Generics and experimental philosophy

Adam Lerner, Sarah Jane Leslie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Companion to Experimental Philosophy
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781118661666
ISBN (Print)9781118661703
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Cognitive science
  • Experimental philosophy
  • Generics
  • Linguistics
  • Social cognition
  • Social psychology
  • cognitive psychology


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