Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy

Diogo Santos

LANCOG Universidade de Lisboa

Evaluating metalinguistic negotiation

29 September 2017, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: The phenomenon of persistent disagreement has been at the forefront of the debate between philosophers of language on the semantics of evaluative predicates. Metalinguistic negotiation largely limits the scope of the objection from lost disagreement against contextualist views. Sundell (2016) argues that aesthetic adjectives are not semantically evaluative and that their meaning is in some way relative to a standard. Data in Liao, McNally, and Meskin (2016) apparently undermine Sundell’s view, by showing that aesthetic adjectives behave as absolute gradable adjectives – specifically, with respect to the comparison class not being contextually determined. This signals that the standard of comparison is semantically encoded and not contextually triggered. If so, then there is reason to think that aesthetic adjectives’ meaning is in some way relative to a standard. This paper rehearses what Sundell can say to account for the linguistic data. Nonetheless, it concludes – following Marques (2017) – that metalinguistic negotiation does not accommodate the puzzle from persistent disagreement and, thus, that Sundell (2016) has not shown that there is no independent motivation to endorse the thesis that aesthetic adjectives are semantically evaluative and relative to a standard.