Friday, October 23, 2009

Relativisms & 'Relativism's

I’m Paris, after a very enjoyable II Jean Nicod-LOGOS Workshop. During many of the sessions, I was confirming the impression I got that there seems to be something like an emerging consensus regarding the taxonomy of positions in recent debates about contextualism and relativism.
A: Views according to which there is variation of truth-value, but it is always contextual: sentence s can be true at context c while false at context c*.
B: Views about which some variation of truth-value is not contextual but perspectival: sentence s at context (of use) c can be true when assessed from perspective (or context of assessment) p while false when assessed from perspective p*.
Notice that this main distinction does not involve the notion of the content or “proposition” of a sentence, and is thus available to those sympathetic to Lewis (1980)’s misgivings.

Once such a notion is introduced, however, two further distinctions become available. Among A-views,
A1: Sentence s can be true at context c while false at c* by the content of s at c being different than the content of s at c*;
A2: Sentence s can be true at context c while false at context c* even if the content of s is the same at c and at c* by this content determining a different value with respect to the relevant different features of c and c* (or “circumstances of evaluation” determined by c and c*).
Among B-views, the corresponding:
B1: Sentence s at context c can be true when assessed from p while false when assessed from p* by the content of s at c wrt p being different than the content of s at c wrt p*;
B2: Sentence s at context c can be true when assessed from p while false when assessed from p* even if the content of s at c is the same wrt p and p* by this content determining a different value with respect to the relevant different features of (c and) p and (c and p*) (or “circumstances of evaluation” determined by (c and) p and (c and) p*).
The consensus alluded to concerns the taxons themselves, not the labels to refer to them. I thought it’d be convenient to have a map of the alternatives, if only to facilitate communication ;-). So here are some options:

MacFarlane (2007, inter alia):
A = Contextualism
A1 = Indexical Contextualism
A2 = Non-Indexical Contextualism
B = Relativism
B1 = Content Relativism
B2 = Truth Relativism
Weatherson (2009, inter alia):
A = Contextualism
A1= Indexical Contextualism
A2 = Non-Indexical Contextualism
B = Relativism
B1= Indexical Relativism
B2 = Non-Indexical Relativism
López de Sa (2010, inter alia):
A = Moderate Relativism (=Contextualism)
A1= Indexical Contextualism
A2 = Non-Indexical Contextualism
B = Radical Relativism
B1 = Content (Radical) Relativism
B2 = Truth (Radical) Relativism
At the workshop, other groupings of A1, A2, B1, B2 were mentioned. If I don’t misunderstand them:

Kölbel (2009, inter alia):
A1 = (Indexical) Contextualism
A2 & B2 = Relativism
A2 = Moderate Relativism
B2 = Radical Relativism
(Adopted at the workshop by Marques and Zeman. I attributed it to Ripley, but he actually speaks like Weatherson. As he stressed to me, Weatherson-talk has as a virtue that it allows easy reference to the pairs A1&B1 and A2&B2 as the Indexical views and the Non-Indexical views.)

Remark: The forms of assessment-sensitivity in B1 would not count as Relativism (nor a fortiori Radical Relativism).

Recanati:
A1 = Contextualism
A2 & B1 & B2 = Relativism
A2 = Moderate Relativism
B1 & B2 = Radical Relativism
  • B1 = Content Relativism
  • B2 = Truth Relativism
Question: Which (natural enough) feature do A2 & B1 & B2 share vs A1?

Anyway, do people know of still other usages of the expressions, at least by people accepting something like the A1, A2, B1, B2 partition?

4 comments:

Brian said...

The reason David gave is really the main reason for the terminology I was trying to push. There is something in common to A1/B1 and to A2/B2, and I think it's nice to have terms for that.

Having said that, it's nice to have uniform terminology too, and the MacFarlane terminology seems to be catching on better than mine. Unless things change soon, that's a reason for me to change to MacFarlane's terminology.

I don't particularly like 'moderate'/'radical' terminology, because it gets so dated so quickly. What happens when the radical position becomes the mainstream one, and the old 'moderate' position is a strikingly reactionary position. It gets very hard to remember who the radicals are and who the moderates are when only the radical position is taught in the graduate seminars. So I'd rather have names that are likely to survive some changes in fashion.

Dan López de Sa said...

To be honest, I'm also becoming less and less satisfied with my own choice. One further consideration in favor of yours might come from dissatisfaction with the alternative 'content relativism', I just posted on that as well.

Dave Ripley said...

As long as there are issues (like the ones I was talking about this week) that depend on the 1/2 distinction but not the A/B distinction, there's going to be a lot of use for the Weatherson terminology (or something like it in the relevant respects).

If enough others were uniform in choosing some less optimal system, sure I'd switch, but for now there's enough different terminology flying around that I think it's worth holding out hope.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Brian LeMonde here,
Of course one may doubt that a
sentence in one context is the same sentence in a different context. Could say that the second context at a different time, makes the sentence itself different.
Could hold that the sentence being unchanged in words and order and so on from context to context, is irrelevant to its being same or different.
Comes down to how you want to define different and same concerning this issue--your criteria for deciding like or unlike. Why would your particular
definition be the right one? Let's get an argument for that.