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Springer Netherlands

It’s generally assumed that, if an agent x acts by ϕ-ing, then there occurs an event which is x’s ϕ-ing. But what about when an agent tries to do something? Are there such things as attempts? The standard answer is ‘Yes’. But in a series of articles, and now a book, David-Hillel Ruben has argued that the answer is ‘No’: what happens when x tries to ϕ isn’t that an attempt occurs; rather, what happens is simply that a certain subjunctive conditional fact obtains; x tries to ϕ just in case, had all the necessary conditions for success obtained, x would have intentionally ϕ-ed. I defend the existence of attempts. Following Ruben, I frame the issue in terms of the logical form of trying sentences (i.e. sentences which report that an agent tried to do such-and-such). Against Ruben’s view that such sentences express subjunctive conditionals, I argue that they express existential quantifications over attempts qua events. Thus, trying sentences are true only if attempts qua events exist.

Trying, Action sentences, Perceptual reports, Adverbs, David-Hillel Ruben