Abstract

Generic statements (or simply “generics”) are statements of the form “Fs are G”, such as “Finns are introvert”, “Cars have wheels” and “Caterpillars develop into butterflies”. The use of such statements starts very early and is very common. Sarah-Jane Leslie, Sally Haslanger and others have worried about the power of generics to foster pernicious stereotypes, and have suggested that we should therefore strive to minimize their use in favor of other forms of expression. Others, such as Jennifer Saul, have argued that the alleged perniciousness is an illusion. This talk addresses this debate and some of the presuppositions that seem to underlie it. In order to be accessible to listeners who are unfamiliar with the debate or with the puzzling semantics of generic statements, the talk starts with an introductory overview of this intriguing field of study.