Relativism 1: Representational Content

Philosophy Compass 10 (1):38-51 (2015)
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Abstract

In the pair of articles of which this is the first, I shall present a set of problems and philosophical proposals that have in recent years been associated with the term “relativism”. All these problems and proposals concern the question of how we should represent thought and speech about certain topics. The main issue here is whether we should model such mental states or linguistic acts as involving representational contents that are absolutely correct or incorrect, or whether, alternatively, their correctness should be thought of as varying with some (more or less surprising) factor. In this, first, article, I shall discuss the general issue of relativism about representational content. I shall claim that there are legitimate ways of attributing contents that are absolute truth-bearers, and there are also equally legitimate ways of attributing relativistic representational contents. In the companion piece “Relativism 2: Semantic Content”, I look in more detail at the more specific question whether semantic contents (i.e. the contents assigned to linguistic utterances in the semantics of natural language) should be construed in an absolutist or a relativist way.

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Max Kölbel
University of Vienna

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