David-Hillel Ruben (Birkbeck, London) 'Trying in Some Way'
David-Hillel Ruben (Birkbeck College, London)
Trying in Some Way
Abstract. Are there any particulars of the type, a trying to do something, whether these might be mental acts or physical actions or events or brain states? The action theory literature on trying invariably assumes that there are, even if there is no widespread agreement as to which metaphysical sort these particulars belong.
There is a well-known argument by Donald Davidson for the existence of events: there are certain logical relations between sentences with adverbial modifiers that cannot be reconstructed without a commitment to events as part of the logical form of such sentences.
I examine trying-sentences with adverbial modifiers. The question I want to ask in this paper is whether the Davidsonian argument described above could give any legitimate reasons for thinking that there are any acts (or events) of trying. I do not address the question of the adequacy of this Davidsonian argument for events generally. Restricting myself to the case of trying-sentences, I argue that the Davidsonian argument cannot give us any reason to think there are trying events or acts, because in every case of apparent adverbial qualification of ‘try to…’, there is a better or at least an alternative candidate as the bearer of the qualification.
I also examine the possibility of tryings being particulars because they are identical to the acts which one tries to do. I mention several arguments against this identification and produce a new argument for the same conclusion.
The difficult case for my position is naked trying, cases of trying in which no action of any sort results. I think there can be cases of naked trying and show how my account might handle them.
I conclude with a brief discussion of some work by Jonathan Bennett, on events versus facts, which I use to provide another set of considerations against there being trying particulars.
Time: 17 October 2012, h. 11.00
Location: Sala Rossa, Discipline della comunicazione, v. Azzo Gardino 23, Bologna