Generics

Edited by Miguel Hoeltje (University of Duisburg-Essen)
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  1. Dispositions and modals: a short history.Alex Anthony - manuscript
  2. Generic Cognition: A Neglected Source of Context Sensitivity.Mahrad Almotahari - forthcoming - Mind and Language.
    What is the relationship between the claim that generics articulate psychologically primitive generalizations and the claim that they exhibit a unique form of context sensitivity? This paper maintains that the two claims are compatible. It develops and defends an overlooked form of contextualism grounded in the idiosyncrasies of System 1 thought.
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  3. People and places.John Horden & Dan López de Sa - forthcoming - Noûs.
    Several authors have argued that socially significant places such as countries, cities and establishments are immaterial objects, despite their being spatially located. In contrast, we aim to defend a reductive materialist view of such entities, which identifies them with their physical territories or premises. Accordingly, these are all material objects; typically, aggregates of land and infrastructure. Admittedly, our terms for these entities may also sometimes be used to denote their associated groups of people. But as long as countries, cities and (...)
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  4. The acquisition of generics.James Ravi Kirkpatrick - forthcoming - Mind and Language:1–26.
    It has been argued that the primary acquisition of genericity in early child speech poses a problem for standard quantificational approaches to generics and instead motivates the claim that generics give voice to an innate, default mode of generalising. This article argues that analogous puzzles involving the acquisition of A‐quantifiers undermine the empirical support for a purely cognition‐based approach to generics. Instead, these acquisition puzzles should be solved by generalising the core insight of the cognitive defaults theory to these expressions, (...)
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  5. The Dynamics of Generics.James Ravi Kirkpatrick - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
    It is a familiar point that we can use generic sentences to express generalisations that are tolerant to exceptions and then go on to state those exceptions explicitly. It is a less familiar point that switching the order of the generics has deleterious effects on their felicity. For example, the sequences ‘Ravens are black, but albino ravens aren’t’ is perfectly felicitous and judged to be true, whereas its reverse ‘Albino ravens aren’t black, but ravens are’ is infelicitous and contradictory-sounding. This (...)
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  6. Generic Excluded Middle.James Ravi Kirkpatrick - forthcoming - Philosophers' Imprint.
    There is a standard quantificational view of generic sentences according to which they have a tripartite logical form involving a phonologically null generic operator called 'Gen'. Recently, a number of theorists have questioned the standard view and revived a competing proposal according to which generics involve the predication of properties to kinds. This paper offers a novel argument against the kind-predication approach on the basis of the invalidity of Generic Excluded Middle, a principle according to which any sentence of the (...)
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  7. Generics.Sarah-Jane Leslie - forthcoming - Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  8. 'Real Men': Polysemy or Implicature?Sarah-Jane Leslie - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
  9. A General Theory of Bare “Singular” Kind Terms.Hiroki Nomoto - forthcoming - In Proceedings of the Poster Session of the 29th Annual West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 29).
    Dayal’s (2004) theory of kind terms accounts for the definiteness and number marking patterns in kind terms in many languages. Brazilian Portuguese has been claimed to be a counter-example to her theory as it seems to allow bare “singular” kind terms, which are predicted to be impossible according to her theory. However, the empirical status of the relevant data has not been clear so far. This paper presents a new data point from Singlish and confirms the existence of bare “singular” (...)
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  10. Proceedings of the Poster Session of the 29th Annual West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 29).Hiroki Nomoto - forthcoming - In Proceedings of the Poster Session of the 29th Anual West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 29). University of Arizona Linguistics Circle.
    Dayal's (2004) theory of kind terms accounts for the definiteness and number marking patterns in kind terms in many languages. Brazilian Portuguese has been claimed to be a counter-example to her theory as it seems to allow bare ``singular'' kind terms, which are predicted to be impossible according to her theory. However, the empirical status of the relevant data has not been clear so far. This paper presents a new data point from Singlish and confirms the existence of bare ``singular'' (...)
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  11. Genericity and Inductive Inference.Henry Ian Schiller - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science:1-18.
    We are often justified in acting on the basis of evidential confirmation. I argue that such evidence supports belief in non-quantificational generic generalizations, rather than universally quantified generalizations. I show how this account supports, rather than undermines, a Bayesian account of confirmation. Induction from confirming instances of a generalization to belief in the corresponding generic is part of a reasoning instinct that is typically (but not always) correct, and allows us to approximate the predictions that formal epistemology would make.
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  12. Moral principles as generics.Ravi Thakral - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association:1-20.
    I argue that moral principles involve the same sort of generalization as ordinary yet elusive generic generalizations in natural language such as 'Tigers are striped' or 'Peppers are spicy'. A notable advantage of the generic view is that it simultaneously allows for pessimism and optimism about the role and status of moral principles in our lives. It provides a new perspective on the nature of moral principles on which principles are not apt for determining the moral status of particular actions (...)
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  13. Kalām and Cognition.Mahrad Almotahari - 2023 - In Mohammad Saleh Zarepour (ed.), Islamic philosophy of religion: analytic perspectives. New York: Routledge. pp. 41-63.
    An application of some recent work on the science of generic thought.
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  14. Reference to singular kinds in Germanic and Romance.Samuel Jambrović - 2023 - Proceedings of the 2023 Annual Conference of the Canadian Linguistic Association.
    The need for the definite article to express a singular kind ("the cat") in the Germanic languages is predicted by Borer's (2005) structural approach to the mass-count distinction. Chierchia's (1998) "down" operator can apply to nPs to derive mass kinds ("rice") and to DivPs to derive plural kinds ("cats"), but there is no determinerless structure that exclusively denotes properties of atomic individuals to which this same operator can apply to derive singular kinds. The only alternative is the process that Chierchia (...)
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  15. “Philosophers care about the truth”: Descriptive/normative generics.Olivier Lemeire - 2023 - Mind and Language 38 (3):772-786.
    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 (...)
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  16. Generics, race, and social perspectives.Patrick O’Donnell - 2023 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (9):1577-1612.
    The project of this paper is to deliver a semantics for a broad subset of bare plural generics about racial kinds, a class which I will dub 'Type C generics.' Examples include 'Blacks are criminal' and 'Muslims are terrorists.' Type C generics have two interesting features. First, they link racial kinds with ​ socially perspectival predicates ​ (SPPs). SPPs lead interpreters to treat the relationship between kinds and predicates in generic constructions as nomic or non-accidental. Moreover, in computing their content, (...)
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  17. Reasoning with Concepts: A Unifying Framework.Gardenfors Peter & Osta-Vélez Matías - 2023 - Minds and Machines.
  18. Hasty Generalizations Are Pervasive in Experimental Philosophy: A Systematic Analysis.Uwe Peters & Olivier Lemeire - 2023 - Philosophy of Science.
    Scientists may sometimes generalize from their samples to broader populations when they have not yet sufficiently supported this generalization. Do such hasty generalizations also occur in experimental philosophy? To check, we analyzed 171 experimental philosophy studies published between 2017 and 2023. We found that most studies tested only Western populations but generalized beyond them without justification. There was also no evidence that studies with broader conclusions had larger, more diverse samples, but they nonetheless had higher citation impact. Our analyses reveal (...)
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  19. Asymmetry Effects in Generic and Quantified Generalizations.Kevin Reuter, Eleonore Neufeld & Guillermo Del Pinal - 2023 - Proceedings of the 45Th Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society 45:1-6.
    Generic statements (‘Tigers have stripes’) are pervasive and early-emerging modes of generalization with a distinctive linguistic profile. Previous experimental work found that generics display a unique asymmetry between their acceptance conditions and the implications that are typically drawn from them. This paper presents evidence against the hypothesis that only generics display an asymmetry. Correcting for limitations of previous designs, we found a generalized asymmetry effect across generics, various kinds of explicitly quantified statements (‘most’, ‘some’, ‘typically’, ‘usually’), and variations in types (...)
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  20. On the Speculative Form of Holistic Reflection: Hegel’s Criticism of Kant’s Limitations of Reason.Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer - 2023 - In Jens Pier (ed.), Limits of Intelligibility: Issues from Kant and Wittgenstein. Routledge.
    This article develops an interpretation of Hegel that aims to show how a proper understanding of the nature of speculative sentences might achieve what Kant set out to do: to vindicate our most fundamental claims to knowledge as actual knowledge, rather than mere acts of believing. To this end, it develops a conception of speculative geographies (or “maps”) as an interpretive tool and introduces an Hegelian-inspired distinction between empirical, generic, and speculative sentences. On this reading, Kant’s employment of the “boundary (...)
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  21. Non-conventionalized Generics and Exceptions.YoungEun Yoon - 2023 - Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics 23:358-375.
    As is well known, research on generics is represented by three approaches: majority- based (Cohen 1996, 1999, 2004), normalcy-based (Nickel 2006; 2009; 2010a, b; 2013; 2016; 2018), and cognition-based (Leslie 2007a, b; 2008; 2013; 2017) approaches. Two recent approaches proposed by van Rooij and Schulz (2020) and Tessler and Goodman (2019) are more elaborated theories on generics, although neither of these approaches nor the three representative theories can fully account for various generics data, as argued by Yoon (2021). On the (...)
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  22. Weak generics.Mahrad Almotahari - 2022 - Analysis 82 (3):405-409.
    Some generic sentences seem to be true despite the fact that almost all the members of the relevant kind are exceptions. It’s controversial whether generics of this type express relatively weak generalizations or relatively strong ones. If the latter, then we’re systematically mistaken about their truth, but they make no trouble for our semantic theorizing. In this brief note, I present several arguments for the former: sentences of the relevant type are weak generics.
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  23. Stereotyping and Generics.Anne Bosse - 2022 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-17.
    We use generic sentences like ‘Blondes are stupid’ to express stereotypes. But why is this? Does the fact that we use generic sentences to express stereotypes mean that stereotypes are themselves, in some sense, generic? I argue that they are. However, stereotypes are mental and generics linguistic, so how can stereotypes be generic? My answer is that stereotypes are generic in virtue of the beliefs they contain. Stereotypes about blondes being stupid contain a belief element, namely a belief that blondes (...)
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  24. Are Generics Defaults? A Study on the Interpretation of Generics and Universals in 3 Age- Groups of Spanish-Speaking Individuals.Elena Castroviejo, José V. Hernández-Conde, Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga, Marta Ponciano & Agustin Vicente - 2022 - Language Learning and Development 10.
    This paper reports an experiment that investigates interpretive distinctions between two different expressions of generalization in Spanish. In particular, our aim was to find out when the distinction between generic statements (GS) such as Tigers have stripes and universally quantified statements (UQS) such as All tigers have stripes was acquired in Spanish-speaking children of two different age groups (4/5-year-olds and 8/9-year-olds), and then compare these results with those of adults. The starting point of this research was the semantic distinction between (...)
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  25. Genericity.Ariel Cohen - 2022 - In Mark Aronoff (ed.), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1-35.
    Generics are sentences such as Birds fly, which express generalizations. They are prevalent in speech, and as far as is known, no human language lacks generics. Yet, it is very far from clear what they mean. After all, not all birds fly—penguins don’t! -/- There are two general views about the meaning of generics in the literature, and each view encompasses many specific theories. According to the inductivist view, a generic states that a sufficient number of individuals satisfy a certain (...)
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  26. What’s Positive and Negative about Generics: A Constrained Indexical Approach.Junhyo Lee & Anthony Nguyen - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (5):1739-1761.
    Nguyen argues that only his radically pragmatic account and Sterken’s indexical account can capture what we call the positive data. We present some new data, which we call the negative data, and argue that no theory of generics on the market is compatible with both the positive data and the negative data. We develop a novel version of the indexical account and show that it captures both the positive data and the negative data. In particular, we argue that there is (...)
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  27. Shadowboxing with Social Justice Warriors. A Review of Endre Begby’s Prejudice: A Study in Non-Ideal Epistemology.Alex Madva - 2022 - Philosophical Psychology.
    Endre Begby’s Prejudice: A Study in Non-Ideal Epistemology engages a wide range of issues of enduring interest to epistemologists, applied ethicists, and anyone concerned with how knowledge and justice intersect. Topics include stereotypes and generics, evidence and epistemic justification, epistemic injustice, ethical-epistemic dilemmas, moral encroachment, and the relations between blame and accountability. Begby applies his views about these topics to an equally wide range of pressing social questions, such as conspiracy theories, misinformation, algorithmic bias, discrimination, and criminal justice. Through it (...)
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  28. Flexible Acceptance Condition of Generics from a Probabilistic Viewpoint: Towards Formalization of the Semantics of Generics.Soo Hyun Ryu, Wonsuk Yang & Jong C. Park - 2022 - Journal Of Psycholinguistic Research.
    Formalization of the semantics of generics has been considered extremely challenging for their inherent vagueness and context-dependence that hinder a single fixed truth condition. The present study suggests a way to formalize the semantics of generics by constructing flexible acceptance conditions with comparative probabilities. Findings from our in-depth psycholinguistic experiment show that two comparative probabilities—cue validity and prevalence—indeed construct the flexible acceptance conditions for generics in a systematic manner that can be applied to a diverse types of generics: Acceptability of (...)
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  29. Genericity generalized.Alnica Visser - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 180 (3):703-723.
    In his _Between Logic and the World_, in the course of presenting his theory of generics, Nickel (Between logic and the world, Oxford University Press, 2016) argues for a theory of characteristicness, or “genericity”, which states that a property is characteristic for a kind if and only if its presence among the members of that kind is explicable by some explanatory domain that recognizes the existence of that kind in the course of engaging the explanatory strategies made available by that (...)
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  30. Generic Animalism.Andrew M. Bailey & Peter van Elswyk - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (8):405-429.
    The animalist says we are animals. This thesis is commonly understood as the universal generalization that all human persons are human animals. This article proposes an alternative: the thesis is a generic that admits of exceptions. We defend the resulting view, which we call ‘generic animalism’, and show its aptitude for diagnosing the limits of eight case-based objections to animalism.
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  31. Generics: some (non) specifics.Anne Bosse - 2021 - Synthese (5-6):14383-14401.
    This paper is about an underappreciated aspect of generics: their non-specificity. Many uses of generics, utterances like ‘Seagulls swoop down to steal food’, express non-specific generalisations which do not specify their quantificational force or flavour. I consider whether this non-specificity arises as a by-product of context-sensitivity or semantic incompleteness but argue instead that generics semantically express non-specific generalisations by default as a result of quantifying existentially over more specific ones.
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  32. Generics and the Metaphysics of Kinds.David Liebesman & Rachel Katharine Sterken - 2021 - Philosophy Compass (7):1-14.
    Recent years have seen renewed interest in the semantics of generics. And a relatively mainstream view in this work is that the semantics of generics must appeal to kinds. But what are kinds? Can we learn anything about their nature by looking at how semantic theories of generics appeal to them? In this article, we overview recent work on the semantics of generics and consider their consequences for our understanding of the metaphysics of kinds.
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  33. More on pejorative language: insults that go beyond their extension.Elena Castroviejo, Katherine Fraser & Agustín Vicente - 2020 - Synthese 198 (10):9139-9164.
    Slurs have become a big topic of discussion both in philosophy and in linguistics. Slurs are usually characterised as pejorative terms, co-extensional with other, neutral, terms referring to ethnic or social groups. However, slurs are not the only ethnic/social words with pejorative senses. Our aim in this paper is to introduce a different kind of pejoratives, which we will call “ethnic/social terms used as insults”, as exemplified in Spanish, though present in many other languages and mostly absent in English. These (...)
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  34. Falsifying generic stereotypes.Olivier Lemeire - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (7):2293-2312.
    Generic stereotypes are generically formulated generalizations that express a stereotype, like “Mexican immigrants are rapists” and “Muslims are terrorists.” Stereotypes like these are offensive and should not be asserted by anyone. Yet when someone does assert a sentence like this in a conversation, it is surprisingly difficult to successfully rebut it. The meaning of generic sentences is such that they can be true in several different ways. As a result, a speaker who is challenged after asserting a generic stereotype can (...)
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  35. The Radical Account of Bare Plural Generics.Anthony Nguyen - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1303-1331.
    Bare plural generic sentences pervade ordinary talk. And yet it is extremely controversial what semantics to assign to such sentences. In this paper, I achieve two tasks. First, I develop a novel classification of the various standard uses to which bare plurals may be put. This “variety data” is important—it gives rise to much of the difficulty in systematically theorizing about bare plurals. Second, I develop a novel account of bare plurals, the radical account. On this account, all bare plurals (...)
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  36. Might generics.Brian Rabern - 2020 - Snippets 39:8-9.
    How do generics interact with modals? This note offers one observation about an interaction with 'might' that presents a challenge for standard theories.
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  37. A Bayesian explanation of the irrationality of sexist and racist beliefs involving generic content.Paul Silva - 2020 - Synthese 197 (6):2465-2487.
    Various sexist and racist beliefs ascribe certain negative qualities to people of a given sex or race. Epistemic allies are people who think that in normal circumstances rationality requires the rejection of such sexist and racist beliefs upon learning of many counter-instances, i.e. members of these groups who lack the target negative quality. Accordingly, epistemic allies think that those who give up their sexist or racist beliefs in such circumstances are rationally responding to their evidence, while those who do not (...)
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  38. Generic Generalizations in Science: A Bridge to Everyday Language.François Claveau & Jordan Girard - 2019 - Erkenntnis 84 (4):839-859.
    This article maintains that an important class of scientific generalizations should be reinterpreted: they have typically been understood as ceteris paribus laws, but are, in fact, generics. Four arguments are presented to support this thesis. One argument is that the interpretation in terms of ceteris paribus laws is a historical accident. The other three arguments draw on similarities between these generalizations and archetypal generics: they come with similar inferential commitments, they share a syntactic form, and the existing theories to make (...)
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  39. A dilemma about kinds and kind terms.T. Parent - 2019 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 12):2987-3006.
    'The kind Lion' denotes a kind. Yet many generics are thought to denote kinds also, like the subject-terms in 'The lion has a mane', 'Dinosaurs are extinct', 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 the (...)
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  40. Should We Use Racial and Gender Generics?Katherine Ritchie - 2019 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 8 (1):33-41.
    Recently several philosophers have argued that racial, gender, and other social generic generalizations should be avoided given their propensity to promote essentialist thinking, obscure the social nature of categories, and contribute to oppression. Here I argue that a general prohibition against social generics goes too far. Given that the truth of many generics require regularities or systematic rather than mere accidental correlations, they are our best means for describing structural forms of violence and discrimination. Moreover, their accuracy, their persistence in (...)
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  41. Characterizing generics are material inference tickets: a proof-theoretic analysis.Preston Stovall - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (5):668-704.
    An adequate semantics for generic sentences must stake out positions across a range of contested territory in philosophy and linguistics. For this reason the study of generic sentences is a venue for investigating different frameworks for understanding human rationality as manifested in linguistic phenomena such as quantification, classification of individuals under kinds, defeasible reasoning, and intensionality. Despite the wide variety of semantic theories developed for generic sentences, to date these theories have been almost universally model-theoretic and representational. This essay outlines (...)
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  42. Visual Experience: A Semantic Approach.Wylie Breckenridge - 2018 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
    I develop a theory of what we mean by the 'look' sentences that we use to describe our visual experiences, and on that basis develop a new adverbial theory of what it is to have a visual experience with a certain character.
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  43. Genericity sans Gen.John Collins - 2018 - Mind and Language 33 (1):34-64.
    Generics are exception-admitting generalisations, which find expression in apparently diverse linguistic forms. A standard claim is that there is a hidden linguistic unity to genericity in the form of a covert operator, Gen. This article surveys and rejects a range of considerations that purport to show Gen to be syntactically essential to the explanation of a range of linguistic phenomena connected to genericity. The conclusion reached is that genericity is not a specifically linguistic property insofar as it does not supervene (...)
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  44. Between Logic and the World, by Bernhard Nickel.David Liebesman - 2018 - Mind 127 (505):284-293.
    © Mind Association 2017In Between Logic and the World, Bernhard Nickel distinguishes two tasks in understanding generics. The first task is to give a compositional semantics—ideally, one that coheres with independent theories of semantic phenomena like plurality and conjunction. Between Logic and the World undoubtedly makes a substantial contribution to this task. Nickel argues that his proposed semantics allows us to understand logically complex generics as well as generics containing gradable terms. The second task is to give a theory of (...)
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  45. Generics, Conservativity, and Kind-Subordination.Bernhard Nickel - 2018 - Philosophers' Imprint 18.
    Many approaches to the semantics of generic sentences posit an unpronounced quantifier gen. However, while overt quantifiers are conservative, gen does not seem to be. A quantifier Q is conservative iff instances of the following schemas are equivalent: Q As are F and Q As are As that are F. All ravens are black is obviously equivalent to All ravens are ravens that are black, yet ravens are black is not equivalent to ravens are ravens that are black. This may (...)
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  46. Ways of normality: reply to Hoeltje.Bernhard Nickel - 2018 - Linguistics and Philosophy 41 (3):289-293.
    Hoeltje :101–118, 2017) raises a number of important issues about my theory of generics. In this brief reply, I address some of these challenges.
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  47. Generics and Weak Necessity.Ravi Thakral - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-28.
    A prevailing thought is that generics have a covert modal operator at logical form. I claim that if this is right, the covert generic modality is a weak necessity modal. In this paper, I pr...
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  48. Generics and ways of being normal.Miguel Hoeltje - 2017 - Linguistics and Philosophy 40 (2):101-118.
    This paper is concerned with the semantics of bare plural I-generics such as ‘Tigers are striped’, ‘Chickens lay eggs’, and ‘Kangaroos live in Australia’. In a series of recent papers, Bernhard Nickel has developed a comprehensive view of a certain class of bare plural I-generics, which he calls characterizing sentences :629–648, 2009. doi:10.1007/s10988-008-9049-7; Linguist Philos 33:479–512, 2010a. doi:10.1007/s10988-011-9087-4; Philos Impr 10:1–25, 2010b). Nickel’s ambitious proposal includes a detailed account of their truth-conditions, an account of certain pragmatic phenomena that they give (...)
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  49. A new look at the ‘Generic Overgeneralisation’ effect.Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga, Linnaea Stockall & Napoleon Katsos - 2017 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-27.
    While generic generalisations have been studied by linguists and philosophers for decades, they have only recently become the focus of concentrated interest by cognitive and developmental p...
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  50. The Original Sin of Cognition: Fear Prejudice, and Generalization.Sarah-Jane Leslie - 2017 - Journal of Philosophy 114 (8):393-421.
    Generic generalizations such as ‘mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus’ or ‘sharks attack bathers’ are often accepted by speakers despite the fact that very few members of the kinds in question have the predicated property. Previous work suggests that such low-prevalence generalizations may be accepted when the properties in question are dangerous, harmful, or appalling. This paper argues that the study of such generic generalizations sheds light on a particular class of prejudiced social beliefs, and points to new ways in (...)
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