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2023-24 Colloquium: “Generics Favor Stability”

Nov 3, 2023 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Kaplan Hall 193,
November 3, 2023 | 4:00PM – 6:00PM
Kaplan 193 & Zoom


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Meeting ID: 976 3444 8928

Passcode: 016526


Join us on November 3, 2023 for a colloquium with Katherine Ritchie, UC Irvine. The talk will take place in Kaplan 193 (and via Zoom) from 4:00PM – 6:00PM with a reception on the Shostak Terrace to follow.




Generics Favor Stability


We are creatures that seek to predict, explain, and control our environments. Generalizations—like those expressed by “birds have hollow bones” and “cigarettes cause cancer”—provide one resource to facilitate these tasks. In this paper (collaborative work with Ny Vasil) we develop a psychological account of the acceptability judgments of generic statements rooted in the psychological functions of generalizations. We argue that a notion of stability based on Woodward’s work on causation provides the basis for a unified account of generics. Generics that are taken to be stable are favored over those that are not. The account coheres with the function of generics, while providing a unifying account of judgments about both causal and categorical generics. Moreover, it can accommodate generics with both essentialist and structural explanatory commitments by recognizing the ways generics can express generalizations with relatively unrestricted scope and generalizations that are covertly contextually restricted to situational “bubbles”. Overall, the account unifies an apparently diverse range of generics, fits with a plausible account of the function of generalization in human psychology, and provides a framework ripe for further empirical and theoretical investigation.


Katherine Ritchie is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at UC Irvine. Her research lies at the intersection of inquiry into linguistic and mental representation and the social world. She has written on the nature of social groups (e.g., teams, committees, races, genders), the semantics of terms that pick out groups (e.g., plurals, collective nouns, slurs, generics), and the ways we mentally represent groups. One central thread in her current research is to investigate how insights from metaphysics and from the ways we represent can help inform viable social-political projects. Her work has been published in Ethics, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Cognition, Cognitive Psychology, Mind & Language, and other journals and volumes.



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Nov 3, 2023
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Kaplan Hall 193


UCLA Department of Philosophy