Objective truth in matters of taste

Philosophical Studies, 173(7):1755–1777, 2016

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Abstract 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.

Keywords disagreement, relativism, contextualism, natural language semantics, linguistic intuitions, truth values