Language and Logic Courses
Problems and Arguments in Relativist Semantics,
Dan Zeman (University of Vienna, Austria)
In recent years, semantic relativism has occupied a central position in philosophy of language and linguistics, the view being applied to a variety of natural language expressions such as predicates of taste, aesthetic adjectives, moral terms, epistemic modals, gradable adjectives, future contingents, epistemic vocabulary etc. The arguments for (and against) relativism can be grouped in two categories: arguments appealing to intuitions in various scenarios and syntactic/semantic arguments. Among the first, perhaps the best known is the argument from disagreement, but retraction and eavesdropping scenarios have also been taken to support relativism. Among the second we find arguments from control, binding, licensing, sluicing, and from embeddings under various attitude verbs. This course aims to bring all these arguments together and assess their dialectical efficacy. At the same time, the course aims to draw attention to novel phenomena of relevance (e.g., “perspectival plurality”) and discuss their possible treatment in a relativist semantics.