Abstract: Our thoughts and our conversations are filled with generalisations. From everyday trivialities such as birds fly or trams are crowded to contested claims such as women are oppressed or Muslims are peace-loving, we think and communicate using generalisations and stereotypes. This way of understanding the world is useful and pervasive, but at the same time, it has significant limitations.
In this lecture, I will explain some of the surprising features of these generalisations. Then I’ll apply some of the tools developed by philosophers of language over the last decades, in order to understand why generalisations and stereotypes are so pervasive; why they can behave so strangely and can sometimes lead us astray; and finally, to learn how we can use generalisations and stereotypes productively in our thinking and our communication.