MICH: Generic Generalizations in the Special Sciences: The Richness of Folk Language

CHAIRE HOOVER Louvain-La-Neuve

19 septembre 2017

12h45 - 13h55


Place Montesquieu 3 D305

François Claveau (Université de Sherbrooke, Chaire de recherche du Canada en épistémologie pratique),
Article co-écrit avec Jordan Girard, Université de Sherbrooke),

This article maintains that generalizations in the special sciences that have typically been interpreted as ceteris paribus laws are, in fact, generics. Three arguments are developed to support this thesis: the interpretation in terms of ceteris paribus laws is a historical accident, the typical syntactic form of these generalizations and of generics are identical, and their functions in language also match. Once generalizations in the special sciences are properly understood as generics, the recent cognitive approach to generics can be extended to the study of the special sciences. The last section indicates ways in which this extension is fruitful: it should change how the truth conditions of these generalizations are investigated and it should direct attention to how special science generics are learned by scientists and, through scientist’s testimony, by laypersons.