Philosophical Studies

, Volume 173, Issue 7, pp 1755–1777 | Cite as

Objective truth in matters of taste

  • Mihnea D. I. CapraruEmail author


In matters of personal taste, faultless disagreement occurs between people who disagree over what is tasty, fun, etc., in those cases when each of these people seems equally far from the objective truth. Faultless disagreement is often taken as evidence that truth is relative. This article aims to help us avoid the truth-relativist conclusion. The article, however, does not argue directly against relativism; instead, the article defends non-relative truth constructively, aiming to explain faultless disagreement with the resources of semantic contextualism. To this end the article describes and advocates a contextualist solution inspired by supervaluationist truth-value gap approaches. The solution presented here, however, does not require truth value gaps; it preserves both logical bivalence and non-relative truth, even while it acknowledges and explains the possibility of faultless disagreement. The solution is motivated by the correlation between assertions’ being true and their being useful. This correlation, furthermore, is used not only to tell which assertions are true, but also to determine which linguistic intuitions are reliable.


Disagreement Relativism Contextualism Natural language semantics Linguistic intuitions Truth values 



This article originates in a dissertation chapter funded by a fellowship at the Syracuse University Humanities Center. The earliest draft was conceived at the Central European University's summer school in 2010. I am grateful to Kevan Edwards, Mark Heller, Jaklin Kornfilt, Tom McKay, Ruth Millikan, Jon Nissenbaum, Bob Van Gulick, and to the anonymous referee for reading my drafts, as well as to Ray Buchanan, Michael Caie, John Hawthorne, and Lisa Miracchi for useful conversation.


  1. DeRose, K. (2004). Single scoreboard semantics. Philosophical Studies, 119, 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. DeRose, K. (2009). The case for contextualism: Knowledge, skepticism, and context (Vol. 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Egan, A. (2010). Disputing about taste. In R. Feldman & T. A. Warfield (Eds.), Disagreement (pp. 247–286). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Kölbel, M. (2002). Truth without objectivity. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Lasersohn, P. (2005). Context dependence, disagreement, and predicates of personal taste. Linguistics and Philosophy, 28(6), 643–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. MacFarlane, J. (2007). Relativism and disagreement. Philosophical Studies, 132, 17–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. MacFarlane, J. (2011). Epistemic modals are assessment-sensitive. In A. Egan & B. Weatherson (Eds.), Epistemic modality (pp. 144–178). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. MacFarlane, J. (2014). Assessment sensitivity: Relative truth and its applications. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Marques, T., & García-Carpintero, M. (2014). Disagreement about taste: Commonality presuppositions and coordination. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 92, 701–723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. McGrath, M. (2005). Review of ‘Truth without Objectivity’ by Max Kölbel. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 71, 491–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. McKenna, R. (2014). Shifting targets and disagreements. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 92(4), 725–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Millikan, R. G. (1984). Language, thought, and other biological categories: New foundations for realism. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  13. Perry, J. (1986). Thought without representation. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 60, 137–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Prior, A. N. (1957). Time and modality: Being the John Locke lectures for 1955–6 delivered in the University of Oxford. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  15. Recanati, F. (2007). Perspectival thought: A plea for (Moderate) relativism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Stephenson, T. (2007). Judge dependence, epistemic modals, and predicates of personal taste. Linguistics and Philosophy, 30, 487–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Stojanovic, I. (2007). Talking about taste: Disagreement, implicit arguments and relative truth. Linguistics and Philosophy, 30, 691–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

Personalised recommendations