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Actions and Events: Some Semantical Considerations

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Since the publication of Davidson’s influential article ‘The Logical Form of Action Sentences’, semantical considerations are widely thought to support the doctrine that actions are events. I shall argue that the semantics of action sentences do not imply that actions are events. This will involve defending a negative claim and a positive claim, as well as a proposal for how to formalize action sentences. The negative claim is that the semantics of action sentences do not require that we think of actions as events, even if these sentences are best formalized in the manner that Davidson himself favours. The positive claim is that the simplest way of formalizing actions sentences which captures all and only licit inferences requires quantification only, over the results of actions. If this is right, then the argument from semantics evaporates, and the claim that actions are events needs to be freshly argued for – or against.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, UK

Publication date: September 1, 1999

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