Ceteris Paribus laws? Generic Sentences?
Liying Zhang (Central University of Finance and Economics)

January 18, 2019, 7:00am - 8:30am
Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh

1117 Cathedral of Learning
1117 Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh
United States

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Abstract: Laws in some special sciences (such as biology, economics etc.) appear to be non-universal and to have exceptions. These laws are expressed by adding ceteris paribus clauses by some researchers. However, this move led to a debate in philosophy of science. Driven by this debate, philosophers are attempting to explicate the meaning of ceteris paribus clauses in different ways. On the other side, since the 1980s, triggered by non-monotonic reasoning studies, a variety of theories about the interpretations of generic sentences has been developed  by linguists, psychologists, logicians and computer scientists. Generic statements, such as "birds fly", "seeds germinate", express rules or laws, but unlike universal statements, generic statements tolerate exceptions. Because they tolerate exceptions, ceteris paribus laws and generic statements are very similar. Now, fruitful theories are developed about ceteris paribus clauses and generics. How to evaluate these theories? Could they influence each other? How can these theories impact the controversy about ceteris paribus laws? 


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