The Semantics of ‘All A’s are B’s’

  • Julius M. Moravcsik
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 257)


Laws and generalizations may not be the last work but are certainly the first word in our efforts to give rational accounts of reality. Our abilities to formulate and understand these are partly constitutive of our rationality. The applicability of generalizations to reality is fundamental to our belief that there is order in the universe.


Abstract Domain Modern Logic Bare Plural Universal Generalization Existential Presupposition 
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    As J. O. Urmson pointed out in conversation, the `all’ here is at most optimal. Without it we get a bare plural subject, and this is such contexts indicates either a law or regularity.Google Scholar
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    This intuition that in the first formulated by me at Stanford-UCLA philosophy of language conference in the early 1970’s. It was brought up also—but with a narrower constraint—by Peter Strawson in conversation in the early 1980’s. It is recorded in F. de Jong and N. J. Verkuyl, 1987. Generalized Quantifiers: the Properness of their Strength. In J. van Bentham and A. van der Meulen, eds, Generalized Quantifiers: Theory and Application, GRASS 4, Foris, Dordrecht, 1987, but as far as I can tell, this paper is the first attempt to construct a full philosophical theory of existential import in U.G., and discuss related matters affecting logical form.Google Scholar
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    I am indebted to David Widerker for pointing out that on some interpretations what the subject expression refers to is one complex entity.Google Scholar
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  11. I am indebted to Jonathan Stavi for helpful discussions; he should not be held re-sponsible for my conclusions.Google Scholar
  12. lnterestingly enough, Aristotle’s view of what he would regard as genuine sciences corresponds roughly to what was said here about mathematics. He is interested in the logical analysis of what I call in this paper lawlike sentences, but he also has existential import for generalizations; not on the ground of an analysis of lawlikeness, but on ground of his ontological assumption that every genuine science deals with a natural generic collection of entities, carved out from the total realm of existing things.Google Scholar
  13. I am indebted for comments to Asa Kasher, Tanya Reinhart and Scott Soames.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1996

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  • Julius M. Moravcsik

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