(2018) Husserl Studies 34 (2).

Event semantics

a Husserlian critique

Andrés Colapinto

pp. 123-143

Event semantics is concerned with the formal structure of sentences which appear to describe an event of some kind, e.g. ‘Brutus kills Caesar,’ or ‘My tooth fell out.’ Phenomenologists should be interested in work in this field, if they hope to rescue Husserl’s phenomenology of judgment from its narrow focus on copular judgments of the form ‘S is p.’ An adequate phenomenology of judgment must ultimately develop an account of judgments whose intentional correlates seem to be events, rather than states of affairs, since such judgments are ubiquitous. For this endeavor, existing work on the formal structure of event sentences provides a crucial foothold. However, phenomenologists cannot simply import semantic theories for their own use, without first evaluating them for phenomenological plausibility. This concern is particularly acute in the case of the widely-adopted “Davidsonian” approach, according to which the logical structure of event sentences diverges radically from natural language syntax. The Davidsonian form introduces a “covert” variable, which stands in for an event. Thus, the sentence ‘Brutus kills Caesar’ becomes, ‘There is an event e that is a killing of Caesar by Brutus.’ Such a theory, if correct, would have decisive consequences for the phenomenology of event sentences, and even of events themselves. Yet the introduction of covert variables in turn introduces—I argue—a covert intentional object, without assessing this idea for phenomenological plausibility. Building on Husserl’s phenomenology of predication, I develop a criterion for evaluating this hypothesis, and argue that the Davidsonian approach, as it stands, is phenomenologically untenable.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s10743-017-9222-3

Full citation:

Colapinto, A. (2018). Event semantics: a Husserlian critique. Husserl Studies 34 (2), pp. 123-143.

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