Eternal vs. Ephemeral Events

Donald Davidson

in Essays on Actions and Events

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246274
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191715198 | DOI:

Series: The Philosophical Essays of Donald Davidson (5 Volumes)

 Eternal vs. Ephemeral Events

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This essay continues Davidson's exchange with Chisholm on the nature of events, started in Essay 9. Davidson emphasizes that his own ontological approach, as opposed to Chisholm's, grows out of a need to provide a semantic analysis for sentences stating that a (causal) change occurred; and that Chisholm is wrong to divorce matters of metaphysics from matters of entailment. Entailments matter because for Davidson a correct analysis yields the logical form of the sentence, which in turn captures the inferential relations of the sentence to those it entails (Essay 6 develops this at greater length). He stresses that sentences do not, as Chisholm claims, refer to particular events but are only existentially and generically committed to them (see Essay 8, Essay 9), and demotes additional evidence marshalled by Chisholm on behalf of the sentential theory, including sentences that apparently demand the existence of recurrent (‘eternal’) events on top of non‐recurrent (‘ephemeral’) ones. Replying to Chisholm's objection that he has not sufficiently clarified what he means by talking of an event or action ‘under a description’, Davidson classifies the locution as an intensional idiom for which we require a more general analysis––one he prefers to give in terms of utterance tokens rather than Chisholm's events.

Keywords: Chisholm; events; intensional context; logical form; particulars; recurrent entity; semantic analysis; semantic and ontology

Chapter.  6397 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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