Sarà capitato anche a voi, in treno, di cercare di aprire la porta tra un vagone e l’altro con l’espressivissima maniglia e, solo dopo non esserci riusciti, di aver notato il meno eloquente pulsante sulla destra. Il fenomeno non è troppo diverso da quando, non avendo capito qualcosa, chiediamo di farci un esempio. La convinzione —falsa—che parlare possa essere surrogato dall’indicare degli oggetti nasconde l’idea –vera– che gli oggetti parlino, e che alcuni parlino meglio di altri. Per capirlo, non c’è (...) bisogno di portarsi dei fagotti per intrattenere delle conversazioni come fanno gli accademici di Lagado nei Viaggi di Gulliver. Basta liberarsi del pregiudizio secondo cui le cose sono mute, staccarci un po’ dall’attenzione ossessiva sui Soggetti, e prestare la giusta attenzione a quella realtà espressiva, evidente, infaticabile, che ci dice “sono io, sono qui”. (shrink)
Le relazioni spaziali tra gli oggetti che ci circondano nel nostro microcosmo quotidiano o nel macroambiente delle posizioni geograﬁche e le proprietà spaziali di tali oggetti, come forma e dimensione, sono un soggetto di ricerca privilegiato per quei settori delle scienze cognitive che mirano a rappresentare fedelmente le competenze degli agenti umani. Gran parte del nostro comportamento è descrivibile in termini spaziali: pianiﬁ- chiamo azioni, cerchiamo di eseguirle secondo i nostri piani (eventualmente superando ostacoli imprevisti), ne controlliamo lo svolgimento attraverso (...) un soﬁsticato sistema percettivo che, evidentemente, dispone di una componente non secondaria per la rappresentazione spaziale e il riconoscimento delle forme. Questi comportamenti spesso sono coadiuvati da ragionamenti e deduzioni («Se Paolo è a destra di Matteo e a sinistra di Holly, allora Holly è a destra di Matteo», «Se il cucchiaio è nella tazza e la tazza è nella credenza, il cucchiaio è nella credenza»). La stessa interpretazione del linguaggio naturale richiede un’adeguata semantica per le espressioni spaziali, presenti non solo nel lessico ma anche, signiﬁcativamente, nel sistema delle preposizioni (“in”, “su”, “tra”). Allorché quindi si cerca di rendere esplicito questo complesso sistema di competenze, si vorrebbe—idealmente—fondere le diverse componenti (pianiﬁcazione, azione, percezione, ragionamento deduttivo, linguaggio naturale) in un quadro unitario e armonico. Se ci si chiede di accertare se il cucchiaio è nella credenza, abbiamo bisogno di comprendere quello che ci vien chiesto, di progettare un’azione di veriﬁca, di osser- vare una certa relazione spaziale, di inferire una certa conclusione, e il contenuto di queste diverse competenze deve poter ﬂuire dall’una all’altra attività mantenendosi (abbastanza) invariato. Naturalmente i contributi al progetto di una rappresentazione adeguata delle competenze spaziali vengono da settori diversi e spesso di difﬁcile armonizzazione —logica, matematica, ﬁlosoﬁa, psicologia della percezione, neuroﬁsiologia, semantica (vedi l’ampia selezione di contributi in ).. (shrink)
Common-sense reasoning about space is, ﬁrst and foremost, reasoning about things located in space. The ﬂy is inside the glass; hence the glass is not inside the ﬂy. The book is on the table; hence the table is under the book. Sometimes we may be talking about things going on in certain places: the concert took place in the garden; then dinner was served in the solarium. Even when we talk about “naked” (empty) regions of space—regions that are not occupied (...) by any macroscopic object and where nothing noticeable seems to be going on—we tipically do so because we are planning to move things around, or because we are thinking that certain actions or events did or should take place in certain sites as opposed to others. The sofa should go right here; the aircraft crashed right there. Spatial reasoning, whether actual or hypothetical, is typically reasoning about spatial entities of some sort. One might—and some people do—take this as a fundamental claim, meaning that spatial entities such as objects or events are fundamentally (cognitively, or perhaps even metaphysically) prior to space: there is no way to identify a region of space except by reference to what is or could be located or take place at that region. (This was, for instance, the gist of Leibniz’ contention against the Newtonian view that space is an individual entity in its own right, independently of whatever entities may inhabit it.) It is, however, even more interesting to see how far we can go in our understand-. (shrink)
On a sunny day, on the seashore, Tactic and Tictac receive their first message in a bottle. They are good at radical interpretation. They master logic pretty well too. And they have independent evidence that ‘∨’ and ‘∧’ are sentential connectives (for “disjunction” and “conjunction”, as they have learned to say). “Look, Tactic says, look at this—a disjunction!” He holds it up.
Alexandre Koyré ha scritto che Newton e la scienza che è seguita sono responsabili di aver spaccato il mondo in due: da un lato il «mondo delle qualità e delle percezioni sensibili», dall’altra il «mondo della quantità e della geometria reificata». Un confronto anche sommario tra i fatti che risultano veri per il senso comune e falsi nell’immagine scientifica (o viceversa) sembra dar ragione a Koyré e ai tanti filosofi che hanno adottato la dicotomia. Ma si tratta davvero di (...) una dicotomia reale? Il mondo del senso comune è davvero un «altro mondo» rispetto a quello delle scienze fisiche? Nelle pagine che seguono cercheremo di articolare una risposta negativa a queste domande. (shrink)
Hylas. «Veramente, la distruzion de’ frulloni e delle madie, la devastazion de’ forni, e lo scompiglio de’ fornai, non sono i mezzi più spicci per far vivere il pane; ma questa è una di quelle sottigliezze metafisiche, che una moltitudine non ci arriva.» Devo dire che il fastidio di Manzoni verso le metafisiche inconcludenti mi sembra sacrosanto. Ma soprattutto mi sembra sacrosanto il suo richiamo al buon senso, quando aggiunge che «senza essere un gran metafisico, un uomo ci arriva talvolta (...) alla prima, finch’è nuovo nella questione.. (shrink)
This original and enticing book provides a fresh, unifying perspective on many old and new logico-philosophical conundrums. Its basic thesis is that many concepts central in ordinary and philosophical discourse are inherently circular and thus cannot be fully understood as long as one remains within the conﬁnes of a standard theory of deﬁnitions. As an alternative, the authors develop a revision theory of deﬁnitions, which allows deﬁnitions to be circular without this giving rise to contradiction (but, at worst, to “vacuous” (...) uses of deﬁnienda). The theory is applied with varying levels of detail to a circular analysis of concepts as diverse as truth, predication, necessity, physical object, etc. The focus is on truth, and hope is expressed that a deeper understanding of the Liar and related paradoxes has been provided: “We have tried to show that once the circularity of truth is recognized, a great deal of its behavior begins to make sense. In particular, from this viewpoint, the existence of the paradoxes seems as natural as the existence of the eclipses” (p. 142). We think that this hope is fully justiﬁed, although some problems remain that future research in this ﬁeld should take into account. The following assumptions constitute the typical background in which the truth paradoxes arise: (i) classical ﬁrst-order logic, (ii) a language allowing for self-reference, and (iii) the “semantic” Tarskian schema: (TS) T ‘A’ ↔ A (where ‘T’ is the truth predicate, and the single quotes are a nominalization device applicable to sentences; for simplicity, we only consider homophonic versions of TS). This background can be seen as somehow part of our ordinary linguistic and conceptual background and yet, to avoid inconsistency, one or more of these assumptions must be suitably weakened. The classical, Tarskian strategy is to forbid self-reference, whereas the ﬁxed-point approaches stemming from the work of Saul Kripke (1975) and Robert Martin and Peter Woodruff (1975) weaken the logic.. (shrink)
Temporal reference in natural language is inherently context dependent: what counts as a moment in one context may be structurally analysed in another context, and vice versa. In this note we outline a way of accounting for this phenomenon within event-based semantics.
The following is a transcript of what might very well have been five telephone conversa- tions between Michael Jordan and former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson in early March 1995, just before the announcement of MJ’s comeback after a year spent pursu- ing a baseball career.
Viviamo in un mondo tutt’altro che simmetrico. Luca ama Lara, ma lei lo detesta. I ricchi sfruttano i poveri e i belli deridono i brutti, mai viceversa. Chi parla non ascolta, chi ascolta non parla. Anche l’economia è asimmetrica: raramente gli agenti di mercato condividono le medesime informazioni sui beni di scambio, e mentre il venditore tende a tacere la vera natura dei propri prodotti (mai provato a comprare un’auto usata?) il compratore che fiuta l’affare non è da meno (direste (...) forse al mercante che la crosta che vuol svendervi potrebbe essere un Corot?) L’economista Joseph Stiglitz ha vinto il Nobel 2001 proprio0sulla teoria dei «macinini usati». E poi c’è la guerra, questa guerra che ci inquieta proprio per le inedite asimmetrie degli schieramenti: gli obiettivi appaiono diversi, le strategie incomparabili, i valori e principi ispiratori brutalmente dissonanti. «Contrastare la forza dell’avversario facendo leva sulle sue debolezze», diceva Sun Tzu. Ed ecco che al Pentagono ci si ritrova a riflettere sul paradosso di uno scenario strategico in cui la superiorità militare del Golia statunitense teme il colpo della fionda nemica. E si battezza la «guerra asimmetrica». (shrink)
Baba. In a way, though he didn’t credit the music to Rachmaninov, at least not initially. The original album jacket says “Words and Music by Eric Carmen”. Ali. So he committed plagiarism. I suppose that came out later, which is why Celine Dion was more careful? That’s bad. I mean, it’s bad that people steal music from the classics. Just because they’re dead? I am sure Eric Carmen would have been very upset if Celine Dion had not acknowledged her credit (...) to him. (shrink)
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.. (shrink)
Il filosofo britannico Alfred North Whitehead—autore, insieme a Bertrand Russell, di quei Principia Matematica da cui è scaturita gran parte della logica del ventesimo secolo—una volta scrisse che l’intera tradizione filosofica europea potrebbe essere letta come una lunga serie di note in calce alle opere di Platone. Tra i filosofi europei vi è poi chi ha affermato che tutta l’opera di Platone potrebbe leggersi come una serie di note in calce ad Anassimandro. Quindi, per l’irresistibile transitività delle note alle note, (...) tutta la filosofia europea si ridurrebbe a un commentario di un solo autore presocratico, dei cui scritti peraltro ci è rimasta una sola frase intera. E poiché l’autore in questione era diretto discepolo di quel Talete di Mileto che molti considerano il primo vero filosofo dell’antichità, e dei cui scritti non ci resta nemmeno una frase, se ne potrebbe concludere che l’intera storia della filosofia europea non è altro che un paradossale sforzo esegetico, un esercizio di ermeneutica impossibile in cui le menti migliori si sarebbero cimentate nell’interpretazione di testi perduti o addirittura inesistenti. (shrink)
Fictionalism in ontology is a mixed bag. Here I focus on three main variants—which I label after the names of Pascal, Berkeley, and Hume—and consider their relative strengths and weaknesses with special reference to the ontology that comes with common sense. The first variant is just a version of the epistemic Wager, applied across the board. For all we know—says the Pascalian—our ordinary common-sense ontology may be a fiction. However, what goes on in that fiction matters a lot to us. (...) Indeed, that’s all that matters, so let us pretend the fiction is true and let’s continue to plan our lives accordingly. The second variant builds instead on a semantic intuition. (shrink)
L’attribuzione di un valore di verità definito a un’asserzione d’identità, sincronica o diacronica, è spesso alla base di profonde controversie filosofiche. Consideriamo i casi seguenti: (1) Dati: All’alba si vede un solo pianeta; nelle prime ore della sera si vede un solo pianeta. Domanda: Il pianeta che si vede all’alba è lo stesso che si vede di sera? (2) Dati: Luca sta visitando la chiesa; Elena sta visitando il campanile. Domanda: Luca ed Elena stanno visitando lo stesso edificio?
Molti sistemi cognitivi, tra cui anche alcuni agenti artificiali, devono rappresentare lo spazio e gli oggetti spaziali per muoversi e agire in modo soddisfacente (per evitare un ostacolo, cogliere un frutto, decidere un punto dove atterrare). Nel caso degli esseri umani, la rappresentazione dello spazio ha anche un aspetto linguistico: sappiamo descrivere le relazioni spaziali o comprendere il significato di una preposizione come ‘tra’ immaginando una situazione spaziale cui essa si applichi. La rappresentazione dello spazio è pertanto un soggetto di (...) studio che occupa una posizione centrale nelle scienze cognitive. In questo articolo intendiamo proporne una ricognizione metodologica. Precisiamo subito che ci occuperemo soltanto delle rappresentazioni “distaccate” (cioè non egocentrice e non prospettiche) dello spazio in cui agisce un sistema cognitivo, rimandando a Casati e Dokic (1994) per alcuni spunti sugli altri aspetti. Lasceremo inoltre impregiudicate questioni metafisiche complesse quali l’identità tra lo spazio descritto dal senso comune e lo spazio descritto in un trattato di microfisica o di astronomia. Tenendo presenti queste limitazioni, passeremo in rassegna una serie di problemi metodologici. In alcuni casi si tratta di problemi effettivamente esemplificati nella letteratura contemporanea; in altri casi si tratta più che altro di tentazioni che hanno tuttavia alle spalle una lunga storia. L’interesse di questa ricognizione è per noi eminentemente filosofico. Ci siamo imbattuti in casi come quelli che descriviamo e che ci sono sembrati metodologicamente sospetti durante lo studio di alcune entità spaziali (buchi, eventi, unità geografiche) che costituiscono un buon banco di prova per la meto- 1 dologia della rappresentazione spaziale. I buchi, ad esempio (Casati e Varzi 1994), sono interessanti per due ragioni. In primo luogo, si può mostrare che un modello che li contempla rende conto in modo semplice e intuitivamente convincente della varietà topologica e morfologica degli oggetti ordinari, dimostrando come un’ontologia ben calibrata possa aumentare il potere descrittivo di una teoria.. (shrink)
La prima fase della carriera filosofica di Saul Kripke è legata principalmente, se non esclusivamente, ai suoi contributi in ambito logico. Si tratta di contributi che hanno avuto un impatto enorme soprattutto in due capitoli centrali di questa disciplina, la logica modale e la teoria formale della verità, con conseguenze e ramificazioni che hanno interessato un po’ tutta la filosofia analitica contemporanea. In questo capitolo cerchiamo di ricostruirne i tratti principali e di evidenziare la loro portata con particolare riferimento alla (...) filosofia del linguaggio e alla metafisica. La sezione 1 è dedicata alla logica modale. Della teoria della verità, che è un po’ più complessa, ci occupiamo nella sezione 2. (shrink)
The vocation was there and one could see its imprint on every page, regardless of Musil’s lingering misgivings about his own talent and regardless of how bored he might have been with his life as a mechanical engineering. After all, he had meanwhile gone to Berlin to study philosophy and psychology and would soon complete his doctorate, but when Meinong offered him an attractive research assistant-ship at the University of Graz, at the end of 1908, Musil decided to turn it (...) down to focus on his literary projects: “My love for artistic literature is no less than my love for science”, he explained politely. (shrink)
Il rapporto dei filosofi analitici con la metafisica è stato per lungo tempo difficile e conflittuale. In un certo senso, il movimento analitico venne inizialmente caratterizzandosi proprio in contrapposizione alla tradizione filosofica dominante dell’Ottocento, tutta assorta nell’impresa di rispondere a Kant attraverso rielaborazioni più o meno dogmatiche dell’idealismo critico. In una Cambridge in cui Bradley e McTaggart dominavano incontrastati, Moore non esitava ad accusare di miopia le teorie metafisiche «che pretendono di fornire un’agevole strada per superare le difficoltà che ostacolano (...) il cammino dell’indagine accurata»1. Russell scriveva che i grandi problemi della metafisica nascevano per la maggior parte da confusioni e fraintendimenti legati alla «cattiva grammatica»2, ovvero a un uso improprio del linguaggio e alla sua interpretazione affrettata e superficiale. E di lì a poco Carnap sarebbe giunto a dichiarare che «le presunte proposizioni della metafisica si rivelano, all’analisi logica, pseudoproposizioni».3 Più che un vero e proprio rifiuto della metafisica, tuttavia, queste manifestazioni critiche costituivano un attacco a un certo modo di fare metafisica, troppo spesso improntato all’abuso di paroloni («l’ente», «l’assoluto», «l’idea») e costrutti oscuri («il nulla nulleggia») piuttosto che alla chiarezza e al rigore argomentativo. Soprattutto rispetto ad altri campi di indagine filosofica, gli studi di metafisica dell’Ottocento e dei primi anni del Novecento erano molto distanti dagli standard di accuratezza che la svolta analitica andava imponendo ed era naturale che si finisse col mettere sotto accusa l’intera disciplina. Tut-. (shrink)
Morpheus lascia che sia Neo a decidere. Se ingerisce la pillola azzurra, la sua percezione del mondo non cambierà e la vita di Neo continuerà come sempre. Se ingerisce la pillola rossa, il mondo gli si manifesterà quale esso realmente è: una realtà che va ben al di là di quanto Neo possa anche solo lontanamente immaginare. «Pillola azzurra: fine della storia; pillola rossa: resti nel Paese delle Meraviglie e vedrai quanto è profonda la tana del bian- coniglio.» Neo fa (...) la sua scelta e l’avventura comincia. Per molti filosofi, Neo è come il prigioniero che decide di lasciare la ca- verna di Platone. Tra una vita tranquilla ma all’ombra dell’ignoranza e una vita dura ma integra, all’insegna del vero e del giusto, il virtuoso non ha indugi. Per parte nostra, non siamo certi di capire bene la portata dell’analo- gia, né la dinamica della scelta ci è mai stata chiara. Non è forse Neo, all’atto del deliberare, un soggetto in balia della Matrice? Donde la sua libertà di scelta? E donde la pillola, se il mondo di Neo è mera illusione? Per un lustro intero le nostre menti si sono arrovellate su questo dilemma, e lo spettro del paradosso ha perseguitato le nostre visioni notturne come una Sfinge che divora l’anima. Ma non tutti i dubbi sono appannaggio del maligno, ci vien detto. La pil- lola, in effetti, è semplicemente un «tracer». Fa parte di un programma di ri- cerca che si inserisce nella Matrice e interrompe il segnale portante di Neo, permettendo ai nostri hackers (veri esseri umani) di localizzarlo e inducendo la Matrice stessa a disfarsi del suo corpo (quello vero). Niente di paradossa- le in tutto ciò. Crediamo tuttavia di aver finalmente messo le mani—ne abbia- mo anzi convinzione certa—su un documento che non solo conferma la por- tata dei nostri dubbi, bensì solleva questioni impreviste e ancor più gravose. Si tratta né più né meno che del foglio illustrativo contenuto nella confezione di pillole rosse da cui Morpheus estrasse quella ingerita da Neo.. (shrink)
Una buona teoria semantica deve rendere conto del fatto che generalmente il significato di un’espressione complessa dipende dal significato delle parti. In particolare, il valore di verità di un enunciato composto dipende normalmente dal valore di verità degli enunciati che lo compongono e quindi, in ultima istanza, dal valore di verità di enunciati elementari, o «atomici». Tra questi il caso paradigmatico è costituito dagli enunciati in forma soggetto-predicato: (1) xèP, e, fortunatamente, le condizioni di verità di enunciati del genere appaiono (...) chiare e semplici: (A) Un enunciato della forma ‘x è P’ è vero se e solo se il referente del termine in posizione di soggetto, x, è nell’estensione del termine in posizione di predicato, P. Per esempio, l’enunciato (2) Alice è alta un metro è vero se e solo se il referente del nome ‘Alice’ ricade nell’estensione del sintagma aggettivale ‘alta un metro’.1 Naturalmente non mancano le complicazioni. Per esempio, può succedere che un enunciato abbia solo in apparenza la forma (1), come nel caso di.. (shrink)
The Doctrine of Potential Parts (DPP) says that undetached parts, i.e., proper parts that are connected to other parts of the same whole, are not actual entities. They are merely potential entities, entities that do not exist but would exist if they were detached from the rest. They are just aspects of the whole to which they belong, ways in which the whole could be broken down, and talk of such parts is really just talk about the modal properties of (...) the whole. DPP is rooted in some writings of Aristotle and Aquinas and has received considerable attention, in one form or other, also among contemporary philosophers, including Ingvar Johansson (2006a, 2008). Here I offer a reconstruction of this doctrine and present an argument to illustrate its hidden kinship with another, parallel but independent doctrine—the Doctrine of Potential Wholes(DPW). According to this second doctrine, disconnected wholes too, i.e., wholes that are not in one piece, count as merely potential entities, entities that do not exist though they would exist if their parts were suitably conjoined. I offer a diagnosis of the parallelism and briefly examine its bearing on Johansson’s views concerning the possibility of mereological change in the spirit of a common-sense metaphysics. (shrink)
La vaghezza è un fenomeno pervasivo del pensiero e del linguaggio ordinario. Abbiamo una buona idea di che cosa significhi dire che una persona è calva, alta, o ricca, ma a volte ci troviamo spiazzati. Alcuni uomini sono chiaramente calvi (Picasso), altri non lo sono (il conte di Montecristo), e altri ancora sono casi intermedi (Bertinotti): non c’è un numero esatto di capelli che segni il confine tra i calvi e i non-calvi. Allo stesso modo, è ridicolo supporre che vi (...) sia un’altezza precisa che segni il limite tra chi è alto e chi non lo è, o un’esatta somma di denaro che separi i ricchi dai nonricchi. Nella metafora di Frege, concetti come questi sono privi di una “frontiera precisa”.1 E ciò non vale soltanto per quei concetti che trovano espressione nella categoria grammaticale degli aggettivi: vale anche per molti concetti che corrispondono a sostantivi (qual è l’altezza minima di una montagna?), a verbi (qual è la velocità minima a cui si può correre?), e così via. Anche le espressioni di cui ci serviamo per identificare entità particolari possono essere indeterminate. Non solo è vago il nostro concet- to di montagna: sembra proprio che anche quando ci riferiamo a una montagna particolare—un oggetto al quale il concetto in questione si applica senza mezzi termini—il nostro riferimento possa risultare gravemente indeterminato. Non c’è dubbio che il Cervino sia una montagna. Ma quali sono esattamente i suoi confini spaziali? (A che punto lungo un percorso che dalla vetta conduce in pianura diremo di non essere più sul Cervino?) Quali sono i suoi confini temporali? (A che punto di un processo di corrosione diremo che il Cervino cessa di esistere?) Come ha scritto Russell, si potrebbe pensare che “tutto il linguaggio” sia vago.2 E siccome il linguaggio è lo strumento principale mediante il quale diamo espressione all’immagine che ci facciamo del mondo, si presenta una domanda di fondo.. (shrink)
Events are center stage in several fields of psychological research. There is a long tradition in the study of event perception, event recognition, event memory, event conceptualization and segmentation. There are studies devoted to the description of events in language and to their representation in the brain. There are also metapsychological studies aimed at assessing the nature of mental events or the grounding of intentional action. Outside psychology, the notion of an event plays a prominent role in various areas of (...) philosophy, from metaphysics to the philosophy of action and mind, as well as in such diverse disciplines as linguistics, literary theory, probability theory, artificial intelligence, physics, and—of course—history. This plethora of concerns and applications is indicative of the prima facie centrality of the notion of an event in our conceptual scheme, but it also gives rise to some important methodological questions. Can we identify a core notion that is preserved across disciplines? Does this notion, or some such notion, correspond to the pre-theoretical conception countenanced by common sense? Does it correspond to a genuine metaphysical category? (shrink)
There are two main ways, philosophically, of characterizing the business of ontology, and it is good practice to try and keep them separate. On one account, made popular by Quine, ontology is concerned with the question of what there is. Since to say that there are things that are not would be selfcontradictory, Quine famously pronounced that such a question can be answered in a single word—‘Everything’. However, to say ‘Everything’ is to say nothing. It is merely to say that (...) there is what there is, unless one goes on to specify the population of the domain over which one quantifies—and here there is plenty of room for disagreement. You may think that ‘everything’ covers particulars as well as universals, I may think that it only covers the former; you may think that the domain includes abstract particulars along with concrete ones, I may think that it only includes the latter; and so on. Exactly how such disagreements can be framed is itself a rather intricate question, as is the question of how one goes about figuring out one’s own views on such matters. But some way or other we all have beliefs of this sort, at least as soon as we start philosophizing about the world, and to work out such beliefs is to engage in ontological inquiries. The other way of characterizing ontology stems from a different concern, and made its way into our times through Brentano and his pupils. On this second account, the task of ontology is not to specify what there is but, rather, to lay bare the formal structure of all there is, whatever it is. Regardless of whether our domain of quantification includes universals along with particulars, abstract entities along with concrete ones, and so on, it must exibit some general features and obey some general laws, and the task of ontology would be to figure out such features and laws. For instance, it would pertain to the task of ontology to assert that every entity, no matter what it is, is self-identical, or that no entity can consist of a single proper part, or that some entity can depend on another only if the latter does not depend on the former.. (shrink)
As a theory of reasoning, logic has—or ought to have—nothing to do with metaphysics. It ought to have nothing to do with questions concerning what there is, or whether there is anything at all. It is precisely because of its metaphysical commitments that Aristotelian syllogistics, for example, was eventually deemed inadequate as a canon of pure logical reasoning. The inference from an A-form statement such as (1) All humans are mortal to the corresponding I-form statement, (2) Some humans are mortal, (...) is syllogistically valid. But it depends on the existence of humans beings and should not, therefore, count as valid as a matter of pure logic. (It depends on the existence of human beings because, in a world with no such beings, (2) would be false whereas (1) would be true, although vacuously.) Likewise, modern quantification theory1 has been found inadequate insofar as it sanctions as valid the inference from a universal statement such as (3) Everything is mortal to the corresponding existential statement (4) Something is mortal, whose truth-conditions, unlike those of (3), appear to clash with the metaphysical possibility that there is nothing at all. It also sanctions as valid the inference from (3) to any of its substitution instances, such as.. (shrink)
Amidst many discussions on super-valuational algebras and their philosophical applications — on which I was writing my dissertation — Hans and I once paused to ponder the mystical experience of the square. I mean A Square, the hero of Flatland. I mean that perfectly two-dimensional being, with no depth whatsoever, citizen of an equally two-dimensional depthless world, who one day had the good fortune of receiving a visit from a Sphere. What's more, he had the fortune of being able to (...) visit, albeit briefly, the undreamt-of three-dimensional world his guest came from — which is to say, our three-dimensional world. He visited and experienced our world before falling back for all eternity into the total flatness of .. (shrink)
According to a certain, familiar way of dividing up the business of philosophy, made popular by Quine, ontology is concerned with the question of what there is (a task that is often identified with that of drafting a “complete inventory” of the universe) whereas metaphysics is concerned with the question of what it is (i.e., with the task of specifying the “ultimate nature” of the items included in the inventory).1 For instance, a thesis to the effect that there are such (...) things as colors or virtues would strictly speaking belong to ontology, whereas it would pertain to metaphysics proper to establish whether such entities are Platonic forms, Aristotelian universals, tropes, moments, or what have you. Likewise, it would fall within the scope of ontology to determine whether, when we speak of Sherlock Holmes, of the natural numbers, or of Sebastian’s walks in Bologna, we are speaking of things that truly belong to the furniture of the universe, but it would be a further metaphysical task to say something precise in regard to the ultimate make-up of those things, if such there be—for instance, that Sherlock Holmes is a theoretical artifact, that numbers are abstract individuals, that walks are property exemplifications, and so on. Of course, this view is all but universal among philosophers. There are many other, different ways of understanding the terms ‘ontology’ and ‘metaphysics’, some of which can certainly claim a respectable pedigree. For example, it is also common to think of ontology as a proper part of metaphysics—that part that has to do with what there is2—and there are even philosophers who use those terms in a way that is the exact opposite of the one I have just offered.3 But never mind; I am not interested in defending the view or in criticizing it, as very little depends on it. I am citing it just to fix a certain distinction and to settle on a terminology. The question I wish to address concerns the relationship between the distinction—the relationship between ontology understood as the study of what there is and metaphysics understood as the study of what it is.. (shrink)
1. Universalism (also known as Conjunctivism, or Collectivism) is the thesis that mereological composition is unrestricted. More precisely: (U) Any non-empty collection of things has a fusion, i.e., something that has all those things as parts and has no part that is disjoint from each of them.1 Extensionalism is the thesis that sameness of composition is sufficient for identity. More precisely: (E) No two things have exactly the same proper parts (unless they are atomic, i.e., have no proper parts at (...) all). Clearly these two theses are not equivalent. They are, however, more closely related than one might think. For while (E) does not entail (U), the converse entailment holds —or so I will argue. More precisely, the entailment holds as long as it is agreed that the following postulates are constitutive of the meaning of ‘part’: (1) Transitivity: Any part of any part of a thing is itself part of that thing. (2) Supplementation: Whenever a thing has a proper part, it has at least another part that is disjoint from the first. 2. One way to establish the entailment can be extracted from two results of Simons (1987: 29ff), which concern a set of postulates logically equivalent to (1) and (2). The first is that such postulates license the derivation of (E) from the following strengthening of (2): (3) Strong Supplementation: Whenever a thing is not part of another, the first has at least a part that is disjoint from the the second. 1 I write ‘is disjoint from’ as shorthand for ‘has no parts in common with’. I will also write ‘overlaps’ for ‘has parts in common with’ and ‘is a proper part of’ for ‘is part of, but not identical to’. (shrink)
This issue of The Monist is devoted to the metaphysics of lesser kinds, which is to say those kinds of entity that are not generally recognized as occupying a prominent position in the categorial structure of the world. Why bother? We offer two sorts of reason. The first is methodological. In mathematics, it is common practice to study certain functions (for instance) by considering limit cases: What if x = 0? What if x is larger than any assigned value? Physics, (...) too, often studies the (idealized) initial and boundary conditions of a given system: What would happen in the case of a perfect sphere, or a perfectly black body? In the cognitive sciences, research often thrives on the analysis of cognitive errors, perceptual illusions, brain pathologies. Also in logic one can learn a lot by studying special, anomalous scenarios such as those exhibited by the paradoxes: it is unlikely that we actually find ourselves in a soritical context, or in a liar-like situation, but the fact that we might—or simply the fact that we can conceive of such a possibility—is important enough to deserve careful consideration. In short, the odd, the unfamiliar, the extra-ordinary, the limit cases are perfectly at home in scientific and more broadly intellectual discourse at various levels, where they can be fruitfully engaged in a sophisticated way (witness the existence of specific confining and managing strategies for dealing with them); and they are important precisely because they instruct us concerning the normal, the obvious, and the paradigmatic. The same goes for metaphysics, we submit. Although its major concern is, naturally, with such core entities as substances, properties, or hunks of solid matter, a lot may be learned by paying attention to those limit cases where we find ourselves dealing with entities of much lesser kinds, whether real or putative. (shrink)
The following is a transcript of what might very well have been five telephone conversations between Michael Jordan and former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson. The conversations took place in early March 1995, just before the announcement of MJ’s comeback after a year spent pursuing baseball.
Most event-referring expressions are vague it is utterly difficult, if not impossible, to specify the exact spatiotemporal location of an event from the words that we use to refer to it. We argue that in spite of certain prima facie obstacles, such vagueness can be given a purely semantic (broadly supervaluational) account.
Part-whole theories, or mereologies (from the Greek word µ ρος, meaning: “share”, “portion”, or “part”), form a central chapter of metaphysics throughout its history. Their roots can be traced back to the earliest days of philosophy, beginning with the Pre-Socratics. It is plausible to hold that Parmenides argues that there can be no parts, thus everything there is is one whole; and Zeno argues for his striking paradoxes on the assumption that there are parts (whether spatial or temporal ones). Democritus (...) introduces the idea that everything consists of atoms (literally: “indivisibles”) which are themselves simple, i.e., partless; Anaxagoras, on the other hand, maintains that everything consists of basic stuffs which are infinitely and homogeneously divisible: any portion of such a stuff is the same sort of stuff, and any portion, no matter how small, can be divided into further such portions. Sophisticated analyses in terms of parts and wholes figure prominently in the writings of Plato (especially in the Phaedo, Republic, Theaetetus, Par- menides, Timaeus, and Philebus) and Aristotle (most notably in the Metaphysics. (shrink)
It is common lore that standard, Kripke-style semantics for quantified modal logic is incompatible with the view that no individual may belong to more than one possible world, a view that seems to require a counterpart-theoretic semantics instead. Strictly speaking, however, this thought is wrong-headed. This note explains why.
Peter Simons has argued that the expression ‘the universe’ is not a genuine singular term: it can name neither a single, completely encompassing individual, nor a collection of individuals. (It is, rather, a semantically plural term standing equally for every existing object.) I offer reasons for resisting Simons’s arguments on both scores.
If the question is: what is to be done for philosophy?, then it calls for a political answer and I have little to say besides the obvious. If the question is: what is to be done in philosophy?, then I’m stuck. Drawing up a list of to-do’s and not-to-do’s would not, I think, be a good way to honor the general conception of philosophy that inspired Topoi throughout these years, and that I deeply share.
Every criminal act ought to be matched by a corresponding punishment, or so we may suppose, and every punishment ought to reflect a criminal act. We know how to count punishments. But how do we count crimes? In particular, how does our notion of a criminal action depend on whether the prohibited action is an activity, an accomplishment, an achievement, or a state?
On the difficulty of extracting the logical form of a seemingly simple sentence such as ‘If Andy went to the movie then Beth went too, but only if she found a taxi cab’, with some morals and questions on the nature of the difficulty.
The so-called "argument from vagueness", the clearest formulation of which is to be found in Ted Sider’s book Four-dimensionalism, is arguably the most powerful and innovative argument recently offered in support of the view that objects are four-dimensional perdurants. The argument is defective--I submit--and in a number of ways that is worth looking into. But each "defect" corresponds to a model of change that is independently problematic and that can hardly be built into the common-sense picture of the world. So (...) once all the gaps of the argument are filled in, the three-dimensionalist is left with the burden of a response that cannot rely on a passive plea for common sense. The argument is not a threat to common sense as such; it is a threat to the three-dimensionalist faithfulness to common sense. (shrink)
A rejoinder to G. Hull’s reply to my Mind 2003. Hull argues that Sorensen’s purported proof that ‘vague’ is vague--which I defended against certain familiar objections--fails. He offers three reasons: (i) the vagueness exhibited by Sorensen’s sorites is just the vagueness of ‘small’; (ii) the general assumption underlying the proof, to the effect that predicates which possess borderline cases are vague, is mistaken; (iii) the conclusion of the proof is unacceptable, for it is possible to create Sorensen-type sorites even for (...) predicates that are paradigmatically precise. I argue that each of these points involves fallacious reasoning. (shrink)
Argle claimed that holes supervene on their material hosts, and that every truth about holes boils down to a truth about perforated things. This may well be right, assuming holes are perforations. But we still need an explicit theory of holes to do justice to the ordinary way of counting holes--or so says Cargle.
The paper outlines a model-theoretic framework for investigating and comparing a variety of mereotopological theories. In the first part we consider different ways of characterizing a mereotopology with respect to (i) the intended interpretation of the connection primitive, and (ii) the composition of the admissible domains of quantification (e.g., whether or not they include boundary elements). The second part extends this study by considering two further dimensions along which different patterns of topological connection can be classified – the strength of (...) the connection and its multiplicity. (shrink)
R. Sorensen’s argument to the effect that ’vague’ is a vague predicate has been used by D. Hyde to infer that vague predicates suffer from higher-order vagueness. M. Tye has objected (convincingly) that this is too strong: all that follows from Sorensen’s result is that there are some border border cases, but not necessarily border border cases of every vague predicate. I argue that this is still too strong: Sorensen’s proof presupposes the existence of border border cases, hence cannot be (...) used to establish that fact on pain of circularity. (shrink)
Standard lore has it that a proper name is a temporally rigid designator. It picks out the same entity at every time at which it picks out an entity at all. If the entity in question is an enduring continuant then we know what this means, though we are also stuck with a host of metaphysical puzzles concerning endurance itself. If the entity in question is a perdurant then the rigidity claim is trivial, though one is left wondering how it (...) is that different speakers ever manage to pick out one and the same entity when a host of suitable, overlapping candidates are available. But what if the entity in question is neither a continuant nor a perdurant? What if the things we talk about in ordinary language are time-bound entities that cannot truly be said to persist through time, or stage sequences whose unity resides exclusively in our minds--like the “waves” at the stadium or the characters of a cartoon? In such cases the rigidity claim can’t be right and a counterpart-theoretic semantics seems required. Is that bad? I say it isn’t. And it had better not be, if that turns out to be the best metaphysical option we have. (shrink)
The history of evolution is a history of development from less to more complex organisms. This growth in complexity of organisms goes hand in hand with a concurrent growth in complexity of environments and of organism-environment relations. It is a concern with this latter aspect of evolutionary development that motivates the present paper. We begin by outlining a theory of organism-environment relations. We then show that the theory can be applied to a range of different sorts of cases, both biological (...) and non-biological, in which objects are lodged or housed within specific environments, or niches. Biological science is interested in types—for example in genotypes, phenotypes, and environment types—in regularities that can serve as the basis for the formulation of laws or general principles. Types, however, can exist only through their corresponding tokens. Our theory of token environments is meant to plug this gap and to provide a first step towards a general theory of causally relevant spatial volumes. (shrink)
Some forms of analytic reconstructivism take natural language (and common sense at large) to be ontologically opaque: ordinary sentences must be suitably rewritten or paraphrased before questions of ontological commitment may be raised. Other forms of reconstructivism take the commitment of ordinary language at face value, but regard it as metaphysically misleading: common-sense objects exist, but they are not what we normally think they are. This paper is an attempt to clarify and critically assess some common limits of these two (...) reconstructivist strategies. (shrink)
Dear ‘Time Machine’ Research Group; if in order to travel to the past one has to have been there already, and if one can only do what has already been done, then why build a time machine in the first place? À quoi bon l'effort?
We propose the beginnings of a general theory of environments, of the parts or regions of space in which organisms live and move. We draw on two sources: on the one hand on recent work on the ontology of space; and on the other hand on work by ecological scientists on concepts such as territory, habitat, and niche. An environment is in first approximation a volume of space; it is a specific habitat, location, or site that is suitable or adequate (...) for given purposes (of foraging, resting, hunting, breeding, nesting, grooming) in the life of an organism or group of organisms. This spatial notion of environment can be drawn closer to biological and ecological science by taking account of the pertinent physical attributes realized within given spatial regions. (shrink)
Peirce once complained about the existence of nearly a hundred different definitions of logic. That was 1901—before the publication of the Prin- cipia and all that followed; before the tremendous growth of non-classical logics in the second half of this century and before the impressive development of logical calculi in various areas of computer science. If there were a hundred definitions then, today there are a hundred different theories, each of which stems from a different way of answering the question: (...) What is logic? (shrink)
The Paradox of the Question’ Ned Markosian tells a tale in which philosophers have a chance to ask an angel a question of their choice. What should they ask to make the most of their unique opportunity? Ted Sider has suggested asking: What is the true proposition (or one of the true propositions) that would be most beneficial for us to be told? I think we can do much better than that.
Your left and right hands are now touching each other. This could have been otherwise; but could your hands not be attached to the rest of your body? Sue is now putting the doughnut on the coffe table. She could have left it in the box; but could she have left only the hole in the box? Could her doughnut be holeless? Could it have two holes instead? Could the doughnut have a different hole than the one it has? Some (...) spatial facts seem tainted by necessity. This is problematic, since spatial facts are a paradigm of contingency. But the intermingling of space and modality may be surprisingly intricate. To a degree this is already visible in the part-whole structure of extended bodies. Parthood, itself a prima facie extrinsic relation, has an uncertain modal status. And questions about the necessity or the contingency of spatial facts and relations seem to run parallel to questions about the necessity or the contingency of parthood relations. Consider: Could an object have different parts than the ones it has? Common sense has an easy, affirmative answer to this question. However, 1 there are philosophers who, pressed by the need to overcome difficult conundrums concerning the identity of spatio-temporal particulars, have cast doubts on the adequacy of the common-sense answer. In recent years, for instance, Roderick Chisholm [1973, 1975, 1976] has defended the radical view that a true individual can neither gain nor lose parts, so that each single part is essential to it—a view that has come to be known as mereological es- sentialism. (shrink)
In recent years the idea that an adequate semantics of ordinary language calls for some theory of events has sparked considerable debate among linguists and philosophers. Speaking of Events offers a vivid and up-to-date indication of this debate, with emphasis precisely on the interplay between linguistic applications and philosophical implications. Each chapter has been written expressly for this volume by leading authors in the field, including Nicholas Asher, Pier Marco Bertinetto, Johannes Brandl, Denis Delfitto, Regine Eckardt, James Higginbotham, Alessandro Lenci, (...) Terence Parsons, Alice ter Meulen, and Henk Verkuyl. (shrink)
Consider John, the moon, a lump of cheese. These are objects possessed of divisible bulk. They can be divided, in reality or in thought, into spatially extended parts. They have interiors. They also have boundaries, which we can think of (roughly) asinfinitely thin extremal slices. The boundary of the moon is its surface. The boundary of John is the surface of his skin. But what of inner boundaries, the boundaries of the interior parts of things? There are many genuine two-dimensional (...) (sphere- and torus-like) boundaries within the interior of John's body in virtue of the differentiation of this body into organs, cells, and so on. Imagine, however, a spherical ball made of some perfectly homogeneous prime matter. If the possession by an object of genuine inner boundaries presupposes either some interior spatial discontinuity or qualitative heterogeneity, then there is a sense in which there are no boundaries to be acknowledged within the interior of such an object at all. (shrink)
We tend to talk about (refer to, quantify over) parts in the same way in which we talk about whole objects. Yet a part is not something to be included in an inventory of the world over and above the whole to which it belongs, and a whole is not something to be included in the inventory over and above its constituent parts. This paper is an attempt to clarify a way of dealing with this tension which may be labeled (...) the Minimalist View: An element in the field of a part-whole relation is to be included in an inventory of the world if and only if it does not overlap any distinct element that is itself included in the inventory. (shrink)
The concept of niche (setting, context, habitat, environment) has been little studied by ontologists, in spite of its wide application in a variety of disciplines from evolutionary biology to economics. What follows is a first formal theory of this concept, a theory of the relations between objects and their niches. The theory builds upon existing work on mereology, topology, and the theory of spatial location as tools of formal ontology. It is illustrated above all by means of simple biological examples, (...) but the concept of niche should be understood as being, like concepts such as part, boundary, and location, a structural concept that is applicable in principle to a wide range of different domains. (shrink)
The ecological literature distinguishes between two ways of conceiving a “niche” (habitat, ecotope, biotope, microlandscape) [22, 39]. On the one hand, there is the traditional functional conception of a niche as the role or position enjoyed by an organism or population within an ecological community. As C. Elton  famously put it, “When an ecologist says ‘there goes a badger’ he should include in his thoughts some definite idea of the animal’s place in the community to which it belongs, just (...) as if he had said ‘there goes the vicar’.” The world of niches might, in this sense, be viewed as a giant evolutionary hotel, some of whose rooms are occupied (by organisms which have evolved to fill them), some of whose rooms are for a variety of reasons unoccupied but can become occupied in the future. On the other hand, there is the environmental conception advanced by G. E. Hutchinson  and R. Lewontin . On this second conception, a niche is thought of as the hypervolume defined by the limiting values of all environmental variables relevant to the survival of a given species. A niche is not a mere location, but a location in space that is defined additionally by a specific constellation of ecological parameters such as degree of slope, exposure to sunlight, soil fertility, foliage density, and so on. It is, we might say, an ecological context. The purpose of this paper is to outline a formal theory of this notion. Our account expands on the theory put forward in , which builds upon certain fundamental notions and principles of mereology, topology, and the theory of spatial location. We focus on niche tokens, which is to say on the environmental niche determined by a given organism or population of organisms in a given place, and we aim to be more explicit than is customary in the ecological literature as concerns the.. (shrink)
The concept of niche (setting, context, habitat, environment) has been little studied by ontologists, in spite of its wide application in a variety of disciplines from evolutionary biology to economics. What follows is a first formal theory of this concept, a theory of the relations between objects and their niches. The theory builds upon existing work on mereology, topology, and the theory of spatial location as tools of formal ontology. It will be illustrated above all by means of simple biological (...) examples, but the concept of niche should be understood as being, like concepts such as part, boundary, and location, a structural concept that is applicable in principle to a wide range of different domains. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with certain ontological issues in the foundations of geographic representation. It sets out what these basic issues are, describes the tools needed to deal with them, and draws some implications for a general theory of spatial representation. Our approach has ramifications in the domains of mereology, topology, and the theory of location, and the question of the interaction of these three domains within a unified spatial representation theory is addressed. In the final part we also consider (...) the idea of non-standard geographies, which may be associated with geography under a classical conception in the same sense in which non-standard logics are associated with classical logic. (shrink)
Analyses, in the simplest form assertions that aim to capture an intimate link between two concepts, are viewed since Russell's theory of definite descriptions as analyzing descriptions. Analysis therefore has to obey the laws governing definitions including some form of a Substitutivity Principle (SP). Once (SP) is accepted the road to the paradox of analysis is open. Popular reactions to the paradox involve the fundamental assumption (SV) that sentences differing only in containing an analysandum resp. an analysans express the same (...) proposition, because analysandum and analysans are the same entity. Following suggestions of Gupta and Belnap it is argued that (SV) should be rejected. (shrink)
There are conflicting intuitions concerning the status of a boundary separating two adjacent entities (or two parts of the same entity). The boundary cannot belong to both things, for adjacency excludes overlap; and it cannot belong to neither, for nothing lies between two adjacent things. Yet how can the dilemma be avoided without assigning the boundary to one thing or the other at random? Some philosophers regard this as a reductio of the very notion of a boundary, which should accordingly (...) be treated a mere façon de parler. In this paper I resist this temptation and examine some ways of taking the puzzle at face value within a realist perspective--treating boundaries as ontologically on a par with (albeit parasitic upon) extended parts. (shrink)
Material objects, such as tables and chairs, have an intimate relationship with space. They have to be somewhere. They must possess an address at which they are found. Under this aspect, they are in good company. Events, too, such as Caesar’s death and John’s buttering of the toast, and more elusive entities, such as the surface of the table, have an address, difficult as it may be to specify. A stronger notion presents itself, though. Some entities may not only be (...) located at an address; they may also own (as it were) the place at which they are located, so as to exclude other entities from being located at the same address. Thus, for certain kinds of entities, no two tokens of the same kind can be located at the same place at the same time. This is typically the case with material objects. Likewise, no two particularized properties of the same level or degree of determinacy can be located at the same place at the same time (although particularized properties of different degree, such as the red of this table and the color of this table, can). Other entities seem to evade the restriction. Two events can be perfectly co-located without competing for their address. Or, to use a different terminology, events do not occupy the spatial region at which they are located, and can therefore share it with other events. The rotation of the Earth and the cooling down of the Earth take place at exactly the same region. Some of these facts and hypotheses have important bearings as to matters of identity. For instance, co-localization seems to be a sufficient condition for identity in the case of material objects, but not in the case of.. (shrink)
Reasoning and talking about time is to a great extent reasoning and talking about what actually happens or might happen at some time or another. This is perhaps not crucial if our concern is with abstract temporal reasoners or planners intended for speciﬁc applications, but it arguably matters for the prospects of knowledge representation and natural language semantics. The variety of the world is the variety of the things that happen, and we can’t deal with it without taking events at (...) face value (just as we cannot deal with physical bodies or masses by conﬁning ourselves to their spatial coordinates). This is the stance we took in , where we argued that the notion of an event structure can be given an autonomous characterization germane to both common sense and natural language. In  and  we also showed that the formal connection between the way events are perceived to be ordered and the underlying temporal dimension is essentially that of a construction of a linear ordering from the basic formal ontological properties of a domain of events— speciﬁcally, mereological and topological properties. The purpose of this paper is to expand on this by further investigating the subtle connections between time and events. After a brief review, in the ﬁrst part we shall generalize the notion of an event structure to that of a reﬁnement structure, where various degrees of temporal granularity are accommodated. In the second part we shall then investigate how these structures can account for the context-dependence of temporal structures in natural language semantics. (shrink)
We are used to regarding actions and other events, such as Brutus’ stabbing of Caesar or the sinking of the Titanic, as occupying intervals of some underlying linearly ordered temporal dimension. This attitude is so natural and compelling that one is tempted to disregard the obvious difference between time periods and actual happenings in favor of the former: events become mere “intervals cum description”.1 On the other hand, in ordinary circumstances the point of talking about time is to talk about (...) what actually happens or might happen at some time or another. We talk about ‘now’ and ‘then’ in an effort to put some order in our description of what goes on. And since different events seem to overlap in so many different ways, a full account of their temporal relations seems to run afoul of a reductionist strategy. This raises two philosophical questions. The ﬁrst is whether we can actually go beyond time, as it were, i.e., whether we can take events as bona ﬁde entities and deal with them directly, just as we can deal with spatial entities such as physical bodies or masses without conﬁning ourselves to their spatial representations. This is a controversial issue (though probably not as controversial as it used to be), and ties in with a number of unsettled problems concerning, e.g., the structure of causality or the deﬁnition of adequate identity and individuation criteria for events. 2 The second question is whether we can perhaps do without time, i.e., whether we can dispense with time points or intervals as an independent ontological category and focus only on actual or potential happenings, in opposition to the form of reductionism mentioned above—in short, whether we can account for the temporal dimension in terms of suitable relations among events. This is also a highly controversial issue, and relates to the classical dispute concerning relational vs. absolutist conceptions of (space and) time.3 It is this second question that we intend to focus on here.. (shrink)
Abstract. As a general theory of reasoning—and as a general theory of what holds true under every possible circumstance—logic is supposed to be ontologically neutral. It ought to have nothing to do with questions concerning what there is, or whether there is anything at all. It is for this reason that traditional Aristotelian logic, with its tacit existential presuppositions, was eventually deemed inadequate as a canon of pure logic. And it is for this reason that modern quantification theory, too, with (...) its residue of existentially loaded theorems and patterns of inference, has been claimed to suffer from a defect of logical purity. The law of non-contradiction rules out certain circumstances as impossible—circumstances in which a statement is both true and false, or perhaps circumstances where something both is and is not the case. Is this to be regarded as a further ontological bias? (shrink)