David Corfield
Davidson on events

From ‘Actions and Events’ (OUP):

Actions, Reasons and Causes

  • (1) ‘I turned on the light’ and (2) ‘I wanted to turn on the light/the light on’

There’s a specificity to an action satisfying (1) that isn’t part of what’s wanted in (2), e.g, I did it with my nose because my hands were full. If (1) is a type, TT, then an element is an achieving. (2) just is a wish for a state type to be inhabited, ‘I wanted Inhab(T)’. Its elements are warrants of the wanting.

(Should we say that the pro-attitude is towards a state, and the belief is that an activity will bring about the state, so that we explain an activity [xACT〈manner〉 (y)] by invoking a wish for a state [x 〈STATE〉] and a belief in a method of accomplishment [[X ACT〈manner〉] CAUSE [BECOME y 〈STATE〉]]?)

The pro-attitude can be used in an explanation since it is ‘logically independent’ of the action.

  • What is action A under description d?

d must refer to a type, and A be an element. But then how can A belong to more than one type. (Coercion, subtyping?) So there is an action which is: ‘I flipped the switch’, ‘I turned on the light’, ‘I alerted the prowler’. Then ‘I flipped the switch with my nose, at midnight, …’ - events can be endlessly specified.

Do we need an event A, then p(A), q(A), r(A),… as the different descriptions? Then we can’t have p(A) caused q(A), but we can have my wish to turn on the light caused my flipping the switch caused the light to come on/prowler to be alerted.

Perhaps this depends on whether A is an activity or an accomplishment. An accomplishment has projections to its activity and change of state. ‘John brushed the crumbs off the table’ to the brushing and the removal of the crumbs.

The Logical Form of Action Sentences

  • ‘I crossed the Channel in 15 hours’, ‘That was slow’, ‘I swam’

Perhaps fast/quick issues, but an adverb applied to an achievement (e) (Event types) may not survive projection to (d): ‘I swam quickly across the Channel’, ‘I crossed the Channel quickly’. Similar issue to ‘Grundy was a short basketball player, but a tall man.’

  • ‘Jones buttered the toast in the bathroom with a knife at midnight’

Problem if we take this as a five place predicate. How will it imply ‘Jones buttered the toast’, etc.?

  • An action can be described in many ways ‘I am writing my name on a piece of paper with the intention of writing a cheque with the intention of paying off my debts.’

This action also counts as my writing my name, my paying off my debts, etc. Kenny errs by redescribing all events as accomplishments, someone brought some state of affairs about.

Last revised on July 12, 2016 at 07:05:45. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.