Predicates of personal taste, semantic incompleteness, and necessitarianism

Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (5):981-1011 (2021)
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Abstract

According to indexical contextualism, the perspectival element of taste predicates and epistemic modals is part of the content expressed. According to nonindexicalism, the perspectival element must be conceived as a parameter in the circumstance of evaluation, which engenders “thin” or perspective-neutral semantic contents. Echoing Evans, thin contents have frequently been criticized. It is doubtful whether such coarse-grained quasi-propositions can do any meaningful work as objects of propositional attitudes. In this paper, I assess recent responses by Recanati, Kölbel, Lasersohn and MacFarlane to the “incompleteness worry”. None of them manages to convince. Particular attention is devoted to an argument by John MacFarlane, which states that if perspectives must be part of the content, so must worlds, which would make intuitively contingent propositions necessary. I demonstrate that this attempt to defend thin content views such as nonindexical contextualism and relativism conflates two distinct notions of necessity, and that radical indexicalist accounts of semantics, such as Schaffer’s necessitarianism, are in fact quite plausible.

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Markus Kneer
University of Zürich

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