Draft available upon request
Abstract: Stereotypes are often expressed using generic language. Examples of generically formulated stereotypes are “Muslims are terrorists” and “Black people are lazy.” This paper explains the strong yet deniable meaning of generic stereotypes. Generic stereotypes have ‘strong meaning’ in the sense that they standardly convey both a majority generalization and a kind-based explanation. An utterance of “Muslims are terrorists,” for instance, standardly conveys both that most Muslims are terrorists (majority generalization) and that when a Muslim is a terrorist, it is in virtue of being a Muslim (kind-based explanation). This strong meaning is also deniable, however. If challenged, a speaker who has uttered a generic stereotype can plausibly deny that their utterance had this strong meaning, arguing that they were misunderstood. In this paper, I first describe the strong yet deniable meaning of generic stereotypes and then argue that it can be explained by the contextualist semantic theory for generic sentences I defend.
Draft available upon request.
Abstract: Generics are generalizations that are formulated without the use of a quantifier, like “Ravens are black.” In this paper, I argue that generics are of special interest to philosophers of science. To do so, I defend two theories. First, I defend a relational theory of kindhood. According to this theory, a category is a kind for a set of epistemic targets and practices when several properties of the category’s members accommodate these epistemic targets and practices. Second, I defend a novel semantic theory for generic sentences, focusing on scientific generics. According to this theory, generic sentences express kindhood generalizations. Very roughly, a generic sentence says that the generalized property (e.g., being black) is partly constitutive of the kindhood of the denoted category (e.g., ravens), that is, one part of what makes the category a kind. Taken together, the relational theory of kindhood and the kindhood semantics for generic sentences explain several phenomena, including how the truth-conditions of generic sentences can vary depending on the disciplinary context. Furthermore, these theories also support the conclusion that studying scientific generics is a distinct way for studying scientists’ reasoning about the nature of the kinds in their domain.
Draft available upon request.
Abstract: Philosophers of psychiatry often argue for or against the position that psychiatric disorders are ‘natural kinds,’ borrowing this notion from earlier philosophical disputes about kinds in natural sciences like chemistry and biology. In this paper, I argue that this is a mistake. Using the notion ‘natural kind’ in debates about psychiatric disorders leads to confusion. In earlier philosophical debates, this notion was mostly used to ask what I call the ‘mind-independence question,’ namely to what extent the distinctions and similarities in kind that we recognize in science exist independently of our theoretical perspectives and practical concerns. In philosophy of psychiatry, however, there are two other questions on the table as well, namely to what extent psychiatric disorders are kind-like in the first place and to what extent psychiatric disorders are (reducible to) natural phenomena. Since besides the ‘mind-independence question,’ both the ‘kindhood question’ and the ‘naturalness question’ are on the table as well, arguments over whether psychiatric disorders are natural kinds lead to confusion. This one notion is used to argue for and against several different positions in response to several different questions. In this paper, I introduce these different questions, explain the confusion surrounding ‘natural kinds’ in psychiatry, and argue that the best way to avoid this confusion is for philosophers of psychiatry to simply stop using the notion of a ‘natural kind’.
Full text here.
This is the first chapter of my PhD dissertation on ‘The scientific classification of natural and human kinds’. This chapter provides an overview of the history of the philosophical concept of ‘natural kinds’, and develops a particular interpretation of the debate between Whewell and Mill on natural classification. Perhaps this will some day be rewritten as a journal article.