Institut Jean Nicod

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March 19 : Markus Kneer (IJN)

The meetings take place on Tuesdays, from 16.30 to 18.30 in the salle de réunion, 29 rue d’Ulm, Pavillon Jardin.

Markus Kneer, "Relativism and Recalcitrant Objectivists"

Abstract :

Certain types of evaluative discourse give rise to a curious though widely discussed phenomenon called ‘faultless disagreement’. Two speakers might find themselves entangled in genuine disagreement over whether a particular painting is beautiful or not, without either being ‘at fault’ in terms of holding a mistaken belief. A popular way of making sense of the puzzling intuition consists in relativizing truth to the perspectives of the interlocutors : There is indeed a single proposition under dispute (and hence proper disagreement), but that proposition might be true with respect to the perspective of one speaker and false with respect to another.

Despite its simplicity and intuitive appeal, relativism has, as I will attempt to show, a major drawback : it cannot accommodate evaluative claims that are intended and interpreted as conveying ‘objective truths’. Such claims, it seems, have been entirely overlooked due to the alleged unavailability of hard facts in evaluative domains. Semantically, however, they are perfectly ordinary. Plentiful they are as well in certain relativist target domains such as aesthetics and morality. The relativist thus faces a dilemma : Either she radically revises her framework, which quite possibly involves giving up the elegant Kaplanian semantics invoked in nearly all leading relativist theories. Or else she reduces the explanatory reach of her theory to the most subjective fields of discourse, in which case we might see little reason for parting ways with a unified monadic approach to truth.