Philosophical Studies 179 (2):363-382 (2021)

Jonathan D. Payton
Bilkent University
It’s generally assumed that, if an agent x acts by ϕ-ing, then there occurs an event which is x’s ϕ-ing. But what about when an agent tries to do something? Are there such things as attempts? The standard answer is ‘Yes’. But in a series of articles, and now a book, David-Hillel Ruben has argued that the answer is ‘No’: what happens when x tries to ϕ isn’t that an attempt occurs; rather, what happens is simply that a certain subjunctive conditional fact obtains; x tries to ϕ just in case, had all the necessary conditions for success obtained, x would have intentionally ϕ-ed. I defend the existence of attempts. Following Ruben, I frame the issue in terms of the logical form of trying sentences. Against Ruben’s view that such sentences express subjunctive conditionals, I argue that they express existential quantifications over attempts qua events. Thus, trying sentences are true only if attempts qua events exist.
Keywords Trying  Action sentences  Perceptual locutions  Adverbs  David-Hillel Ruben
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-021-01662-9
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