Logos & Episteme

Volume 1, Issue 1, 2010

Panayot Butchvarov
Pages 11-29

Generic Statements and Antirealism

The standard arguments for antirealism are densely abstract, often enigmatic, and thus unpersuasive. The ubiquity and irreducibility of what linguists call generic statements provides a clear argument from a specific and readily understandable case. We think and talk about the world as necessarily subject to generalization. But the chief vehicles of generalization are generic statements, typically of the form “Fs are G,” not universal statements, typically of the form “All Fs are G.” Universal statements themselves are usually intended and understood as though they were only generic. Even if there are universal facts, as Russell held, there are no generic facts. There is no genericity in the world as it is “in-itself.” There is genericity in it only as it is “for-us.”