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The Pragmatics of Insensitive Assessments: Understanding The Relativity of Assessments of Judgments of Personal Taste, Epistemic Modals, and More

Journal article
Authors Gunnar Björnsson
Alexander Almér
Published in The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication
Volume 6
Pages 1–45
ISSN 1944-3676
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Pages 1–45
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.4148/biyclc.v6i0.1562
https://gup.ub.gu.se/file/106308
Keywords insensitive assessments, contextualism, relativism, macfarlane, Kai von fintel, Anthony Gillies, pragmatics
Subject categories Practical philosophy, Theoretical philosophy

Abstract

In assessing the veridicality of utterances, we normally seem to assess the satisfaction of conditions that the speaker had been concerned to get right in making the utterance. However, the debate about assessor-relativism about epistemic modals, predicates of taste, gradable adjectives and conditionals has been largely driven by cases in which seemingly felicitous assessments of utterances are insensitive to aspects of the context of utterance that were highly relevant to the speaker’s choice of words. In this paper, we offer an explanation of why certain locutions invite insensitive assessments, focusing primarily on ‘tasty’ and ‘might’. We spell out some reasons why felicitous insensitive assessments are puzzling and argue briefly that recent attempts to accommodate such assessments (including attempts by John MacFarlane, Kai von Fintel and Anthony Gillies) all fail to provide more than hints at a solution to the puzzle. In the main part of the paper, we develop an account of felicitous insensitive assessments by identifying a number of pragmatic factors that influence the felicity of assessments. Before closing, we argue that the role of these factors extends beyond cases considered in the debate about assessor-relativism and fits comfortably with standard contextualist analyses of the relevant locutions.

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