The ontology of events is extremely difficult to think. No doubt this arises from difficulties surrounding just how events are to be individuated and their porous nature. As philosophers such as Whitehead and Deleuze have noted, events are both unities andmultiplicities. We speak, for example, of a concert, a battle, an encounter, a meeting, etc. In speaking of events in this way we seem to treat events as unities or units, treating them as possessing a sort of identity that pervades them and strictly individuates them. A football game is an event, and is distinct from other football games. One supernova is distinct from another. Yet as we begin to look more closely at events we notice that they also seem to lack unity or identity. On the one hand, each event is composed of a variety of other events. A soccer game contains all sorts of plays that are themselves events. On the other hand, these events seem to open on to other events. One play, one interaction between the players and the ball, opens on to other plays. Similarly, the soccer game opens on to other soccer games in the season, deciding which team plays what team in, for example, the finals. In other words, the season itself seems to be an event that contains other events.
Here events seem to resemble Harman’s description of objects drawn from Husserl (Hegel makes similar observations in the open to the Phenomenology as well as theLogic). There it will be recalled that objects are both a unity and a diversity. On the one hand, objects have an irreducible unity such that each object is one and cannot be treated as a mere summation of their qualities. An object, it seems, is never exhausted by a list of its qualities. On the other hand, objects are multiplicities or manifolds (language Husserl uses in Cartesian Meditations and elsewhere) in that they consists of many different qualities. So too in the case of events insofar as they seem to be a unity that is also a multiplicity. Yet when we look at issues surrounding how to individuate events we find ourselves faced with the question of whether there is genuinely anontology of events or whether what we call an event is merely a matter of convention. In other words, do things such as battles, soccer games, and supernovae exist as independent events in their own right, or are they merely the result of linguistic conventions surrounding how how we arbitrarily delineate events? Clearly the realist will wish to treat events as entities in their own right. However, the realist will also wish to distinguish genuine events from events that are merely the result of some linguistic or social convention. She will recognize that not everything we call an event will necessarily be an event in its own right.