“Philosophers care about the truth”: Descriptive/normative generics

Mind and Language 38 (3):772-786 (2023)
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Abstract

Some generic generalizations have both a descriptive and a normative reading. The generic sentence “Philosophers care about the truth”, for instance, can be read as describing what philosophers in fact care about, but can also be read as prescribing philosophers to care about the truth. On Leslie’s account, this generic sentence has two readings due to the polysemy of the kind term “philosopher”. In this paper, I first argue against this polysemy account of descriptive/normative generics. In response, a contextualist semantic theory for generic sentences is introduced. Based on this theory, I argue that descriptive/normative generics are contextually underspecified.

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Citations of this work

Conceptual Baggage and How to Unpack It.Emilia L. Wilson - 2024 - Dissertation, University of St Andrews

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References found in this work

Natural Kindness.Matthew H. Slater - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2):375-411.
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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