The Individuation of 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)

 The Individuation of Events

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Davidson notes that none of his key claims in the theory of action (Essay 1, Essay 2, Essay 3, Essay 4, Essay 5), nor his analysis of action sentences (Essay 6) or causal statements (Essay 7), will work unless we can talk of the same action, or event, under different descriptions, descriptions that, if they refer at all, must refer to the same thing and not change the referent of the re‐described expression. This requires that there are singular terms denoting events that can be variously referred to, and Davidson investigates the motivations for believing that ordinary language speakers refer to them already and readily concede their existence. He stresses that it is singular terms rather than sentences as a whole that refer to events, since sentences are only existential and generic with respect to events; i.e. sentences merely say that at least one event of a certain kind occurred without referring to any particular one of them (see also Essay 9). Against Strawson, Davidson argues more generally that events constitute a fundamental ontological category that cannot be dispensed with in favour of an ontology that only recognizes ordinary enduring objects. After examining the general need to provide identity and individuation conditions for entities whose existence we are committed to, Davidson asks how well that need is met in the case of material objects, and provides such conditions for events in terms of their causes and effects (see also Appendix B).

Keywords: conditions identity; description‐relativity events; events; individuation; material objects; particulars; reference of sentence; Strawson

Chapter.  8313 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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