The Recycling Problem for Event Individuation

Erkenntnis 81 (1):1-16 (2016)

Chad Vance
College of William and Mary
If the wedding had taken place an hour later, it would have been rained out. When we make counterfactual claims like this, we indicate that events are not terribly fragile things. That is, we typically think of events as particulars which can survive small changes in nearby possible worlds, such that one and the same event could have occurred under slightly different circumstances. I argue, however, that any account of “non-fragile” event individuation is subject to what is known as the recycling problem. This was a problem initially raised against origin essentialism, or the view that individuals are individuated by their origins, and is roughly the difficulty that arises in cases where the criteria of individuation for a particular individual are duplicated. I then examine a potential solution, which takes its cue from predecessor essentialism, the leading response to the recycling problem in the origins literature. I argue that the predecessor essentialist’s solution yields unacceptably counter-intuitive results when applied to the recycling problem for event individuation, and conclude that, if events have qualitative individuating essences, then they must be—contrary to intuition—modally fragile entities. I then suggest three alternatives to qualitative essentialism which could accommodate our intuitions about the modal non-fragility of events
Keywords Metaphysics  Events  Trans-World Identity  Origin  Modality  Individuation  Essences
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DOI 10.1007/s10670-015-9725-2
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References found in this work BETA

Naming and Necessity.Saul A. Kripke - 1980 - Harvard University Press.
Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1980 - In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 431-433.
How Things Might Have Been: Individuals, Kinds, and Essential Properties.Penelope Mackie - 2006 - Published in the United States by Oxford University Press.
Events as Property Exemplifications.Jaegwon Kim - 1976 - In M. Brand & D. Walton (eds.), Action Theory. D. Reidel. pp. 310-326.

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Making a Contribution and Making a Difference.Neil McDonnell - 2018 - American Philosophical Quarterly 55 (3):303-312.

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