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Published August 2012 | public
Journal Article

Events and times: a case study in means-ends metaphysics


There is a tradition, tracing back to Kant, of recasting metaphysical questions as questions about the utility of a conceptual scheme, linguistic framework, or methodological rule for achieving some particular end. Following in this tradition, I propose a 'means-ends metaphysics', in which one rigorously demonstrates the suitability of some conceptual framework for achieving a specified goal. I illustrate this approach using a debate about the nature of events. Specifically, the question is whether the time at which an event occurs is an essential property of that event. I argue that this question is naturally transformed into a question about the methodology of causal modeling. In this new framework, the question concerns what kind of variables to use to represent the effects of potential interventions on a system. This question has a demonstrably correct answer, which sheds new light on the original question.

Additional Information

© 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. Published online: 31 March 2012. For comments and discussion, I'd like to thank David Baker, Michael Friedman, Ronald Giere, Ned Hall, Benj Hellie, Boris Kment, Laurie Paul, Peter van Inwagen, Jessica Wilson, participants at the workshop on Scientific Philosophy at the University of Tilburg and the Carolina Metaphysics Workshop, and an anonymous referee.

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