A Metaphysical Resolution of the Imperfective Paradox

ERI 149
Arts and Law, Lectures Talks and Workshops, Research, Students
Wednesday 7th March 2018 (13:00-14:00)
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Philosophy Work in Progress Seminar Series 2017/18

  • Speaker: Dr Michael Rush
  • Title: A Metaphysical Resolution of the Imperfective Paradox

The Philosophy department's work in progress seminar is an opportunity for the members of staff at Birmingham to present the material they are working on to each other and to the department's postgraduate students.
The seminar meets roughly on fortnightly Wednesdays from 13:00 to 14.00 in the ERI. All welcome!


A common intuition suggests that (1) Alex was running a business entails (2) Alex ran a business, but that (3) Kiran was building a house does not entail (4) Kiran built a house. (1) and (3) seem at least superficially to have the same grammatical structure as each other, as do (2) and (4). This is the origin of the so-called ‘imperfective paradox’, the resolution of which seems to require an explanation of this difference in entailment, given the apparent similarity in form. ‘Imperfective’ because the verbs in (1) and (3) have imperfective aspect: they identify an action or a situation as ongoing at some temporal interval. In this paper I explain the paradox (§1), briefly outline one of the (ingenious) proposals for a grammatical resolution (§2), and suggest an alternative approach (§3): if we give up a central part of the starting intuition the paradox goes away, so I motivate the surrendering of this intuition if you have it and sketch a metaphysical view that can do our revised intuition justice.