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Essays on Actions and Events$
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Donald Davidson

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199246274

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199246270.001.0001

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Eternal vs. Ephemeral Events

Eternal vs. Ephemeral Events

(p.189) 10 Eternal vs. Ephemeral Events
Essays on Actions and Events

Donald Davidson

Oxford University Press

This essay continues Davidson's exchange with Chisholm on the nature of events, started in Essay 9. Davidson emphasizes that his own ontological approach, as opposed to Chisholm's, grows out of a need to provide a semantic analysis for sentences stating that a (causal) change occurred; and that Chisholm is wrong to divorce matters of metaphysics from matters of entailment. Entailments matter because for Davidson a correct analysis yields the logical form of the sentence, which in turn captures the inferential relations of the sentence to those it entails (Essay 6 develops this at greater length). He stresses that sentences do not, as Chisholm claims, refer to particular events but are only existentially and generically committed to them (see Essay 8, Essay 9), and demotes additional evidence marshalled by Chisholm on behalf of the sentential theory, including sentences that apparently demand the existence of recurrent (‘eternal’) events on top of non‐recurrent (‘ephemeral’) ones. Replying to Chisholm's objection that he has not sufficiently clarified what he means by talking of an event or action ‘under a description’, Davidson classifies the locution as an intensional idiom for which we require a more general analysis––one he prefers to give in terms of utterance tokens rather than Chisholm's events.

Keywords:   Chisholm, events, intensional context, logical form, particulars, recurrent entity, semantic analysis, semantic and ontology

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