, Volume 195, Issue 8, pp 3335–3359 | Cite as


  • Teresa Marques
S.I. : Lang And Mind


Intuitions about retractions have been used to motivate truth relativism about certain types of claims. Among these figure epistemic modals, knowledge attributions, or personal taste claims. On MacFarlane’s prominent relativist proposal, sentences like “the ice cream might be in the freezer” or “Pocoyo is funny” are only assigned a truth-value relative to contexts of utterance and contexts of assessment. Retractions play a crucial role in the argument for assessment-relativism. A retraction of a past assertion is supposed to be mandatory whenever the asserted sentence is not true at the context of use and the context of assessment. If retractions were not obligatory in these conditions, there would be no normative difference between assessment-relativism and contextualism. The main goal of this paper is to undermine the claim that retractions reveal this normative difference. To this effect, the paper offers a review of three important objections to the obligatoriness of retractions. Taken together, these objections make a strong case against the alleged support that retractions give to assessment-relativism. The objections are moreover supported by recent experimental results that are also discussed. This will satisfy a further goal, which is to undermine the idea that there is a constitutive retraction rule. The paper also discusses two ways to understand what such a rule would be constitutive of, and concludes with a discussion of how to describe what retractions are.


Retraction Contextualism Relativism Epistemic modals  Predicates of personal taste 



This work was presented at the conference of the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology in Granada, August 2013, the 2nd PLM Conference in Budapest, September 2013, the LanCog seminar in Lisbon, November 2013, and the LOGOS seminar in Barcelona, February 2014. I am grateful to the audiences at those events for discussion of this material, and in particular to Robyn Carston, Manuel García-Carpintero, Kathrin Glüer-Pagin, Joshua Knobe, Dan López de Sa, Josep Macià, Peter Pagin, François Recanati, Sven Rosenkranz, Pedro Santos, Isidora Stojanovic, Elia Zardini and Dan Zeman, and to two anonymous reviewers for this journal. This work was supported by FP7 Marie Curie Action, Intra-European Fellowship. Grant Agreement Number: PIEF-GA-2012-622114; Grup de Recerca Consolidat en Filosofia del Dret, 2014 SGR 626, funded by AGAUR de la Generalitat de Catalunya; About Ourselves, FFI2013-47948-P; and Online Companion to Problems of Analytic Philosophy, FCT Project PTDC/FIL-FIL/121209/20.


  1. Carston, R. (1998). Negation, ‘presupposition’ and the semantics/ pragmatics distinction. Journal of Linguistics, 34, 309–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. DeRose, K. (1991). Epistemic possibilities. Philosophical Review, 100(4), 581–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. DeRose, K. (1992). Contextualism and knowledge attributions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 52(4), 913–929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. DeRose, K. (2002). Knowledge, assertion, and context. Philosophical Review, 111, 167–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dowell, J. (2011). A flexible contextualist account of epistemic modals. Philosophers’ Imprint, 11(14), 1–25.Google Scholar
  6. Dowell, J. (2013). Flexible contextualism about deontic modals: A puzzle about information-sensitivity. Inquiry, 56(2–3), 149–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dummett, M. A. E. (1978). Truth and other enigmas. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Edgington, D. (1995). On conditionals. Mind, 104(414), 235–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Egan, A. (2007). Epistemic modals, relativism and assertion. Philosophical Studies, 133(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Egan, A. (2010). Disputing about taste. In R. Feldman & T. Warfield (Eds.), Disagreement (pp. 247–286). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Egan, A., Hawthorne, J., & Weatherson, B. (2005). Epistemic modals in context. In G. Preyer & G. Peter (Eds.), Contextualism in philosophy: Knowledge, meaning and truth (pp. 131–170). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. García-Carpintero, M. (2008). Relativism, vagueness and what is said. In M. García-Carpintero & M. Klbel (Eds.), Relative truth (pp. 129–154). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Glanzberg, M. (2007). Context, content, and relativism. Philosophical Studies, 136(1), 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hawthorne, J. (2004). Knowledge and lotteries. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hom, C. (2008). The semantics of racial epithets. Journal of Philosophy, 105(8), 416–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hom, C. (2010). Pejoratives. Philosophy Compass, 5(2), 164–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Horn, L. (1989). A natural history of negation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  18. Huvenes, T. T. (2012). Varieties of disagreement and predicates of taste. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 90(1), 167–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jeshion, R. (2013). Slurs and stereotypes. Analytic Philosophy, 54(3), 314–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kaplan, D. (1989). Demonstratives. In J. Almog, J. K. Perry, H. Wettstein, & D. Kaplan (Eds.), Themes from kaplan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Kölbel, M. (2002). Truth without objectivity. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Kölbel, M. (2004a). Faultless disagreement. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 104(1), 53–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kölbel, M. (2004b). Indexical relativism versus genuine relativism. International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 12(3), 297–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kneer, M. (2015). Truth-assessment and retraction of epistemic modals: Empirical data, unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  25. Knobe, J., & Yalcin, S. (2014). Epistemic modals and context: Experimental data. Semantics and Pragmatics, 7(10), 1–21.Google Scholar
  26. Kolodny, N., & MacFarlane, J. (2010). Ifs and oughts. Journal of Philosophy, 107(3), 115–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kratzer, A. (1991). Modality. In A. von Stechow & D. Wunderlich (Eds.), Semantics: An international handbook of contemporary research (pp. 639–650). Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  28. Lasersohn, P. (2005). Context dependence, disagreement, and predicates of personal taste. Linguistics and Philosophy, 28(6), 643–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. López de Sa, D. (2008). Presuppositions of commonality: An indexical relativist account of disagreement. In M. García-Carpintero & M. Kölbel (Eds.), Relative truth (pp. 297–310). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. López de Sa, D. (2015). Expressing disagreement: A presuppositional indexical contextualist relativist account. Erkenntnis, 80(1), 153–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. MacFarlane, J. (2005a). The assessment sensitivity of knowledge attributions. In T. Gendler & J. Hawthorne (Eds.), Oxford studies in epistemology (Vol. 1, pp. 197–234). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. MacFarlane, J. (2005b). Making sense of relative truth. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 105(3), 321–8211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. MacFarlane, J. (2009). Nonindexical contextualism. Synthese, 166(2), 231–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. MacFarlane, J. (2011). Epistemic modals are assessment-sensitive. In B. Weatherson & A. Egan (Eds.), Epistemic modality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. MacFarlane, J. (2014). Assessment sensitivity: Relative truth and its applications. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Macià, J. (2002). Presuposición y significado expresivo. Theoria, 17(3), 499–513.Google Scholar
  37. Marques, T. (2014). Relative correctness. Philosophical Studies, 167(2), 361–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Marques, T. (2015). Disagreeing in Context. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(257). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00257.
  39. Marques, T., & García-Carpintero, M. (2014). Disagreement about taste: commonality presuppositions and coordination. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 92(4), 701–723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pagin, P. (2015). Assertion. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab—Stanford University.Google Scholar
  41. Perry, J. (1993). The problem of the essential indexical: And other essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Plunkett, D., & Sundell, T. (2013). Disagreement and the semantics of normative and evaluative terms. Philosophers’ Imprint, 13(23), 1–37.Google Scholar
  43. Potts, C. (2005). The logic of conventional implicatures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Recanati, F. (2007). Perspectival thought: A plea for (moderate) relativism. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Richard, M. (2008). When truth gives out. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ross, J., & Schroeder, M. (2013). Reversibility or disagreement. Mind, 122(485), 43–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Saul, J. (2012). Just go ahead and lie. Analysis, 72(1), 3–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schlenker, P. (2007). Expressive presuppositions. Theoretical Linguistics, 33(2), 237–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stanley, J. (2005). Knowledge and practical interests. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stephenson, T. (2007). Judge dependence, epistemic modals, and predicates of personal taste. Linguistics and Philosophy, 30(4), 487–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stojanovic, I. (2007). Talking about taste: Disagreement, implicit arguments, and relative truth. Linguistics and Philosophy, 30(6), 691–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sundell, T. (2011). Disagreements about taste. Philosophical Studies, 155(2), 267–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. von Fintel, K., & Gillies, A. S. (2008). CIA leaks. Philosophical Review, 117(1), 77–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Williamson, T. (1996). Knowing and asserting. Philosophical Review, 105(4), 489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Williamson, T. (2000). Knowledge and its limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law & Philosophy Group, Universitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain

Personalised recommendations