Generics

In Bob Hale, Crispin Wright & Alexander Miller (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Language. Chichester, UK: Wiley. pp. 437–462 (2017)
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Abstract

Generics exhibit genericity, and though a theory of generics is closely connected to a theory of genericity, the two are distinct. They raise a host of interesting linguistic and philosophical issues, both separately and in their interaction. This chapter begins with a fairly manifest phenomenon one can observe in natural language. There is a range of sentences that, speaking intuitively, one can use to talk about kinds. It argues that there's no simple statistical criterion that systematically captures the patterns of the truth and falsity of generics. Generics seem to not just be substantially independent of statistical facts in the world and at the time with respect to which they are evaluated. The chapter points‐out a likely form of context dependence in generics, and argues that on a quantificational approach to generics, the restrictor of the generic quantifier must be determined at least in part by the predicate at issue.

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Bernhard Nickel
Harvard University

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