Aesthetic Adjectives Lack Uniform Behavior

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (6):618-631 (2016)
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The goal of this short paper is to show that esthetic adjectives—exemplified by “beautiful” and “elegant”—do not pattern stably on a range of linguistic diagnostics that have been used to taxonomize the gradability properties of adjectives. We argue that a plausible explanation for this puzzling data involves distinguishing two properties of gradable adjectives that have been frequently conflated: whether an adjective’s applicability is sensitive to a comparison class, and whether an adjective’s applicability is context-dependent.

Author Profiles

Aaron Meskin
University of Georgia
Shen-yi Liao
University of Puget Sound
Louise McNally
Universitat Pompeu Fabra


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