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Predicates of personal taste and perspective dependence

Hirvonen, SM; (2016) Predicates of personal taste and perspective dependence. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Judgments of personal taste such as “Haggis is delicious” are puzzling. On the one hand they express the speaker’s personal taste. On the other hand it is normal to disagree about the truth of such judgments. Giving semantics for predicates of taste that can accommodate both intuitions has proven challenging. Let us call the phenomenon that the truth of judgments of taste depends on variable tastes perspective dependence. The thesis discusses two most popular semantic accounts for predicates of taste. Contextualists hold that the speaker’s perspective is an element of the content of predicates of taste. However, the view has trouble explaining what disagreements of taste are about if speakers in fact make compatible judgments. Semantic relativism is a recent framework which is motivated by its alleged ability to explain both perspective dependence and disagreements. Relativists hold that whereas the content of a judgment of taste doesn’t refer to a perspective, it gets a truth-value only when evaluated relative to a perspective. I argue that neither account is successful, and their fundamental mistake is to hold that people know that judgments of taste are perspectivedependent. I argue that majority of speakers take judgments of taste to be true or false irrespective of their personal preferences. If such “folk objectivism” is true, perspective-independent semantics for predicates of taste becomes a plausible view. However, a metaphysical presupposition that all the theorists agree on is that taste properties are perspective-dependent. Therefore a perspective-independent semantics will be committed to an error theory. I question the metasemantics behind the error theory and conclude that we should adopt a more externalist metasemantics. That allows us to explain how predicates of taste can be perspective-dependent despite of folk objectivism. The resulting perspectivist view can thus account both for perspective dependence and for why people disagree about taste.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Predicates of personal taste and perspective dependence
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1508090
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