Varzi: Don’t Dwell on What Don’t Happen

by Yang Liu

Don’t Dwell on What Don’t Happen
Achille C. Varzi (Columbia)
Friday, April 6th 3:30-5:30pm
5 Washington Place, Room 202, New York

Abstract. Thesis: Just as it is a contradiction in terms to say that there are things that do not exist, it is a contradiction in terms to count, among the things that happen, events that don’t occur. We often speak as though there were such things, but deep down we want our words to be interpreted so as to avoid any serious ontological commitment to the realm of non-being. Antithesis: Non-occurring events are more resistant to Occam’s razor than the analogy with non-existing objects might suggest. Not only do we often speak as though there were such things as failures, omissions, non-occurrences; we frequently speak in such a way as to require that reference to or quantification over negative events be taken literally. Moreover: How can we deny that sometimes we are causally responsible, not only for our actions, but also for our omissions? How can we provide a reasonable account of our talk about tryings and intendings without bringing in negative outcomes?

A reception will follow in the 6th floor lounge.