Philosophical Studies

, Volume 150, Issue 2, pp 187–220 | Cite as

Relative truth and the first person

  • Friederike MoltmannEmail author


In recent work on context-dependency, it has been argued that certain types of sentences give rise to a notion of relative truth. In particular, sentences containing predicates of personal taste and moral or aesthetic evaluation as well as epistemic modals are held to express a proposition (relative to a context of use) which is true or false not only relative to a world of evaluation, but other parameters as well, such as standards of taste or knowledge or an agent. I will argue that the sentences that apparently give rise to relative truth should be understood by relating them in a certain way to the first person. More precisely, such sentences express what I will call ‘first-person-based genericity’, a form of generalization that is based on an essential first-person application of the predicate. The account differs from standard relative truth account in crucial respects: it is not the truth of the proposition expressed that is relative to the first person; the proposition expressed by a sentence with a predicate of taste rather has absolute truth conditions. Instead it is the propositional content itself that requires a first-personal cognitive access whenever it is entertained. This account, I will argue, avoids a range of problems that standard relative truth theories of the sentences in question face and explains a number of further peculiarities that such sentences display.


Relative truth First person De se Predicates of taste Genericity Propositional attitudes 



I would like to thank audiences at the University of Barcelona, New York University, Arché (St Andrews), the IHPST (Paris), and in particular Paul Boghossian and Bob Stalnaker for stimulating discussions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Directrice de rechercheInstitut d’Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences, et des Techniques (IHPST)ParisFrance

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