Characterizing generics are material inference tickets: a proof-theoretic analysis

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (5):668-704 (2019)
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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 a range of proof-theoretic analyses for characterizing generics. Particular attention is given to an expressivist proof-theory that can be traced to 1) work on logical syntax that Carnap undertook prior to his turn toward truth-conditional model theory in the late 1930s, and 2) research on sequent calculi and natural deduction systems that originate in work from Gentzen and Prawitz.1.

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Preston Stovall
University of Hradec Králové


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