Logic and Language

Liz Coppock (Gothenborg): Outlook-based semantics

Speaker: Liz Coppock (Gothenborg)
Title: Outlook-based semantics
Time: 16:00 - 17:30
Location: ILLC Seminar Room F1.15
This paper defends a view on predicates of personal taste (e.g., 'tasty', 'fun') and other discretionary predicates (e.g., 'good', 'wrong') on which they are formally identical to objective predicates like 'doctor'. The view is nevertheless not objectivist; it is a simple kind of relativism, advocated in a slightly different form by Max Kölbel, where possible worlds are not complemented by judges but rather replaced by outlooks. Like a possible world, an outlook determines the extensions of predicates and relations in the relevant language. Crucially, included among the predicates and relations that under the purview of an outlook are discretionary predicates like 'tasty', whereas possible worlds only settle matters of fact. A possible world corresponds to an equivalence class of outlooks. The framework is called 'outlook-based semantics'. 
Outlook-based semantics has at least three advantages over 'world-judge relativism' as it were. First, Stojanovic (2007) argues persuasively that world-judge relativism does not actually explain the ‘disagreement’ of ‘faultless disagreement’, given that speakers know that their statements are judge-relative, but outlook-based semantics straightforwardly does. Second, while outlook-based semantics shares with other forms of relativism the ability to explain the connection-building role of aesthetic discourse emphasized by Andy Egan, it does so with fewer stipulations than in world-judge relativist pragmatics (as implemented by Tamina Stephenson). Finally, outlook-based semantics is equal to the standard Kaplanian story, whereas world-judge relativism is more complex (letting Cappelen & Hawthorne cast the contextualist alternative as the representative of simplicity). This simplicity is a virtue in itself and makes the framework easy to use and extend.