A critical survey of the main philosophical theories about events and event talk, organized in three main sections: (i) Events and Other Categories (Events vs. Objects; Events vs. Facts; Events vs. Properties; Events vs. Times); (ii) Types of Events (Activities, Accomplishments, Achievements, and States; Static and Dynamic Events; Actions and Bodily Movements; Mental and Physical Events; Negative Events); (iii) Existence, Identity, and Indeterminacy.
Donald Davidson has prepared a new edition of his classic 1980 collection of Essays on Actions and Events, including two additional essays. In this seminal investigation of the nature of human action, Davidson argues for an ontology which includes events along with persons and other objects. Certain events are identified and explained as actions when they are viewed as caused and rationalized by reasons; these same events, when described in physical, biological, or physiological terms, may be explained by appeal to (...) natural laws. The mental and the physical thus constitute irreducibly discrete ways of explaining and understanding events and their causal relations. -/- Among the topics discussed are: freedom to act; weakness of the will; the logical form of talk about actions, intentions, and causality; the logic of practical reasoning; Hume's theory of the indirect passions; and the nature and limits of decision theory. The introduction, cross-references, and appendices emphasize the relations between the essays and explain how Davidson's views have developed. -/- . (shrink)
This extended investigation of the semantics of event (and state) sentences in their various forms is a major contribution to the semantics of natural language, simultaneously encompassing important issues in linguistics, philosophy, and logic. It develops the view that the logical forms of simple English sentences typically contain quantification over events or states and shows how this view can account for a wide variety of semantic phenomena. Focusing on the structure of meaning in English sentences at a &"subatomic&" level&-that (...) is, a level below the one most theories accept as basic or &"atomic&"&-Parsons asserts that the semantics of simple English sentences require logical forms somewhat more complex than is normally assumed in natural language semantics. His articulation of underlying event theory explains a wide variety of apparently diverse semantic characteristics of natural language, and his development of the theory shows the importance of seeing the distinction between events and states. Parsons demonstrates that verbs, also, indicate kinds of actions rather than specific, individual actions. Verb phrases, too, he argues, depend on modifiers to make their function and meaning in a sentence specific. An appendix gives many of the details needed to formalize the theory discussed in the body of the text and provides a series of templates that permit the generation of atomic formulas of English. (shrink)
In this study of events and their places in our language and thought, Bennett propounds and defends views about what kind of item an event is, how the language of events works, and about how these two themes are interrelated. He argues that most of the supposedly metaphysical literature is really about the semantics of their names, and that the true metaphysic of events--known by Leibniz and rediscovered by Kim--has not been universally accepted because it has been tarred with (...) the brush of a false semantic theory. (shrink)
In the first part of the paper I argue that an ontology of events is precise, flexible and general enough so as to cover the three main alternative formulations of quantum mechanics as well as theories advocating an antirealistic view of the wave function. Since these formulations advocate a primitive ontology of entities living in four-dimensional spacetime, they are good candidates to connect that quantum image with the manifest image of the world. However, to the extent that some form of (...) realism about the wave function is also necessary, one needs to endorse also the idea that the wave function refers to some kind of power. In the second part, I discuss some difficulties raised by the recent proposal that in Bohmian mechanics this power is holistically possessed by all the particles in the universe. (shrink)
Whether non-human animals can have episodic memories remains the subject of extensive debate. A number of prominent memory researchers defend the view that animals do not have the same kind of episodic memory as humans do, whereas others argue that some animals have episodic-like memory—i.e., they can remember what, where and when an event happened. Defining what constitutes episodic memory has proven to be difficult. In this paper, I propose a dual systems account and provide evidence for a distinction (...) between event memory and episodic memory. Event memory is a perceptual system that evolved to support adaptive short-term goal processing, whereas episodic memory is based on narratives, which bind event memories into a retrievable whole that is temporally and causally organized around subject’s goals. I argue that carefully distinguishing event memory from episodic memory can help resolve the debate. (shrink)
This paper argues that a counterpart-theoretic treatment of events, combined with a counterfactual theory of causation, can help resolve three puzzles from the causation literature. First, CCT traces the apparent contextual shifts in our causal attributions to shifts in the counterpart relation which obtains in those contexts. Second, being sensitive to shifts in the counterpart relation can help diagnose what goes wrong in certain prominent examples where the transitivity of causation appears to fail. Third, CCT can help us resurrect the (...) much-maligned fragility response to the problems of late pre-emption by understanding fragility in counterpart-theoretic terms. Some reasons to prefer this CCT approach to rivals are discussed. (shrink)
The familiar Vendler-Kenny scheme of verb-types, viz., performances (further differentiated by Vedler into accomplishments and achievements), activities, and states, is too narrow in two important respects. First, it is narrow linguistically. It fails to take into account the phenomenon of verb aspect. The trichotomy is not one of verbs as lexical types but of predications. Second, the trichotomy is narrow ontologically. It is a specification in the context of human agency of the more fundamental, topic-neutral trichotomy, event-process-state.The central component (...) in this ontological trichotomy, event, can be sharply differentiated from its two flanking components by adapting a suggestion by Geoffrey N. Leech and others that the contrast between perfective and imperfective aspect in verbs corresponds to the count/mass distinction in the domain of nouns. With the help of two distinctions, of cardinal count adverbials versus frequency adverbials, and of occurrence versus associated occasion, two interrelated criteria for event predication are developed. Accordingly, Mary capsized the boat is an event predication because (a) it is equivalent to There was at least one capsizing of the boat by Mary, or (b) because it admits cardinal count adverbials, e.g., at least once, twice, three times. Ontologically speaking, events are defined as those occurrences that are inherently countable. (shrink)
This volume covers a broad spectrum of research into the role of events in grammar. It addresses event arguments and thematic argument structure, the role of events in verbal aspectual distinctions, events and the distinction between stage and individual level predicates, and the role of events in the analysis of plurality and scope relations. It is of interest to scholars and students of theoretical linguistics, philosophers of language, computational linguists, and computer scientists.
A fundamental aspect of human cognition is the ability to parse our constantly unfolding experience into meaningful representations of dynamic events and to communicate about these events with others. How do we communicate about events we have experienced? Influential theories of language production assume that the formulation and articulation of a linguistic message is preceded by preverbal apprehension that captures core aspects of the event. Yet the nature of these preverbal event representations and the way they are mapped (...) onto language are currently not well understood. Here, we review recent evidence on the link between event conceptualization and language, focusing on two core aspects of event representation: event roles and event boundaries. Empirical evidence in both domains shows that the cognitive representation of events aligns with the way these aspects of events are encoded in language, providing support for the presence of deep homologies between linguistic and cognitive event structure. (shrink)
Events and event prediction are pivotal concepts across much of cognitive science, as demonstrated by the papers in this special issue. We first discuss how the study of events and the predictive processing framework may fruitfully inform each other. We then briefly point to some links to broader philosophical questions about events.
This monograph investigates the temporal interpretation of narrative discourse in two parts. The theme of the first part is narrative progression. It begins with a case study of the adverb ‘now’ and its interaction with the meaning of tense. The case study motivates an ontological distinction between events, states and times and proposes that ‘now’ seeks a prominent state that holds throughout the time described by the tense. Building on prior research, prominence is shown to be influenced by principles of (...) discourse coherence and two coherence principles, NARRATION and RESULT, are given a formally explicit characterization. The key innovation is a new method for testing the definitional adequacy of NARRATION and RESULT, namely by an abductive argument. This contribution opens a new way of thinking about how eventive and stative descriptions contribute to the perceived narrative progression in a discourse. -/- The theme of the second part of the monograph is the semantics and pragmatics of tense. A key innovation is that the present and past tenses are treated as scalar alternatives, a view that is motivated by adopting a particular hypothesis concerning stative predication. The proposed analysis accounts for tense in both matrix clauses and in complements of propositional attitudes, where the notorious double access reading arises. This reading is explored as part of a corpus study that provides a glimpse of how tense semantics interacts with Gricean principles and at-issueness. Several cross-linguistic predictions of the analysis are considered, including their consequences for the Sequence of Tense phenomenon and the Upper Limit Constraint. Finally, a hypothesis is provided about how tense meanings compose with temporal adverbs and verb phrases. Two influential analysis of viewpoint aspect are then compared in light of the hypothesis. (shrink)
A critical review of the main themes arising out of recent literature on the semantics of ordinary event talk. The material is organized in four sections: (i) the nature of events, with emphasis on the opposition between events as particulars and events as universals; (ii) identity and indeterminacy, with emphasis on the unifier/multiplier controversy; (iii) events and logical form, with emphasis on Davidson’s treatment of the form of action sentences; (iv) linguistic applications, with emphasis on issues concerning aspectual phenomena, (...) the telicity/atelicity distinction, the treatment of statives, and temporal quantification. (shrink)
Event-causal libertarians maintain that an agent’s settling of whether certain states-of-affairs obtain on a particular occasion can be reduced to the causing of events by certain mental events or states, such as certain desires, beliefs and/or intentions. Agent-causal libertarians disagree. A common critique against event-causal libertarian accounts is that the agent’s role of settling matters is left unfilled and the agent “disappears” from such accounts—a problem known as the disappearing agent problem. Recently, Franklin has argued that an “enriched” (...)event-causal account can overcome this problem. Franklin, however, doesn’t consider whether, as Pereboom argues, the agent as decider of “torn decisions” disappears from even enriched accounts. As I show here, Franklin’s enriched account takes some modifying if it is to overcome Pereboom’s torn decision problem—a special case of the disappearing agent problem. However, as I also show, there is a more fundamental problem facing event-causal libertarian accounts. It is implausible that an agent qua event or state simultaneously settles whether and how she intervenes. The upshot is that events and/or states lack an ability essential to completely fulfilling an agent’s role qua settler. This isn’t a problem for agent-causal accounts like the one offered by Steward because in as much as an agent qua substance settles whether her body moves in certain ways on certain occasions she simultaneously settles whether and how she intervenes. As a consequence, event-causal libertarians face a dilemma, or rather several, that agent-causal libertarians do not. This may ultimately be explained by the irreducibility of causation by agents to causation by events. (shrink)
The main claim of this book is that the very same distinction between semantic singularity and plurality that is fundamental to the semantics of nouns in the nominal domain is operative and fundamental in the verbal domain as well, applying ...
What is consciousness? Some philosophers have contended that ‘qualia’, or an experiential medium from which consciousness is derived, exists as a fundamental component of reality. Whitehead, for example, described the universe as being comprised of ‘occasions of experience’. To examine this possibility scientifically, the very nature of physical reality must be re-examined. We must come to terms with the physics of space-time -- as is described by Einstein's general theory of relativity -- and its relation to the fundamental theory of (...) matter -- as described by quantum theory. This leads us to employ a new physics of objective reduction: OR which appeals to a form of ‘quantum gravity’ to provide a useful description of fundamental processes at the quantum/classical borderline . Within the OR scheme, we consider that consciousness occurs if an appropriately organized system is able to develop and maintain quantum coherent superposition until a specific ‘objective’ criterion is reached; the coherent system then self-reduces . We contend that this type of objective self-collapse introduces non-computability, an essential feature of consciousness. OR is taken as an instantaneous event -- the climax of a self-organizing process in fundamental space-time -- and a candidate for a conscious Whitehead-like ‘occasion’ of experience. How could an OR process occur in the brain, be coupled to neural activities, and account for other features of consciousness? We nominate an OR process with the requisite characteristics to be occurring in cytoskeletal microtubules within the brain's neurons. (shrink)
Event-causal libertarians maintain that an agent’s freely bringing about a choice is reducible to states and events involving him bringing about the choice. Agent-causal libertarians demur, arguing that free will requires that the agent be irreducibly causally involved. Derk Pereboom and Meghan Griffith have defended agent-causal libertarianism on this score, arguing that since on event-causal libertarianism an agent’s contribution to his choice is exhausted by the causal role of states and events involving him, and since these states and (...) events leave it open which decision he will make, he does not settle which decision occurs, and thus “disappears.” My aim is to explain why this argument fails. In particular, I demonstrate that event-causal libertarians can dismantle the argument by enriching the reductive base in their analysis of free will to include a state that plays the functional role of the self-determining agent and with which the agent is identified. (shrink)
How, asks Françoise Dastur, can philosophy account for the sudden happening and the factuality of the event? Dastur asks how phenomenology, in particular the work of Heidegger, Husserl, and Merleau-Ponty, may be interpreted as offering such an account. She argues that the “paradoxical capacity of expecting surprise is always in question in phenomenology,” and for this reason, she concludes, “We should not oppose phenomenology and the thinking of the event. We should connect them; openness to phenomena must be (...) identified with openness to unpredictability.” The article offers reflections in these terms on a phenomenology of birth. (shrink)
This chapter analyzes the concept of an event and of event representation as an umbrella notion. It provides an overview of different ways events have been dealt with in philosophy, linguistics, and cognitive science. This variety of positions has been construed in part as the result of different descriptive and explanatory projects. It is argued that various types of notions — common-sense, theoretically revised, scientific, and internalist psychological — be kept apart.
The semantics of our event talk is a complex affair. What is it that we are talking about when we speak of Brutus’s stabbing of Caesar? Exactly where and when did it take place? Was it the same event as the killing of Caesar? Some take questions such as these to be metaphysical questions. I think they are questions of semantics—questions about the way we talk and about what we mean. And I think that this conflict between metaphysic (...) and semantic concerns is indicative of a “deep indeterminacy” (Bennett’s phrase) in our event concept. We do talk about events; but what events a statement is about is not something that can be inferred from the event names we use; it depends heavily (more heavily than with ordinary material objects) on local context and unprincipled intuitions. This paper illustrates this view in connection with two examples: the phenomenon of vagueness and the dispute over identity statements. (shrink)
Much of our behavior is guided by our understanding of events. We perceive events when we observe the world unfolding around us, participate in events when we act on the world, simulate events that we hear or read about, and use our knowledge of events to solve problems. In this book, Gabriel A. Radvansky and Jeffrey M. Zacks provide the first integrated framework for event cognition and attempt to synthesize the available psychological and neuroscience data surrounding it. This synthesis (...) leads to new proposals about several traditional areas in psychology and neuroscience including perception, attention, language understanding, memory, and problem solving.Radvansky and Zacks have written this book with a diverse readership in mind. It is intended for a range of researchers working within cognitive science including psychology, neuroscience, computer science, philosophy, anthropology, and education. Readers curious about events more generally such as those working in literature, film theory, and history will also find it of interest. (shrink)
We present in this paper a novel ontological theory of events whose central tenet is the Aristotelian distinction between the object that changes and the actual subject of change, which is what we call an individual quality. While in the Kimian tradition events are individuated by a triple ⟨ o, P, t ⟩, where o is an object, P a property, and t an interval of time, for us the simplest events are qualitative changes, individuated by a triple ⟨ o, (...) q, t ⟩, where q is an individual quality inhering in o or in one of its parts. Detaching the individuation of events from the property they exemplify results in a fine-grained theory that keeps metaphysics and semantics clearly separate, and lies between the multiplicative and the unitarian approaches. We discuss then the way language refers to events, observing that, in most cases, event descriptions refer to complex, cognitively relevant clusters of co-occurring qualitative changes, which exhibit a synchronic structure depending on the way they are described. Contra Bennett, who famously argued that the semantics of event names ultimately depends on “local context and unprincipled intuitions”, we show how the lexicon provides systematic principles for individuating such clusters and classifying them into kinds. Finally, we address some open challenges in the semantics of locative and manner modifiers. (shrink)
Helen Steward puts forward a radical critique of the foundations of contemporary philosophy of mind, arguing that it relies too heavily on insecure assumptions about the sorts of things there are in the mind--events, processes, and states. She offers a fresh investigation of these three categories, clarifying the distinctions between them, and argues that the category of state has been very widely and seriously misunderstood.
Traditional approaches to human information processing tend to deal with perception and action planning in isolation, so that an adequate account of the perception-action interface is still missing. On the perceptual side, the dominant cognitive view largely underestimates, and thus fails to account for, the impact of action-related processes on both the processing of perceptual information and on perceptual learning. On the action side, most approaches conceive of action planning as a mere continuation of stimulus processing, thus failing to account (...) for the goal-directedness of even the simplest reaction in an experimental task. We propose a new framework for a more adequate theoretical treatment of perception and action planning, in which perceptual contents and action plans are coded in a common representational medium by feature codes with distal reference. Perceived events (perceptions) and to-be-produced events (actions) are equally represented by integrated, task-tuned networks of feature codes – cognitive structures we call event codes. We give an overview of evidence from a wide variety of empirical domains, such as spatial stimulus-response compatibility, sensorimotor synchronization, and ideomotor action, showing that our main assumptions are well supported by the data. Key Words: action planning; binding; common coding; event coding; feature integration; perception; perception-action interface. (shrink)
I describe and discuss one particular dimension of disagreement in the philosophical literature on episodic memory. One way of putting the disagreement is in terms of the question as to whether or not there is a difference in kind between remembering seeing x and remembering what x looks like. I argue against accounts of episodic memory that either deny that there is a clear difference between these two forms of remembering, or downplay the difference by in effect suggesting that the (...) former contains an additional ingredient not present in the latter, but otherwise treating them as the same thing. I also show that a recent ‘minimalist’ approach to episodic memory (Clayton & Russell in Neuropsychologia 47 (11): 2,330–2,340, 2009; Russell & Hanna in Mind & Language 27 (1): 29–54, 2012) fails to give a satisfactory explanatory account of the difference between the two types of remembering. I finish by sketching an alternative approach to episodic memory, which turns on the idea that episodic recollection recruits a specific form of causal reasoning that provides for a concrete sense in which remembered events are remembered as belonging to the past. (shrink)
The aim in this paper is to focus on one of the proposals about successful perception that has led its adherents to advance some kind of disjunctive account of experience. The proposal is that we should understand the conscious sensory experience involved in successful perception in relational terms. I first try to clarify what the commitments of the view are, and where disagreements with competing views may lie. I then suggest that there are considerations relating to the conscious character of (...) our perception of events that speak in its favour. (shrink)
Nominalizations are expressions that are particularly challenging philosophically in that they help form singular terms that seem to refer to abstract or derived objects often considered controversial. The three standard views about the semantics of nominalizations are  that they map mere meanings onto objects,  that they refer to implicit arguments, and  that they introduce new objects, in virtue of their compositional semantics. In the second case, nominalizations do not add anything new but pick up objects that would (...) be present anyway in the semantic structure of a corresponding sentence without a nominalization. In the first and third case, nominalizations in a sense ‘create’ new objects’, enriching the ontology on the basis of the meaning of expressions. I will argue that there is a fourth kind of nominalization which requires a quite different treatment. These are nominalizations that introduce ‘new’ objects, but only partially characterize them. Such nominalizations generally refer to events or tropes. I will explore an account according on which such nominalizations refer to truth makers. (shrink)
There is an emerging view according to which countability is not an integral part of the lexical meaning of singular count nouns, but is ‘added on’ or ‘made available’, whether syntactically, semantically or both. This view has been pursued by Borer and Rothstein among others in order to deal with classifier languages such as Chinese as well as challenges to standard views of the mass-count distinction such as object mass nouns such as furniture. I will discuss a range of data, (...) partly from German, that such a grammar-based view of countability receives support when applied to verbs with respect to the event argument position. Verbs themselves fail to specify events as countable in English and related languages; instead countability is made available only by the use of the event classifier time or else particular lexical items, such as frequency expressions, German beides ‘both’, or the nominalizing light noun -thing. The paper will not adopt or elaborate a particular version of the grammar-based view of countability, but rather critically discuss existing versions and present two semantic options of elaborating the view. (shrink)
The paper explicates unique events and investigates their epistemology. Explications of unique events as individuated, different, and emergent are philosophically uninteresting. Unique events are topics of why-questions that radically underdetermine all their potential explanations. Uniqueness that is relative to a level of scientific development is differentiated from absolute uniqueness. Science eliminates relative uniqueness by discovery of recurrence of events and properties, falsification of assumptions of why-questions, and methodological simplification e.g. by explanatory methodological reduction. Finally, an overview of contemporary philosophical disputes (...) that hinge on issues of uniqueness emphasizes its philosophical significance. (shrink)
The present study applies a new method for investigating dynamic unconscious processes. The method consists of selection of words from patient interview and test protocols that in the clinicians' judgments capture the patients' conscious symptom experience and the hypothetical unconscious conflict related to the symptom, subliminal and supraliminal presentation of these words, signal analysis of event-related potentials obtained to the word presentations. Eight phobics and three patients suffering from pathological grief reactions served as subjects. A time-frequency ERP analysis revealed (...) that subjects' ERPs classified the unconscious conflict words better subliminally than supraliminally, while the reverse was true for the conscious symptom words = 2.82, p = .011). The relationship between frequency and latency revealed a similar mirror image pattern for the unconscious conflict and conscious symptom words . This method demonstrated that objective, brain-based evidence for unconscious conflict can be obtained. (shrink)
In this paper, I want eventually to get around to proposing a criterion of identity for events which are changes in physical objects, where events are construed as comprising a distinct metaphysical category of thing. The proposal will be preceded by a discussion of what I take to be a mistaken suggestion for such a criterion; I will do that because I think that seeing what it takes to show why that suggestion fails helps to motivate a theory about what (...) it is to be an event; and that theory wi II supply the conceptual foundations for my proposal concerning the criterion of identity for events. Before that suggestion is discussed, however, I want to discuss briefly an aspect of the question, Why do we have to give a criterion of identity for events, or for objects of any sort whatsoever? I want to have a brief look at the connection between identity criteria and the idea of a kind of object. (shrink)