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Generics, Quantified Generalisations and Social Prejudice

Dr. Rachel Sterken

Thursday, October 06, 2016, 12:00pm - 01:00pm

University of Oslo, Department of Philosophy

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Research by psychologists and philosophers connects generics to social prejudice and negative social stereotyping [see, e.g., Leslie (2014, forthcoming), Haslanger (2007, 2011), Rhodes et al. (2012), Waxman (2010), Langton (2015), Jeshion (2013), Geurts (1985)]. The empirical aspects of this work connect exposure to generic language, involving social kind terms, to the formation of essentialist beliefs involving those kinds [Rhodes et al. (2012)], whose possession have been linked to certain forms of prejudice. Many theorists take generics to be distinctive in regards to their prejudice generating powers. However, their connection to the formation of essentialist beliefs cannot be the whole story. In ongoing collaborative work with E. Hoicka and J. Saul, we demonstrate that hearing explicitly quantified language also leads to the development of essentialist beliefs. The distinctive capacity of generics in generating prejudice, I suggest, is rather a result of semantic, communicative and interactional features that generics possess, but explicitly quantified sentences lack.

Dr. Rachel Sterken