Generic Generalizations in Science
- 80 Downloads
This article maintains that an important class of scientific generalizations should be reinterpreted: they have typically been understood as ceteris paribus laws, but are, in fact, generics. Four arguments are presented to support this thesis. One argument is that the interpretation in terms of ceteris paribus laws is a historical accident. The other three arguments draw on similarities between these generalizations and archetypal generics: they come with similar inferential commitments, they share a syntactic form, and the existing theories to make sense of them are alike. Once these generalizations are properly understood as generics, the recent cognitive approach to generics can be extended to the study of the relevant sciences. The last section indicates ways in which this extension is fruitful for the two strands of research that we combine: the philosophy of science literature on generalizations and the semantics literature on generics.
This research has been financially supported by the Canada Research Chair in Applied Epistemology (Grant Number 950-230644).
- Asher, N., & Morreau, M. (1995). What some generic sentences mean. In G. N. Carlson & F. J. Pelletier (Eds.), The generic book (pp. 300–338). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Cairnes, J. E. (1888). The character and logical method of political economy. London: Macmillan and Co.Google Scholar
- Cartwright, N. (2002). In favor of laws that are not ceteris paribus after all. In Ceterus paribus laws (pp. 149–163). Springer. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-017-1009-1_8.
- Cingano, F. (2014). Trends in income inequality and its impact on economic growth. OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/content/workingpaper/5jxrjncwxv6j-en.
- Cohen, A. (1999). Think generic!: The meaning and use of generic sentences. Dissertations in Linguistics. Stanford, Calif: CSLI.Google Scholar
- Friedman, M. (2001). Essays in positive economics. Nachdr. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Fuller, D. A., Alston, R. M., & Vaughan, M. B. (1995). The split between political parties on economic issues: A survey of republicans, democrats, and economists. Eastern Economic Journal, 21(2), 227–238.Google Scholar
- Fuller, D. A., Geide-Stevenson, D., & Ahmad, N. (2014). Polarization on economic issues over time—A survey of delegates to the national conventions. Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research, 15(2), 81.Google Scholar
- Giddens, A., & Sutton, P. W. (2009). Sociology (6th ed.). Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Inman, P. (2014). IMF study finds inequality is damaging to economic growth. The Guardian, February 26, 2014, sec. Business. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/feb/26/imf-inequality-economic-growth.
- Kearl, J. R., Pope, C. L., Whiting, G. C., & Wimmer, L. T. (1979). A confusion of economists? American Economic Review, 69(2), 28–37.Google Scholar
- Khemlani, S., Leslie, S.-J., & Glucksberg, S. (2009). Generics, prevalence, and default inferences. In Proceedings of the 31st annual conference of the cognitive science society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sam_Glucksberg/publication/228808387_Generics_Prevalence_and_Default_Inferences/links/54ff9d750cf2741b69f91513.pdf.
- Krifka, M., Pelletier, F. J., Carlson, G. N., ter Meulen, A., Link, G., & Chierchia, G. (1995). Genericity: An introduction. In G. N. Carlson & F. J. Pelletier (Eds.), The generic book (pp. 1–124). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Krugman, P., & Wells, R. (2015). Economics (4th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers, a Macmillan Education imprint.Google Scholar
- Lerner, A., & Leslie, S.-J. (2016). Generics and experimental philosophy. In J. Sytsma & W. Buckwalter (Eds.), A companion to experimental philosophy (pp. 404–416). Hoboken: Wiley. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781118661666.ch28/summary.
- Leslie, S.-J., & Lerner, A. (2016). Generic generalizations. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, Summer 2016. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2016/entries/generics/.
- Marshall, A. (1920). Principles of economics: An introductory volume. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Meyer, M., Gelman, S. A., & Stilwell, S. M. (2011). Generics are a cognitive default: Evidence from sentence processing. In Proceedings of the 33rd annual conference of the cognitive science society (pp. 913–918). Boston, MA: Cognitive Science Society. http://mindmodeling.org/cogsci2011/papers/0207/paper0207.pdf.
- Mill, J. S. (1844). On the definition of political economy; and on the method of investigation proper to it. In Essays on some unsettled questions of political economy (pp. 120–164). London: Longmans, Green & Co.Google Scholar
- Mill, J. S. (1848). Principles of political economy with some of their applications to social philosophy. Edited by William J. Ashley. London: Longmans, Green and Co.Google Scholar
- Mill, J. S. (1886). A system of logic: Ratiocinative and inductive. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.Google Scholar
- Morgan, M. S., & Morrison, M. (Eds.). (1999). Models as mediators: Perspectives on natural and social science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Nickel, B. (2010). Ceteris paribus laws: Genericity and natural kinds. Philosophers’ Imprint, 10(6), 1–25.Google Scholar
- OECD. (2014). Inequality hurts economic growth, finds OECD research. OECD Newsroom. December 9, 2014. http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/inequality-hurts-economic-growth.htm.
- Ostry, J. D. (2014). We do not have to live with the scourge of inequality. Financial Times (blog). https://www.ft.com/content/f551b3b0-a0b0-11e3-a72c-00144feab7de.
- Ostry, J. D., Berg, A., & Tsangarides, C. G. (2014). Redistribution, inequality, and growth. IMF Staff Discussion Note. International Monetary Fund.Google Scholar
- Piketty, T. (2014). Capital in the twenty-first century. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Reutlinger, A., Schurz, G., & Hüttemann, A. (2015). Ceteris paribus laws. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.) The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, Fall 2015. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2015/entries/ceteris-paribus/.
- Robbins, L. (1935). An essay on the nature and significance of economic science (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Uzquiano, G. (2016). Quantifiers and quantification. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, Winter 2016. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/quantification/.