Objective truth in matters of taste
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In matters of personal taste, faultless disagreement occurs between people who disagree over what is tasty, fun, etc., in those cases when each of these people seems equally far from the objective truth. Faultless disagreement is often taken as evidence that truth is relative. This article aims to help us avoid the truth-relativist conclusion. The article, however, does not argue directly against relativism; instead, the article defends non-relative truth constructively, aiming to explain faultless disagreement with the resources of semantic contextualism. To this end the article describes and advocates a contextualist solution inspired by supervaluationist truth-value gap approaches. The solution presented here, however, does not require truth value gaps; it preserves both logical bivalence and non-relative truth, even while it acknowledges and explains the possibility of faultless disagreement. The solution is motivated by the correlation between assertions’ being true and their being useful. This correlation, furthermore, is used not only to tell which assertions are true, but also to determine which linguistic intuitions are reliable.
KeywordsDisagreement Relativism Contextualism Natural language semantics Linguistic intuitions Truth values
This article originates in a dissertation chapter funded by a fellowship at the Syracuse University Humanities Center. The earliest draft was conceived at the Central European University's summer school in 2010. I am grateful to Kevan Edwards, Mark Heller, Jaklin Kornfilt, Tom McKay, Ruth Millikan, Jon Nissenbaum, Bob Van Gulick, and to the anonymous referee for reading my drafts, as well as to Ray Buchanan, Michael Caie, John Hawthorne, and Lisa Miracchi for useful conversation.
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