[hist-analytic] KIim 1: Events (pt. 1)

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sun Mar 6 13:15:52 EST 2011

I am going to gradually replace a theory of events with a theory of processes. Events will not be fundamental. They will be creatures of decision not nature. I will eventually discuss in detail Kim's views on events and supervenience. This is a modest beginning, based on somewhat unsystematic thinking with regard to his early theory of events and causation. I select Jaegwon Kim because he is, in my opinion, best at the problem he addresses: mind/body relations. I do not regard him as a philosopher of mind in a broad sense. But he is the best at what he does; so, let's take a close look beginning here. 

An intentional action is a species of events. I will make the effort to displace events from their privileged position in ontology. This will have consequences for the theory of action. I have selected Jaegwon Kim as my foil to this end because his thinking on the mind body problem is, currently, the most advanced. Here are a few random remarks in reaction to this early essay "Causation, nomic subsumption, and the concetp of event" (reprintd in _Supervenience and Mind_ Cambridge. 1993, hereafter SM). 

Kim's purpose is to describe an ontology of events sufficient to formulate Hume's views on causation. A Humean view, according to Kim, requires mainly the concept of a relation between events involving "general regularities." (SM p. 4) Elsewhere, I've mentioned that Hume's view is governed by an implicit Aristotelian view of substance. This will prove important for two reasons. First, because the standard view of events, and Kim seems to accept this as we shall soon discover, is that 'event' is a substance entailing notion. Substance, here may be, simply enough a region ("volume") of space/time. Second, the difficulties encountered where event-event (Humean) causation is adoptedd is owing largely to buying into Aristotelian concepts of substance determined as the referent of certain expressions in the subject position of sentences. Kim remarks: "...the event that consists in the exemplification of property P by an object x at time t bears a structural similarity to the sentence 'x has P at t'." (SM 8) I will take exception to this entire conception, arguing that events are "made up" and that processes, not events, are ontologically fundamental. This will lead to a different characterization of causation and eventually the concept of intentional action. First, let's raise some, rather, obvious questions about Kim's approach. 

Essential to Kim's position is the idea of "temporal contiguity," although he admits the concept is more readily applied to objects. However, he does make use of this relation as obtaining between events. He remarks that "two events are contiguous in time if they temporally overlap." Nevertheless (and here we raise concerns not entirely removed from some remarks by Russell) if causation is binary and requires that a cause precede its effect, then overlapping events cannot be such that one causes the other. On the other hand, when we are talking about processes, it is a requirement that one process causes another only if they overlap. We begin to see, then, how a process view may differ from Hume's, depending on how we define 'contiguous'. Even if, as Kim notes, 'contiguity' is more easily applied to objects, it remains the case that, if we locate the event in proximity of the object or substance entailed by the event, this location presupposes the individuation of the event itself noncircularly; that is, without assuming individuation of the object constitutive of the event. In any case, individuating action and individuating events cannot be done in one fell swoop. Actions, among events, require a differentia complicating the event approach. 

On the view to be taken here, once you have determined the requisites of a process the matter of "constituent events" is a matter of decision, not ontology. Process is, by contrast, a fundamental ontic category. This is not to the disparagement of our natural inclination to think in terms of events, encouraged as it is by the logic of Aristotle; rather, it is to call into question the fundamentality of the category of events. One problem with the event approach to causation is the role of "Cambridge changes" If, along with Kim, you take events as essentially involving a property at a time at some location, then you have trouble determining which properties occur constitutively of real events. 

Kim raises the question this way: Do we regard the property of being 50 miles east of a burning barn as a property on equal footing with being in a burning barn. (SM p. 17) Being caught in a burning barn will be recalled as an "event" in one's life, not so being 50 miles from it. Lamentations over our uncertainty here will not avail us the proper perspective as long as we stick to events as fundamental. As I said, events are creatures of decision. Whether these two events are on an equal level with respect to the determination of events will depend, entirely, on circumstances, not ontological fundamentals. 


STeven R. Bayne 

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