Generics and Experimental Philosophy

In Wesley Buckwalter & Justin Sytsma (eds.), A Companion to Experimental Philosophy. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 404-416 (2016)
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Theorists have had less success in analyzing the truth conditions of generics. Philosophers of language have offered a number of theories. This chapter surveys several semantic accounts of generics. However, the focus is on generics and experimental philosophy. It briefly reviews empirical work that bears on these semantic accounts. While generics constitute an interesting linguistic phenomenon worthy of study in their own right, the study of generics also has wide‐ranging implications for questions beyond the philosophy of language, including questions in social psychology and cognitive science more generally. The chapter also reviews empirical work on the relationship between generics and cognition. Existing empirical work strongly supports the generics‐as‐defaults hypothesis: the hypothesis that generics reflect a cognitively default, fundamental mode of generalizing in humans. Finally, the chapter elucidates evidence that generic language and generic modes of generalizing play an important role in stereotyping and prejudice.

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Adam Lerner
Rutgers - New Brunswick


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