Processes in the interpretation of generics and CP-Laws

Abstract

Ceteris Paribus (cp-)laws may be said to hold only ``other things equal,'' signaling that their truth is compatible with a range of exceptions. Several theorists have taken this feature to introduce the presumption that cp-laws are trivial, one that needs to be countered if we are to appeal to cp-laws in the course of scientific investigation or our philosophical theorizing about it. I argue that the triviality worry is misplaced by pointing out that cp-laws are just a subset of uncontroversially meaningful and contingent expressions of natural language, the generics. I then present an account of these generics that elucidates some of their most puzzling features, especially the ones that suggested the triviality worry in the first place.

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Bernhard Nickel
Harvard University

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