7 March 2024: Michael Nelson (University of California, Riverside) – “On the reality of tense and aspect: What is objective becoming?”
Aula “Martinetti”, Via Festa del Perdono 7, h. 13:00
Verbs have tense and aspect. Tense, marking whether the described activity or state is past, present, or future, and aspect, indicating, crudely, how the activity or state extends over time, are important parts of natural language. The sentences ‘Taylor was singing My Favorite Things’ and ‘Taylor sang My Favorite Things’ are importantly different, even though both are in the past tense (marked by ‘was’ and ‘sang’), as the first is in the progressive, imperfective mode and the second the perfective mode. Suppose that Taylor started singing the song but was interrupted and never finished. Then the first is true and the second false. This is a familiar topic in linguistics and semantics, the so-called “paradox” of the imperfective. Of course, the question whether tenses are merely linguistic and psychological or are instead fundamental features of the reality language and thought represents as well is a very familiar topic in the literature on the metaphysics of time. And it is widely appreciated that an adequate account of aspect requires us to say something about the nature of events, as, at a minimum, we have to find different referents for the two sentences if we are to accommodate the observation that they have difference truth conditions. But I think that the metaphysical significance of aspect goes deeper and that considering the notion of an event unfolding through time, which I argue is a fundamental temporal notion.