A new look at the problem of rule-following: A generic perspective

Kai Yuan Cheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The purpose of this paper is to look at the problem of rule-following-notably discussed by Kripke (Wittgenstein on rules and private language, 1982) and Wittgenstein (Philosophical investigations, 1953)-from the perspective of the study of generics. Generics are sentences that express generalizations that tolerate exceptions. I first suggest that meaning ascriptions be viewed as habitual sentences, which are a sub-set of generics. I then seek a proper semantic analysis for habitually construed meaning sentences. The quantificational approach is rejected, due to its persistent difficulties. Instead, a cognitive approach is adopted, where psychological considerations of meaning attributors play a crucial role. This account is then compared with the picture of meaning offered by Kripke and Wittgenstein, respectively. I show how this fresh way of conceiving of meaning sentences respects some of their insights while avoiding some of the drawbacks, and serves to improve the framework in which the current debate and inquiry about rule-following are conducted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Generics
  • Habitual sentences
  • Kripke
  • Rule-following
  • Skeptical argument
  • Skeptical solution


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