Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Daniel Weiskopf

Second Advisor

Christie Hartley


Generics about social kinds (or GSKs) frequently propagate descriptions that carry normative force (i.e., 'women are emotional'). Some philosophers of language attribute this to their tendency to transmit essentialist beliefs about social kinds. According to these accounts, utterances of GSKs implicate that there is something in the nature of social kinds that causes them to possess the properties described, and that individual members of these social kinds therefore ought to exhibit (or be expected to exhibit) these properties. Here, I draw on empirical evidence to suggest an alternative account. According to my framework, an utterance of a GSK implicates a distinction between the social kind described and its salient conceptual opposite, producing what I call a dichotomizing perspective. For example, ‘women are emotional’ suggests that men are not. Importantly, such distinctions frequently persist in the societal common ground as a function of social power, in part due to their alignment with hierarchical social structures between dichotomized social kinds. This enables such GSKs to perpetuate biased patterns of attention, expectation, and behavior even in the absence of essentialist belief.


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