SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

A neo-aristotelian approach to the ontology of events
(Metaphysics/Ontology, English)

Events are essential in describing the world. Their relevance in talk about causation, theory of mind, explanation and actions is indisputable. In past years, philosophers such as Davidson and Kim have focused on both the philosophical semantics and ontology of events. Influenced by a quinean point of view, much of these works are centred on issues about their ontological commitment, i.e. regarding whether they exist at all. However, this perspective has not adequately addressed the issue of how events exist or happen, in a non-reductive fashion.

This is the main concern of this paper: From a neo-aristotelian approach inspired by the work of philosophers like Lowe, Fine and Sattig, I argue that events are to be understood as four-dimensional structured wholes. I aim to defend the idea of events as being composed of matter and form: Sets of instantaneous stages structured by an arrangement of kind sensitive slots. In this sense, this inquiry is to be better acknowledged as a mereological one.

First, I present the idea of telicity as central in distinguishing two families of event kinds: telic and atelic ones. Here, I rely upon classical linguistic knowledge about the temporal and causal internal structure of verbs and nouns, their so-called aspectual character, following authors like Vendler or Mourelatos. Telic events, such as playing a sonata and drawing a circle, have a natural or built-in end that has to be reached in order for us to truly state those phrases; while atelic ones, such walking or singing, do not. Using this distinction, I explore how these general kinds are intertwined with more specific ones, normally related to verbs, verbal phrases and other nouns. In this regard, I defend the standpoint that such denominations are primarily names in a rigid sense, however, we have to take their semantic and pragmatic content into account when searching for their essence, in a Lowe-like sense.

Secondly, I further discuss the idea of so-called dynamical stages: sets of instantaneous stages representing a minimal amount of change. These dynamical stages are to be understood as atelic events, forming the building blocks of every structured one. This distinction will allow a better understanding of incomplete events and general unstructured ones. In addition, I propose that this kind of events is to be understood analogically to stuff.

Furthermore, I use the idea of telicity in order to characterize the criteria of identity for events, shedding new light into a classical problem, which has remained without a workable solution let alone a definitive one. I propose both a first and a second order formulation of this telicity-based criterium, thus avoiding crucial criticism from rival alternatives.

Finally, I discuss some possible areas in which this new ontological insight regarding events could help to get a deeper understanding of related issues, such as in process biology and linguistics of verbal aspect.

In conclusion, this project, by closely examining events from a neo-aristotelian perspective, sheds new light on the rarely acknowledged issue of their structured compositional nature.


Chair: Alejandro Gracia di Rienzo
Time: 11:20-11:50, 08 September 2022 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.006

Alfonso Romero Zuniga 
(University of Tübingen, Germany)



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