Linguistics and Philosophy 43 (1):83-117 (2020)

Authors
Robert Van Rooij
University of Amsterdam
Katrin Schulz
University of Amsterdam
Abstract
Cimpian et al. observed that we accept generic statements of the form ‘Gs are f’ on relatively weak evidence, but that if we are unfamiliar with group G and we learn a generic statement about it, we still treat it inferentially in a much stronger way: all Gs are f. This paper makes use of notions like ‘representativeness’, ‘contingency’ and ‘relative difference’ from psychology to provide a uniform semantics of generics that explains why people accept generics based on weak evidence. The spirit of the approach has much in common with Leslie’s cognition-based ideas about generics, but the semantics will be grounded on a strengthening of Cohen’s relative readings of generic sentences. In contrast to Leslie and Cohen, we propose a uniform semantic analysis of generics. The basic intuition is that a generic of the form ‘Gs are f’ is true because f is typical for G, which means that f is valuably associated with G. We will make use of Kahneman and Tversky’s Heuristics and Biases approach, according to which people tend to confuse questions about probability with questions about representativeness, to explain pragmatically why people treat many generic statements inferentially in a much stronger way.
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DOI 10.1007/s10988-019-09265-8
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References found in this work BETA

Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1981 - Philosophy 56 (217):431-433.
Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):201-202.
Defaults in Update Semantics.Frank Veltman - 1996 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 25 (3):221 - 261.
Generics: Cognition and Acquisition.Sarah-Jane Leslie - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (1):1-47.

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Citations of this work BETA

A Causal Semantics of IS Generics.Robert van Rooij & Katrin Schulz - 2020 - Journal of Semantics 37 (2):269-295.

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