Skip to main content
Log in

Expressing Disagreement: A Presuppositional Indexical Contextualist Relativist Account

  • Original Article
  • Published:
Erkenntnis Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Many domains, notably the one involving predicates of personal taste, present the phenomenon of apparent faultless disagreement. Contextualism is a characteristically moderate implementation of the relativistic attempt to endorse such appearances. According to an often-voiced objection, although it straightforwardly accounts for the faultlessness, contextualism fails to respect “facts about disagreement.” With many other recent contributors to the debate, I contend that the notion of disagreement—“genuine,” “real,” “substantive,” “robust” disagreement—is indeed very flexible, and in particular can be constituted by contrasting attitudes. As such, contextualism is clearly straightforwardly compatible with facts about the existence of disagreement. There is, however, a genuine prima facie worry for contextualism involving facts about the expression of (existent) disagreement in ordinary conversations. Elaborating on a suggestion by Lewis (Proc Aristot Soc 63(Suppl):113–138, 1989), I argue that the presupposition of commonality approach in López de Sa (Relative truth. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008) shows that there are versions of contextualism that are in good standing vis-à-vis such facts about the expression of (existent) disagreement.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Baker, C. (2012). Indexical contextualism and the challenges from disagreement. Philosophical Studies, 157, 107–123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baker, C. (2014). The role of disagreement in semantic theory. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 92, 37–54. doi:10.1080/00048402.2013.795178.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Egan, A. (2010). Disputing about taste. In R. Feldman & T. Warfield (Eds.), Disagreement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Egan, A. (2012). Relativist dispositional theories of value. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 50, 557–582.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Egan, A. (2014). There’s something funny about comedy: A case study in faultless disagreement. Erkenntnis, 79, 73–100.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Finlay, S. (2005). Value and implicature. Philosophers’ Imprint, 5, 1–20.

    Google Scholar 

  • Huvenes, T. (2012). Varieties of disagreement and predicates of taste. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 90, 167–181.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, D. (1980). Index, context, and content. In S. Kanger & S. Öhman (Eds.), Philosophy and grammar. Dordrecht: Reidel. (Reprinted in his Papers in Philosophical Logic, Cambridge University Press, 1998 (q.v.)).

  • Lewis, D. (1989). Dispositional theories of value. Proceeding of the Aristotelian Society, 63(Suppl), 113–138. (Reprinted in his Papers in Ethics and Social Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2000 (q.v.)).

  • López de Sa, D. (2008). Presuppositions of commonality. In M. García-Carpintero & M. Kölbel (Eds.), Relative truth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • López de Sa, D. (2012). What does it take to enter into the circumstance? Philosophical Studies, 159, 147–153.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • López de Sa, D. (2010) The many relativisms: Index, contex, and beyond. In S. Hales (Ed.), The Blackwell companion to relativism (pp. 102–117). Oxford:Blackwell.

  • López de Sa, D. (MS). For the likes of me.

  • MacFarlane, J. (2009). Non-indexical contextualism. Synthese, 166, 231–250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • MacFarlane, J. (2014). Assessment sensitivity: Relative truth and its applications. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Marques, T., & García-Carpintero, M. (2014). Disagreement about taste: Commonality presuppositions and coordination. Australasian Journal of Philosophy. doi:10.1080/00048402.2014.922592.

  • Marques, T. (MS). Disagreeing in context: Metalinguistic negation and coordination.

  • Stalnaker, R. (2002). Common ground. Linguistics and Philosophy, 25, 701–721.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stojanovic, I. (2007). Talking about taste: Disagreement, implicit arguments, and relative truth. Linguistics and Philosophy, 30, 691–706.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sundell, T. (2011). Disagreements about taste. Philosophical Studies, 155, 267–288.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zakkou, J. (MS). Presuppositions of superiority.

Download references


Earlier versions of this material were presented at the LOGOS Seminar and at workshops in Aberdeen, Bohn, Buenos Aires, Cerisy, Erfurt, Lisboa, and Victoria. Thanks to audiences in these occasions, and to Carl Baker, Gunnar Bjornsson, Aurélien Darbellay, Justina Diaz, Jose A Díez, Alexander Dinges, Filippo Ferrari, Manuel García-Carpintero, Camil Golup, Richard Heck, John Horden, Dirk Kindermann, John MacFarlane, Josep Macià, Teresa Marques, Eleonora Orlando, Michele Palmira, Josh Parsons, David Plunkett, Giulia Pravato, Sven Rosenkranz, Moritz Schulz, Isidora Stojanovic, Tim Sundell, Paula Sweeney, Pekka Väyrynen, Julia Zakkou, Elia Zardini, and Dan Zeman. Research has been partially funded by FFI2012-35026, and CSD2009-0056 (MINECO), 2014 SGR 81 (AGAUR), and ITN FP7-238128 (European Community).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dan López de Sa.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

López de Sa, D. Expressing Disagreement: A Presuppositional Indexical Contextualist Relativist Account. Erkenn 80 (Suppl 1), 153–165 (2015).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: