Philosophical Studies

, Volume 132, Issue 1, pp 17–31 | Cite as

Relativism and disagreement

  • John MacFarlane
Original paper


The relativist's central objection to contextualism is that it fails to account for the disagreement we perceive in discourse about "subjective" matters, such as whether stewed prunes are delicious. If we are to adjudicate between contextualism and relativism, then, we must first get clear about what it is for two people to disagree. This question turns out to be surprisingly difficult to answer. A partial answer is given here; although it is incomplete, it does help shape what the relativist must say if she is to do better than the contextualist in securing genuine disagreement.


Relativism Contextualism Disagreement Subjective discourse 


  1. Brandom, R. (1983). Asserting. Noûs, 17, 637–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brandom, R. (1994). Making it explicit. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  3. DeRose, K. (2004). Single scoreboard semantics. Philosophical Studies, 119, 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Egan, A. (forthcoming). Epistemic modals, relativism, and assertion. Philosophical Studies. Google Scholar
  5. Feldman, R. (2001). Skeptical problems, contextualist solutions. Philosophical Studies, 103, 61–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gibbard, A. (1990). Wise choices, apt feelings: A theory of normative judgment. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Kaplan, D. (1989). Demonstratives: An essay on the semantics, logic, metaphysics, and epistemology of demonstratives and other indexicals. In J. Almog, J. Perry & H. Wettstein (Eds.), Themes from Kaplan (pp. 481–566). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Kölbel, M. (2002). Truth without objectivity. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Lewis, D. (1979). Scorekeeping in a language game. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 8, 339–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. MacFarlane, J. (2003). Future contingents and relative truth. Philosophical Quarterly, 53, 321–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. MacFarlane, J. (2005). Making sense of relative truth. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 105, 321–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. MacFarlane, J. (2007). Semantic minimalism and nonindexical contextualism. In G. Preyer & G. Peter (Eds.), Content and context: Essays on semantics and pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. MacFarlane, J. (forthcoming). Truth in the garden of forking paths. In M. Kölbel & M. García-Carpintero (Eds.), Relativising Truth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Perry, J. (1986). Thought without representation. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 60 (supplementary volume), 137–152.Google Scholar
  15. Stanley, J. (2005). Knowledge and practical interests. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Teller, P. (1972). Epistemic possibility. Philosophia, 2, 303–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Williams, B. (1973). Deciding to believe. In Problems of the self (pp. 136–151). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Zimmerman, A. (forthcoming). Against relativism. Philosophical Studies. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations