to fully specify the microfoundations of all social facts, then weak emergence is true; supervenience is false; and generativity is false. (For example, we might believe this to be true because of the difficulty of modeling and calculating a sufficiently large and complex domain of units.) This is the situation that Fodor believes to be the case for many of the special sciences. 
  4. If we have reason to believe that some higher-level facts simply do not possess microfoundations at a lower level, then strong emergence is true; the social world is not generatively dependent upon the micro-world; and the social world does not supervene upon the micro-world. 

In other words, it appears that each of the concepts of supervenience, reduction, emergence, and generative dependence can be defined in terms of the availability of inavailability of microfoundations for some or all of the facts at a higher level based on facts at the lower level. Strong emergence and generative dependence turn out to be logical contraries (witness the final two definitions above).


Supervenience, isomers, and social isomers

A prior post focused on the question of whether chemistry supervenes upon physics, and I relied heavily on R. F. Hendry’s treatment of the way that quantum chemistry attempts to explain the properties of various molecules based on fundamentals of quantum mechanics. This piece raised quite a bit of great discussion, from people who agree with Hendry and those who disagree.

It occurs to me that there is a simpler reason for thinking that chemistry fails to supervene upon the physics of atoms, however, which does not involve the subtleties of quantum mechanics. This is the existence of isomers for various molecules. An isomer is a molecule with the same chemical composition as another but a different geometry and different chemical properties. From the facts about the constituent atoms we cannot infer uniquely what geometry a molecule consisting of these atoms will take. Instead, we need more information external to the physics of the atoms involved; we need an account of the path of interactions that the atoms took in “folding” into one isomer or the other. Therefore chemistry does not supervene upon the quantum-mechanical or physical properties of atoms alone.

For example, the properties of the normal prion protein and its isomer, infectious prion protein, are not fixed by the constituent elements; the geometries associated with these two compounds result from other causal influences. The constituent elements are compatible with both non-equivalent expressions. The prion molecules do not supervene upon the properties of the constituent elements. The question of which isomer emerges is one of a contingent path dependent process.

It is evident that this is not an argument that chemistry does not supervene upon physics more generally, since the history of interactions through which a given isomer emerges is itself a history of physical interactions. But it does appear to be a rock-solid refutation of the idea that molecules supervene upon the atoms of which they are constituted.

Significantly, this example appears to have direct implications for the relation between social facts and individual actors. If we consider the possibility of “social isomers” — social structures consisting of exactly similar actors but different histories and different configurations and causal properties in the present — then we also have a refutation of the idea that social facts supervene upon the actors of which they are constituted. Instead, we would need to incorporate the “path-dependent” series of interactions that led to the formation of one “geometry” of social arrangements rather than another, as well as to the full suite of properties associated with each individual actor. So QED — social structures do not supervene on the features of the actors. And if some of the events that influence the emergence of one social structure rather than another are stochastic or random — one social isomer instead of its compositional equivalent — then at best social structures supervene on individuals conjoined with chance events in a path-dependent process.

There has been much discussion of the question of multiple realizability — that one higher-level structure may correspond to multiple underlying configurations of components and processes. But so far as I have been able to see, there has been no discussion of the converse possibility — multiple higher-level structures corresponding to a single underlying configuration. And yet this is precisely what is the case in chemistry for isomers and in the hypothetical but plausible possibility sketched here for “social isomers”. This is indeed the key finding of the discovery of path-dependencies in social outcomes.

Is chemistry supervenient on physics?

Many philosophers of science and physicists take it for granted that “physics” determines “chemistry”. Or in terms of the theory of supervenience, it is commonly supposed that the domain of chemistry supervenes upon the domain of fundamental physics. This is the thesis of physicalism: the idea that all causation ultimately depends on the causal powers of the phenomena described by fundamental physics.

R. F. Hendry takes up this issue in his contribution to Davis Baird, Eric Scerri, and Lee McIntyre’s very interesting volume, Philosophy of Chemistry. Hendry takes the position that this relation of supervenience does not obtain; chemistry does not supervene upon fundamental physics.

Hendry points out that the dependence claim depends crucially on two things: what aspects of physics are to be considered? And second, what kind of dependency do we have in mind between higher and lower levels? For the first question, he proposes that we think about fundamental physics — quantum mechanics and relativity theory (174). For the second question, he enumerates several different kinds of dependency: supervenience, realization, token identity, reducibility, and derivability (175). In discussing the macro-property of transparency in glass, he cites Jaegwon Kim in maintaining that transparency in glass is “nothing more” than the features of the microstructure of glass that permit it to transmit light. But here is a crucial qualification:

But as Kim admits, this last implication only follows if it is accepted that “the microstructure of a system determines its causal/nomic properties” (283), for the functional role is specified causally, and so the realizer’s realizing the functional property that it does (i.e., the realizer–role relation itself) depends on how things in fact go in a particular kind of system. For a microstructure to determine the possession of a functional property, it must completely determine the causal/nomic properties of that system. (175)

Hendry argues that the key issue underlying claims of dependence of B upon A is whether there is downward causation from the level of chemistry (B) to the physical level (A); or, on the contrary, is physics “causally complete”. If the causal properties of the higher level are fully fixed by the causal properties of the underlying level, then supervenience is possible; but if the higher level has causal properties that permit influence on the lower level, then supervenience is not possible.

In order to gain insight into the specific issues arising concerning chemistry and physics, Hendry makes use of the “emergentist” thinking associated with C.D. Broad. He finds that Broad offers convincing arguments against “Pure Mechanism”, the view that all material things are determined by the micro-physical level (177). Here are Broad’s two contrasting possibilities for understanding the relations between higher levels and the physical micro-level:

(i) On the first form of the theory the characteristic behavior of the whole could not, even in theory, be deduced from the most complete knowledge of the behavior of its components, taken separately or in other combinations, and of their proportions and arrangements in this whole . . .


(ii) On the second form of the theory the characteristic behavior of the whole is not only completely determined by the nature and arrangements of its components; in addition to this it is held that the behavior of the whole could, in theory at least, be deduced from a sufficient knowledge of how the components behave in isolation or in other wholes of a simpler kind (1925, 59). [Hendry, 178]

The first formulation describes “emergence”, whereas the second is “mechanism”. In order to give more contemporary expression to the two views Hendry introduces the key concept of quantum chemistry, the Hamiltonian for a molecule. A Hamiltonian is an operator describing the total energy of a system. A “resultant” Hamiltonian is the operator that results from identifying and summing up all forces within a system; a configurational Hamiltonian is one that has been observationally adjusted to represent the observed energies of the system. The first version is “fundamental”, whereas the second version is descriptive.

Now we can pose the question of whether chemistry (behavior of molecules) is fixed by the resultant Hamiltonian for the components of the atoms involved (electrons, protons, neutrons) and the forces that they exert on each other. Or, on the other hand, does quantum chemistry achieve its goals by arriving at configurational Hamiltonians for molecules, and deriving properties from these descriptive operators? Hendry finds that the latter is the case for existing derivations; and this means that quantum chemistry (as it is currently practiced) does not derive chemical properties from fundamental quantum theory. Moreover, the configuration of the Hamiltonians used requires abstractive description of the hypothesized geometry of the molecule and the assumption of the relatively slow motion of the nucleus. But this is information at the level of chemistry, not fundamental physics. And it implies downward causation from the level of chemical structure to the level of fundamental physics.

Furthermore, to the extent that the behavior of any subsystem is affected by the supersystems in which it participates, the emergent behavior of complex systems must be viewed as determining, but not being fully determined by, the behavior of their constituent parts. And that is downward causation. (180)

So chemistry does not derive from fundamental physics. Here is Hendry’s conclusion, supporting pluralism and anti-reductionism in the case of chemistry and physics:

On the other hand is the pluralist version, in which physical law does not fully determine the behavior of the kinds of systems studied by the special sciences. On this view, although the very abstractness of the physical theories seems to indicate that they could, in principle, be regarded as applying to special science systems, their applicability is either trivial (and correspondingly uninformative), or if non-trivial, the nature of scientific inquiry is such that there is no particular reason to expect the relevant applications to be accurate in their predictions…. The burden of my argument has been that strict physicalism fails, because it misrepresents the details of physical explanation (187)

Hendry’s argument has a lot in common with Herbert Simon’s arguments about system complexity (link) and with Nancy Cartwright’s arguments about the limitations of (real) physics’ capability of representing and calculating the behavior of complex physical systems based on first principles (link). In each case we get a pragmatic argument against reductionism, and a weakened basis for assuming a strict supervenience relation between higher-level structures and a limited set of supposedly fundamental building blocks. What is striking is that Hendry’s arguments undercut the reductionist impulse at what looks like its most persuasive juncture — the relationship between quantum physics and quantum chemistry.

Supervenience and the social: Epstein’s critique

Does the social world supervene upon facts about individuals and the physical environment of action? Brian Epstein argues not in several places, most notably in “Ontological Individualism Reconsidered” (2009; link). (I plan to treat Epstein’s more recent arguments in his very interesting book The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences in a later post.) The core of his argument is the idea that there are other factors influencing social facts besides these. Social facts then fail to supervene in the strict sense: they depend on facts other than facts about individuals. There are indeed differences at the level of the social that do not correspond to a difference in the facts at the level of the individual. Here is how Epstein puts the core of his argument:

My aim in this paper is to challenge this [the idea that individualism is simply the denial of spooky social autonomy]. But ontological individualism is a stronger thesis than this, and on any plausible interpretation, it is false. The reason is not that social properties are determined by something other than physical properties of the world. Instead it is that social properties are often determined by physical ones that cannot plausibly be taken to be individualistic properties of persons. Only if the thesis of ontological individualism is weakened to the point that it is equivalent to physicalism can it be true, but then it fails to be a thesis about the determination of social properties by individualistic ones. (3)

And here is how Epstein formulates the claim of weakly local supervenience of social properties upon individual properties:

Social properties weakly locally supervene on individualistic properties if and only if for any possible world w and any entities x and y in w, if x and y are individualistically indiscernible in w, then they are socially indiscernible in w. Two objects are individualistically- or socially-indiscernible if and only if they are exactly like with respect to every individualistic property or every social property, respectively. (9)

The causal story for supervenience of the social upon the individual perhaps looks like this:

The causal story for non-supervenience that Epstein tells looks like this:

In this case supervenience fails because there can be differences in S without any difference in I (because of differences in O).

But maybe the situation is even worse, as emergentists want to hold:

Here supervenience fails because social facts may be partially “auto-causal” — social outcomes are partially influenced by differences in social facts that do not depend on differences in individual facts and other facts.

In one sense Epstein’s line of thought is fairly easy to grasp. The outcome of a game of baseball between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox depends largely on the actions of the players on the field and in the dugout; but not entirely and strictly. There are background facts and circumstances that also influence the outcome but are not present in the motions and thoughts of the players. The rules of baseball are not embodied on the field or in the minds of the players; so there may be possible worlds in which the same pitches, swings, impacts of bats on balls, catches, etc., occur; and yet the outcome of the game is different. The Boston pitcher may be subsequently found to be ineligible to play that day, and the Red Sox are held to forfeit the game. The rule in our world holds that “tie goes to the runner”; whereas in alto-world it may be that the tie goes to the defensive team; and this means that the two-run homer in the ninth does not result in two runs, but rather the final out. So the game does not depend on the actions of the players alone, but on distant and abstract facts about the rules of the game.

So what are some examples of “other facts” that might be causally relevant to social outcomes? The scenario offered here captures some of the key “extra-individual” facts that Epstein highlights, and that play a key role in the social ontology of John Searle: situating rules and interpretations that give semantic meaning to behaviors. Epstein highlights facts that determine “membership” in meaningful social contexts: being President, being the catcher on the Boston Red Sox. Both Epstein and Searle emphasize that there are a wide range of dispersed facts that must be true in order for Barack Obama to be President and Ryan Hanigan to be catcher. This is not a strictly “individual-level” fact about either man. Epstein quotes Gregorie Currie on this point: “My being Prime Minister … is not just a matter of what I think and do; it depends on what others think and do as well. So my social characteristics are clearly not determined by my individual characteristics alone” (11).

So, according to Epstein, local supervenience of the social upon the individual fails. What about global supervenience? He believes that this relation fails as well. And this is because, for Epstein, “social properties are determined by physical properties that are not plausibly the properties of individuals” (20). These are the “other facts” in the diagrams above. His simplest illustration is this: without cellos there can be no cellists (24). And without hanging chads, George W. Bush would not have been President. And, later, one can be an environmental criminal because of a set of facts that were both distant and unknown to the individual at the time of a certain action (33).

Epstein’s analysis is careful and convincing in its own terms. Given the modal specification of the meaning of supervenience (as offered by Jaegwon Kim and successors), Epstein makes a powerful case for believing that the social does not supervene upon the individual in a technical and specifiable sense. However, I’m not sure that very much follows from this finding. For researchers within the general school of thought of “actor-centered sociology”, their research strategy is likely to remain one that seeks to sort out the mechanisms through which social outcomes of interest are created as a result of the actions and interactions of individuals. If Epstein’s arguments are accepted, that implies that we should not couch that research strategy in terms of the idea of supervenience. But this does not invalidate the strategy, or the broad intuition about the relation between the social and the actions of locally situated actors upon which it rests. These are the intuitions that I try to express through the idea of “methodological localism”; link, link. And since I also want to argue for the possibility of “relative explanatory autonomy” for facts at the level of the social (for example, features of an organization; link), I am not too troubled by the failure of a view of the social and individual that denies strict determination of the former by the latter. (Here is an earlier post where I wrestled with the idea of supervenience; link.)

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