Eavesdropping: What is it good for?

Semantics and Pragmatics (forthcoming)
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Eavesdropping judgments (judgments about truth, retraction, and consistency across contexts) about epistemic modals have been used in recent years to argue for a radical thesis: that truth is assessment-relative. We argue that judgments for 'I think that p' pattern in strikingly similar ways to judgments for 'Might p' and 'Probably p'. We argue for this by replicating three major experiments involving the latter and adding a condition with the form 'I think that p', showing that subjects respond in the same way to 'thinks' as to modals. This poses a serious challenge to relativist treatments of the modal judgments, since a relativist treatment of the corresponding 'thinks' judgments is totally implausible, so if a unified account of the phenomena is to be found, it cannot be a relativist one. We briefly sketch how a unified account might look.

Author Profiles

Jonathan Phillips
Dartmouth College
Matthew Mandelkern
New York University


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