The object: Substance:: Event: Process analogy

Alexis Wellwood, Susan J. Hespos, Lance J. Rips

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

13 Scopus citations


Beginning at least with Bach (1986), semanticists have suggested that objects are formally parallel to events in the way substances are formally parallel to processes. This chapter investigates whether these parallels can be understood to reflect a shared representational format in cognition, which underlies aspects of the intuitive metaphysics of these categories. The authors of this chapter hypothesized that a way of counting (atomicity) is necessary for object and event representations, unlike for substance or process representations. Atomicity is strongly implied by plural but not mass language. The chapter investigates the language-perception interface across these domains using minimally different images and animations, designed either to encourage atomicity (ʼnatural’ breaks) or to discourage it (‘unnatural’ breaks). The experiments test preference for naming such stimuli with mass or count syntax. The results support Bach’s analogy in perception and highlight the formal role of atomicity in object and event representation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, Volume 2
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9780198815259
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Event perception
  • Metaphysics
  • Object perception
  • Philosophy of language and mind
  • Semantics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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