Kinesis and energeia—and what follows. Outline of a typology of human actions

Axiomathes 18 (3):303-338 (2008)
Abstract
This paper presents a typology of human actions, based on Aristotle’s kinesis–energeia dichotomy and on a formal elaboration (with some refinement) of the Vendler–Kenny classificatory schemes for action types (or action verbs). The types introduced are defined throughout by inferential criteria, in terms of what here are referred to as “modal-temporal expressions” (‘MT-terms’). Examples of familiar categories analysed in this way are production and maintenance, but the procedure is meant to offer a basis for defining various other commonsense categories. Among the more theoretical categories introduced are “Aristotelian projects”, i.e. actions defined in terms of Aristotle’s conceptions of movement/change, as well as “abstract projects”, in which the agent ensures that something changes from not being a fact to being a fact, and “conditional agency”, which involves actions that are to be performed when/if certain conditions come to be fulfilled. A category like “starting an action” is itself inferentially defined here in MT-terms, and so, inter alia, are proceeding with, finishing, stopping and interrupting an action. There is also a demonstration of how actions of one type may be converted into those of other types, where this is a matter of the way they are “seen” or described. There is also an implication to the effect that some of these distinctions may be useful for formulating certain critical insights regarding modern life.
Keywords Action types  Ontology  Dynamics  Inferential definition  Temporality  Aristotle  Kenny  Vendler
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