Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 125–164 | Cite as

Outlook-based semantics



This paper presents and advocates an approach to the semantics of opinion statements, including matters of personal taste and moral claims. In this framework, ‘outlook-based semantics’, the circumstances of evaluation are not composed of a possible world and a judge (as in ‘world-judge relativism’); rather, outlooks replace possible worlds in the role of circumstance of evaluation. Outlooks are refinements of worlds that settle not only matters of fact but also matters of opinion. Several virtues of the framework and advantages over existing implementations of world-judge relativism are demonstrated in this paper. First, world-judge relativism does not actually explain the ‘disagreement’ of ‘faultless disagreement’, while a straightforward explanation suggests itself in outlook-based semantics. Second, outlook-based semantics provides an account of subjective attitude verbs that can capture lack of opinionatedness. Third, outlook-based semantics unproblematically explains the connection-building role of aesthetic discourse and the group-relevance of discretionary assertions, while capturing the same effects in world-judge relativism obviates the purpose of the judge parameter. Finally, because the proposed circumstances of evaluation (outlooks) are entirely analogous to possible worlds, the framework is easy to use and extend.


Relativism Predicates of personal taste Subjectivity Indexicality Truth 


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This work was generously funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond’s Pro Futura Scientia Program, administered by the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala, Sweden. I am grateful to the resident fellows at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, especially Anandi Hattiangani and Christian List, for inspiration and feedback on this work during the 2014–2015 academic year, when I was in residence there and developing these ideas. I am also grateful to Robin Cooper for the initial inspiration and thoughtful feedback along the way. I would also like to thank the excellent anonymous reviewers of this paper for L&P and audience members at the University of Gothenburg, Uppsala University, Stockholm University, Stanford University, and the 2017 Workshop on Subjectivity at the University of Chicago, especially the organizers, Christopher Kennedy and Malte Willer, whose feedback greatly improved the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Boston UniversityBostonUSA

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