Philosophical Studies

, Volume 172, Issue 9, pp 2493–2512 | Cite as

Leslie on generics

  • Rachel Katharine SterkenEmail author


This paper offers three objections to Leslie’s recent and already influential theory of generics (Leslie in Philos Perspect 21(1):375–403, 2007a, Philos Rev 117(1):1–47, 2008): (i) her proposed metaphysical truth-conditions are subject to systematic counter-examples, (ii) the proposed disquotational semantics fails, and (iii) there is evidence that generics do not express cognitively primitive generalisations.


Generics Disquotation Context Gen Generalisation Primitive 



This paper has benefited from discussions with Mahrad Almotahari, Nicholas Asher, Herman Cappelen, Ephraim Glick, John Hawthorne, Torfinn Huvenes, Philipp Koralus, Nick Kroll, Sarah-Jane Leslie, David Liebesman, Michael Morreau, Bernhard Nickel, Jeff Pelletier, Jennifer Saul, Jonathan Schaffer, Martin Smith, Andreas Stokke, Brian Weatherson and Elia Zardini. Parts of the paper were presented at a Workshop on Philosophy of Language at Harvard University, the Society for Exact Philosophy (SEP) Conference held at the University of Alberta, the Harvard/MIT Graduate Conference, the Yale/UConn Graduate Conference, the Princeton/Rutgers Graduate Conference, the University of Oslo (CSMN) and the University of St Andrews (Arché). I thank the audience members and organisers at these events. I also thank an anonymous referee for this journal for helpful comments.


  1. Asher, N. (2006). Comments on Leslie’s ’Generics and the Structure of the Mind’. Rutgers University Semantics Conference.Google Scholar
  2. Asher, N., & Pelletier, F. (2012). More truths about generic truth. In A. Mari, C. Beyssade, & F. D. Prete (Eds.), Genericity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Beaver, D., & Clark, B. (2008). Sense and sensitivity: How focus determines meaning. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carlson, G. (1977). Reference to kinds in english. Amherst: Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts Amherst.Google Scholar
  5. Carston, R. (2000). Explicature and semantics. UCL Working Papers in Linguistics, 12, 1–44.Google Scholar
  6. Cavedon, L., & Glasbey, S. (1994). Outline of an information-flow model of generics. Acta Linguistica Hungarica, 42(3/4), 2–6.Google Scholar
  7. Cavedon, L., & Glasbey, S. (1996). The role of context in the interpretation of generic sentences. In Proceedings of the 10th Amsterdam colloquium (pp. 143–62).Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, A. (2003). Existential generics. Linguistics and Philosophy, 27(2), 137–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Declerck, R. (1986). The manifold interpretations of generic sentences. Lingua, 68, 149–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Haslanger, S. (2011). Ideology, generics and common ground. In C. Witt (Ed.), Feminist metaphysics: Explorations in the ontology of sex, gender and the self. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  11. Krifka, M., Pelletier, F., Carlson, G., ter Meulen, A., Link, G., & Chierchia, G. (1995). Introduction. In G. Carlson & F. Pelletier (Eds.), The generic book. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  12. Leslie, S. (2007a). Generics and the structure of the mind. Philosophical Perspectives, 21(1), 375–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Leslie, S. (2007b). Generics, cognition and comprehension. Princeton: Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Philosophy, Princeton University.Google Scholar
  14. Leslie, S. (2008). Generics: cognition and acquisition. Philosophical Review, 117(1), 1–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Leslie, S. (2013). Generics oversimplified. Nous. doi: 10.1111/nous.12039.
  16. Leslie, S. (forthcoming). The Original Sin of cognition: Fear, prejudice and generalization. Journal of Philosophy.Google Scholar
  17. Liebesman, D. (2011). Simple generics. Nous, 45(3), 409–442.Google Scholar
  18. Nickel, B. (2008). Generics and the ways of normality. Linguistics and Philosophy, 31(6), 629–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Nickel, B. (ms.). Mosquitoes and sharks, habit and capacities. Draft, Department of Philosophy, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  20. Nisbett, R., & Ross, L. (1980). Human inference: Strategies and shortcomings of social judgment. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  21. Recanati, F. (2002). Unarticulated constituents. Linguistics and Philosophy, 25(3), 299–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rooth, M. (1985). Association with focus. Amherst: Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts Amherst.Google Scholar
  23. Smith, M. (2010). What else justification could be. Nous, 44(1), 10–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sorenson, R. (2012). The Sorites and the generic overgeneralization effect. Analysis, 72(3), 444–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance theory: Communication and cognition. Oxford: Blackwells.Google Scholar
  26. Stanley, J., & Szabo, Z. (2000). On quantifier domain restriction. Mind & Language, 15, 219–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sterken, R. (ms.). Generics in context. Draft, University of Oslo.Google Scholar
  28. Sterken, R. (forthcoming). Generics, content and cognitive bias. Analytic Philosophy.Google Scholar
  29. von Fintel, K. (1997). Bare plurals, bare conditionals and ‘only’. Journal of Semantics, 14, 1–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IFIKKUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations