What’s Positive and Negative about Generics: A Constrained Indexical Approach

Philosophical Studies 179 (5):1739-1761 (2022)
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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 a semantic constraint that, in any context, the semantic value of GEN is upward monotone and non-symmetric. On the other hand, the pragmatic account has difficulty accommodating the negative data. This is because no pragmatic principles have been developed that can explain the negative data. In the paper, we focus on only the pragmatic account and the indexical account, but our discussion has broad implications for the debate on generics: any empirically adequate accounts of generics must be flexible enough to accommodate the positive data and yet constrained enough to accommodate the negative data.

Author Profiles

Junhyo Lee
Seoul National University
Anthony Nguyen
University of Southern California


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