Assessment Sensitivity: Relative Truth and its Applications

ISBN : 9780199682751

John MacFarlane
368 Pages
162 x 240 mm
Pub date
Apr 2014
Context And Content
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John MacFarlane debates how we might make sense of the idea that truth is relative, and how we might use this idea to give satisfying accounts of parts of our thought and talk that have resisted traditional methods of analysis. Although there is a substantial philosophical literature on relativism about truth, going back to Plato's Theaetetus, this literature (both pro and con) has tended to focus on refutations of the doctrine, or refutations of these refutations, at the expense of saying clearly what the doctrine is. In contrast, Assessment Sensitivity begins with a clear account of what it is to be a relativist about truth, and uses this view to give satisfying accounts of what we mean when we talk about what is tasty, what we know, what will happen, what might be the case, and what we ought to do. The book seeks to provide a richer framework for the description of linguistic practices than standard truth-conditional semantics affords: one that allows not just standard contextual sensitivity (sensitivity to features of the context in which an expression is used), but assessment sensitivity (sensitivity to features of the context from which a use of an expression is assessed). The Context and Content series is a forum for outstanding original research at the intersection of philosophy, linguistics, and cognitive science. The general editor is Francois Recanati (Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris).


1. A Taste of Relativism
2. The Standard Objections
3. Assessment Sensitivity
4. Propositions
5. Making Sense of Relative Truth
6. Disagreement
7. Tasty
8. Knows
9. Tomorrow
10. Might
11. Ought
12. The Rationality of Relativism

About the author: 

John MacFarlane received his B.A. in Philosophy from Harvard College, in addition to an MA in Classics and a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. In 2000 he took up a position at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and a member of the Group in Logic and the Methodology of Science. His work has ranged widely over a number of philosophical topics, including the history of philosophy, the philosophy of logic and mathematics, epistemology, and the philosophy of language.

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