Generic Sentences: Representativeness or causality?

  • Robert van Rooij
  • Katrin Schulz


Many generic sentences express stable inductive generalizations. Stable inductive generalizations are typically true for a causal reason. In this paper we investigate to what extent this is also the case for the generalizations expressed by generic sentences. More in particular, we discuss the possibility that many generic sentences of the form ‘ks have feature e’ are true because (members of) kind k have the causal power to ‘produce’ feature e. We will argue that such an analysis is quite close to a probabilistic based analysis of generic sentences according to which ‘relatively many’ ks have feature e, and that, in fact, this latter type of analysis can be ‘grounded’ in terms of causal powers. We will argue, moreover, that the causal power analysis is sometimes preferred to a correlation-based analysis, because it takes the causal structure that gives rise to the probabilistic data into account. Unfortunately, there are problems for the causal power analysis too, and we will discuss them as well.
How to Cite
van Rooij, R., & Schulz, K. (2019). Generic Sentences: Representativeness or causality?. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 23(2), 409-426.