Events, their names, and their synchronic structure

Applied ontology 17 (2):249-283 (2022)
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We present in this paper a novel ontological theory of events whose central tenet is the Aristotelian distinction between the object that changes and the actual subject of change, which is what we call an individual quality. While in the Kimian tradition events are individuated by a triple ⟨ o, P, t ⟩, where o is an object, P a property, and t an interval of time, for us the simplest events are qualitative changes, individuated by a triple ⟨ o, q, t ⟩, where q is an individual quality inhering in o or in one of its parts. Detaching the individuation of events from the property they exemplify results in a fine-grained theory that keeps metaphysics and semantics clearly separate, and lies between the multiplicative and the unitarian approaches. We discuss then the way language refers to events, observing that, in most cases, event descriptions refer to complex, cognitively relevant clusters of co-occurring qualitative changes, which exhibit a synchronic structure depending on the way they are described. Contra Bennett, who famously argued that the semantics of event names ultimately depends on “local context and unprincipled intuitions”, we show how the lexicon provides systematic principles for individuating such clusters and classifying them into kinds. Finally, we address some open challenges in the semantics of locative and manner modifiers.

Author Profiles

Riccardo Baratella
University of Genoa
Nicola Guarino
Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche (CNR)


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