The Case against Semantic Relativism

In Martin Kusch (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Relativism. Routledge (2019)

Authors
Teresa Marques
Universitat de Barcelona
Abstract
This paper presents reasons against semantic relativism. Semantic relativism is motivated by intuitions that are presumed to raise problems for traditional or contextualist semantics in contested domains of discourse. Intuition-based arguments are those based on competent speakers’ putative intuitions about seeming faultless disagreement, eavesdropper, and retraction cases. I will organize the discussion in three parts. First, I shall provide a brief introduction to the intuition-based arguments offered in favor of semantic relativism. Second, I shall indicate that there are ways for contextualism to explain the (appearance of) intuitions that support semantic relativism. Third, I shall review some experimental results and independent arguments that put into question the appeal of semantic relativism.
Keywords Contextualism  Semantic relativism  Faultless disagreement  Retraction  Eavesdropper  Taste  Epistemic modality  Gareth Evans
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