The Logical Form of Action Sentences

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)

 The Logical Form of Action Sentences

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Davidson attempts to state the logical form of sentences in which actions are adverbially modified (e.g. ‘Jones buttered the toast slowly, with a knife, at midnight’); he wishes to regiment them into first‐order notation such that all valid inferences to sentences containing words of the original one are preserved. He claims that the only effective way of doing so is to transform the adverbs into predicates and recognize an implicit quantification over an entity to which the predicates apply (cf Appendix A); this entity he identifies as a dated, non‐recurrent particular––an event. Rival construals that do not require such an ontology either fail to preserve the inferences or end up assigning the adverbs to distinct actions. Davidson appends his replies to various critics of the paper in which he clarifies his methodology (applying the concept of logical form to sentences of natural language), the individuation of events (see further Essay 8), and suggests how his analysis can be extended to cover tensed action sentences.

Keywords: action sentences; adverbial modification; events; individuation; logical form; quantification; tense

Chapter.  19191 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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