Disagreement and the Normativity of Truth beneath Cognitive Command

Dissertation, University of Aberdeen (2014)
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This thesis engages with three topics and the relationships between them: (i) the phenomenon of disagreement (paradigmatically, where one person makes a claim and another denies it); (ii) the normative character of disagreements (the issue of whether, and in what sense, one of the parties is “at fault” for believing something that’s untrue); (iii) the issue of which theory of what truth is can best accommodate the norms relating belief and truth. People disagree about all sorts of things: about whether climate is changing, death penalty is wrong, sushi is delicious, or Louis C.K. is funny. However, even focusing on disagreements in the evaluative domain (e.g., taste, moral and comedic), where people have the intuition that there is ‘no fact of the matter’ about who is right, there are significant differences that require explanation. For instance, disagreement about taste is generally perceived as shallow. People accept to disagree and live comfortably with that fact. By contrast, moral disagreement is perceived as deep and sometimes hard to tolerate. Comedic disagreement is similar to taste. However, it may involve an element of ‘intellectual snobbery’ that is absent in taste disagreement. The immediate questions are whether these contrasts allow of precise characterization and what is responsible for them. I argue that, once a case is made for the truth-aptness of judgments in these areas, the contrast can be explained in terms of variable normative function of truth – as exerting a lightweight normative constraint in the domain of taste and a stricter constraint in the moral domain. In particular I claim that while truth in the moral domain exerts a sui generis deontic control, this normative feature of truth is silent in both the taste and the comedic domains. This leads me to investigate how to conceive of truth in the light of normative variability. I argue that an amended version of deflationism – minimally inflated deflationism – can account for the normative variability of truth.
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