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Long Distance


Suppose I pour poison in the water tank of a space ship while it stands on earth. My purpose is to kill the space traveller, and I succeed: when he reaches Mars he takes a drink and dies. Two events are easy to distinguish: my pouring of the poison, and the death of the traveller. One precedes the other, and causes it. But where does the event of my killing the traveller come in? The most usual answer is that my killing the traveller is identical with my pouring the poison. In that case, the killing is over when the pouring is. We are driven to the conclusion that I have killed the traveller long before he dies.

– Donald Davidson, “The Individuation of Events,” in N. Rescher et al., eds., Essays in Honor of Carl G. Hempel, 1969