Talking about appearances: the roles of evaluation and experience in disagreement

Philosophical Studies 177 (1):197-217 (2020)
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Abstract

Faultless disagreement and faultless retraction have been taken to motivate relativism for predicates of personal taste, like ‘tasty’. Less attention has been devoted to the question of what aspect of their meaning underlies this relativist behavior. This paper illustrates these same phenomena with a new category of expressions: appearance predicates, like ‘tastes vegan’ and ‘looks blue’. Appearance predicates and predicates of personal taste both fall into the broader category of experiential predicates. Approaching predicates of personal taste from this angle suggests that their relativist behavior is due to their experience-sensitivity, rather than their evaluative meaning. Furthermore, appearance predicates hold interest beyond what they can teach us about predicates of personal taste. Examination of a variety of uses of appearance predicates reveals that they give rise to relativist behavior for a variety of reasons—including some that apply also to other types of expressions, such as epistemic modals and comparative terms. This paper thus serves both to probe the source of relativist behavior in discourse about personal taste, as well as to map out this kind of behavior in the rich and under-explored discourse about appearances.

Author's Profile

Rachel Etta Rudolph
Auburn University

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