Events, Truth, and Indeterminacy

Some statements owe their truth (or falsity) to the way things are; others seem to owe their truth (or falsity) to the way things go. The statement (1) Lou’s hat is lovely will be true or false according to whether Lou’s hat (an object) is lovely or not. The statement (2) Lou’s lecture is boring will be true or false according to whether Lou’s lecture (an event) is boring or not. Davidson (1967) and many others have argued that this distinction is central to the way we talk about the world, and that both objects and events must be included in the ontological inventory if one is to make sense of much ordinary talk (and of much philosophical talk too, e.g., talk about causation). Moreover, we often speak in such a way as to suggest—implicitly—that we are talking about events. If the statement (3) Brutus stabbed Caesar with a knife were taken to assert that a certain three-place relation obtained among Brutus, Caesar, and a knife, then it would be hard to explain why (3) entails (4) Brutus stabbed Caesar (a statement that involves a different, two-place relation). By contrast—the story goes—if we take (3) to assert that a certain event occurred (namely, a stabbing of Caesar by Brutus) and that it had a certain property (namely, of being done with a knife), then the entailment is straightforward. This is not a proof that there are such entities as events. But if we are interested in an account of how it is that certain statements mean what they mean, and if the meaning of a state- 1 ment is at least in part determined by its logical relations to other statements, then one can hardly ignore the relevance of facts such as these. This by now is standard lore. There are even some logic textbooks (e.g., Forbes 1994) that include Davidson’s event-based analysis of sentences such as (3) or (4) as part of the basic apparatus for representing logical forms, on a par with Russell’s theory of descriptions. The official advantage, in both cases, is that we may hope to capture the truth conditions of such sentences without going beyond the framework of a purely Tarskian account..
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