Ideology, Generics, and Common Ground

In Charlotte Witt (ed.), Feminist Metaphysics: Explorations in the Ontology of Sex, Gender and the Self. Springer Verlag. pp. 179--207 (2010)
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Abstract

Are sagging pants cool? Are cows food? Are women more submissive than men? Are blacks more criminal than whites? Taking the social world at face value, many people would be tempted to answer these questions in the affirmative. And if challenged, they can point to facts that support their answers. But there is something wrong about the affirmative answers. In this chapter, I draw on recent ideas in the philosophy of language and metaphysics to show how the assertion of a generic claim of the sort in question ordinarily permits one to infer that the fact in question obtains by virtue of something specifically about the subject so described, i.e., about women, or blacks, or sagging pants. In the examples I’ve offered, however, this implication inference is unwarranted. The facts in question obtain by virtue of broad system of social relations within which the subjects are situated, and are not grounded in intrinsic or dispositional features of the subjects themselves. The background relations are obscured, however, and as a result, the assertion is at least systematically misleading; a denial functions to block the problematic implication. Revealing such implications or presuppositions and blocking them is a crucial part of ideology critique.

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Sally Haslanger
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Citations of this work

Moral Encroachment.Sarah Moss - 2018 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 118 (2):177-205.
What Is Sexual Orientation?Robin A. Dembroff - 2016 - Philosophers' Imprint 16.
The Radical Account of Bare Plural Generics.Anthony Nguyen - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1303-1331.

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References found in this work

Essence and modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8 (Logic and Language):1-16.
Scorekeeping in a language game.David Lewis - 1979 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (1):339--359.
Common ground.Robert Stalnaker - 2002 - Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (5-6):701-721.
Scorekeeping in a Language Game.David Lewis - 1979 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (3):339.

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