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What is it to be doing something?

Tuesday, December 5, 2023, 3:40 pm – 5:20 pm

This colloquium talk is planned as an in-person event. Registration is only required for non-CEU members. 


Mainstream philosophy of action has paid surprisingly little attention to what it is to be doing something, or what acting is. (It has had a lot to say about what actions are, but what it says seems not to afford an account of acting—and this is the source of the complaint that it “leaves the agent out.”) Some recent work (by Jennifer Hornsby, Helen Steward, Rowland Stout, and others) argues that understanding acting requires addressing fundamental questions in temporal ontology—that is, questions concerning the fundamental being of what occurs in, and unfolds over, time. These philosophers think that an ontology of events is inadequate to accommodate acting; it must be replaced, or supplemented, with an ontology of processes. But focusing on the ontology of processes is at best a distraction and at worst a hindrance: if we want to understand what acting is, and to give the agent her due in an account of it, we need to think of acting in terms of an agent’s exercising her capacities, skills, and practical abilities.


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