-ings and -ers

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Abstract

This paper is about the semantic structure of verbal and deverbal noun phrases. The focus is on noun phrases which describe actions, perceptions, sensations and beliefs. It is commonly thought that actions are movements of parts of the agent’s body which we typically describe in terms of their effects, and that perceptions are slices of sensible experience which we typically describe in terms of their causes. And many philosophers hold that sensations and beliefs are states of the central nervous system which we generally describe in terms of their typical causes and effects. For example ‘Brutus’s killing of Caesar’ is thought to describe a movement of a part of Brutus’s body – e.g. the thrust of an arm – in terms of one of its effects, namely, Caesar’s death. And ‘Hyman’s visual perception of a table in front of him’ is thought to describe the visual experience I’m having right now in terms of its cause. The object of the paper is to show that these doctrines misrepresent the semantic structure of verbal and deverbal noun phrases.

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