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Dualism About Generality (Martin Pleitz)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on November 29th from 4:15-6:15 (NY time) via Zoom for a talk by Martin Pleitz (Münster).

Title: Dualism about Generality

Abstract: In my talk I will motivate, outline, and apply a variant of first order predicate logic that can distinguish between two kinds of generality, which I call objectual generality and conceptual generality. To see the difference, compare the two general statements ‘Every human is a featherless biped’ and ‘Every human is a rational animal’. On a charitable understanding, the first sentence is about all humans past and present, as a subcollection of all particular objects currently accessible to us, while the second sentence is not about any particular object at all, but about the interaction of the concepts of being human and being a rational animal. Historically, the quantified sentences of predicate logic have been understood in either of the two ways. Frege understood them as expressing conceptual generalities; hence it was natural for him to call his predicate logic a “Concept Script”. Today, they are usually understood as objectual generalities, manifest both in the idea that a quantified sentence is like a conjunction (or disjunction) of its instances and in the current model theoretic orientation in semantics. But as we can find ourselves in a situation where we want to talk about both kinds of generality (and their interaction), it is worthwhile to develop the resources to express them within a single system. I will outline such a system that results from adding a second pair of quantifiers to regular first order predicate logic, and sketch applications to the notion of analyticity, natural kind predicates, and the ontological argument.

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