A Dilemma about Kinds and Kind Terms

Authors
T. Parent
Virginia Tech
Abstract
'The kind Dinosaur' denotes a kind. Yet many generics are thought to denote kinds also, like the subject-terms in 'Dinosaurs are extinct', 'The lion has a mane', and 'The potato was cultivated in Ireland by the end of the 17th century.' This view may be adequate for the linguist's overall purposes--however, if we limit our attention to the theory of reference, it seems unworkable. The problem is that what is often predicated of kinds is not what is predicated of dinosaurs, the lion, and the potato. Thus, kinds are sometimes said to be abstract objects, immanent universals, nominal essences, etc. But the lion is a predatory cat--it is not an abstract object, nor an immanent universal, nor a nominal essence. I consider several proposals about resolving the dilemma; however, the conclusion is that none of the proposals are adequate. We are thus hard pressed to make sense of allegedly kind-denoting generics, and the lesson is a "Socratic" one about the depths of our ignorance.
Keywords disquotation  noun phrases (NPs)  common noun  sortals  species  generic generalizations  theory of reference and denotation  intensional contexts and intensionality
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