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Outlook-based semantics

Journal article
Authors Elizabeth Coppock
Published in Linguistics and Philosophy
Volume 41
Issue 2
Pages 125–164
ISSN 0165-0157
Publication year 2018
Published at
Pages 125–164
Language en
Keywords Relativism Predicates of personal taste Subjectivity Indexicality Truth
Subject categories Theoretical philosophy, Linguistics


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.

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