Economic behavior necessarily <supervenes upon> the behavior of atoms


What does "supervenes upon" mean? Does it mean "acts on the basis of"? Simply a guess.

Thanks in advance

ers must matter to us. It does matter to us, but why? Strict reductionism does not seem to offer us much hope of insight into ethics. The same, of course, can be said of most higher level phenomena. Economic behavior necessarily supervenes upon the behavior of atoms, but we will not approach an understanding of economics through particle physics.

-Sam Harris' The End of Faith
  • NewAmerica

    Thank you. :)

    Does the definition of "supervene" here "to occur as an unexpected or extraneous development"(Collins)?
    Last edited:

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    It is this definition from the OED:
    3. intr. Philos. Of a quality or property: to be dependent on (or upon) a further underlying quality or property for its existence; to be present by virtue of the presence of other specified attributes.​

    There is a note to this definition:
    Often associated with Richard Mervyn Hare (1919–2002), British philosopher;​
    Hare provides the first quote for this meaning (from 1950).


    The definition seems to me that "Economic behavior necessarily supervenes upon the behavior of atoms" appears to have a sense of "Economic behavior is atomically contingent." ;)
    < Previous | Next >