Falsifying generic stereotypes

Philosophical Studies 178 (7):2293-2312 (2020)
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Abstract

Generic stereotypes are generically formulated generalizations that express a stereotype, like “Mexican immigrants are rapists” and “Muslims are terrorists.” Stereotypes like these are offensive and should not be asserted by anyone. Yet when someone does assert a sentence like this in a conversation, it is surprisingly difficult to successfully rebut it. The meaning of generic sentences is such that they can be true in several different ways. As a result, a speaker who is challenged after asserting a generic stereotype can often simply dismiss the objection and maintain that the stereotype is true in a way that is compatible with the challenger’s objection. In this paper, a semantic theory for generics is presented that accounts for this type of defensive shifting in upholding generic stereotypes. This theory is then used to develop two strategies to object more efficiently. The first strategy is to immediately deny that either of the two possible ways in which a generic can be true obtains. The second strategy is to deny the satisfaction of an additional condition that is necessary for a generic sentence to be true.

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References found in this work

Depth: An Account of Scientific Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Generics: Cognition and acquisition.Sarah-Jane Leslie - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (1):1-47.
The Radical Account of Bare Plural Generics.Anthony Nguyen - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1303-1331.

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