, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 643-686

Context Dependence, Disagreement, and Predicates of Personal Taste*

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This paper argues that truth values of sentences containing predicates of “personal taste” such as fun or tasty must be relativized to individuals. This relativization is of truth value only, and does not involve a relativization of semantic content: If you say roller coasters are fun, and I say they are not, I am negating the same content which you assert, and directly contradicting you. Nonetheless, both our utterances can be true (relative to their separate contexts). A formal semantic theory is presented which gives this result by introducing an individual index, analogous to the world and time indices commonly used, and by treating the pragmatic context as supplying a particular value for this index. The context supplies this value in the derivation of truth values from content, not in the derivation of content from character. Predicates of personal taste therefore display a kind of contextual variation in interpretation which is unlike the familiar variation exhibited by pronouns and other indexicals.

Most of the work for this paper was completed before I became aware of Kölbel (2002), which argues for a very similar position (though without the Kaplan-style formalization I develop here). Readers are referred to Kölbel’s book for a fuller philosophical defense of this position, and for programmatic suggestions of a slightly different approach to formal implementation.