Subjectivity and Perspective in Truth-Theoretic Semantics

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


This book develops and defends a semantic theory which respects the intuition that there may be no “fact of the matter” which determines truth values for certain kinds of sentences—those dealing with matters of personal taste, and other sentences about which “faultless disagreement” is possible. The analysis nonetheless takes truth and falsity as central to explaining meaning, and uses familiar techniques from modern (formal, truth-conditional, logical) semantic theory. It accounts for non-factual meaning by relativizing the truth values of sentence contents to parameters whose values are not always objectively or factually determinable. Explaining such contents does not require a thoroughgoing reconstruction of the foundations of semantics on non-truth-theoretic grounds; nor does a defense of truth-theoretic semantics require that we deny the existence of sentences whose contents are true or false only subjectively, treating them instead as though they made purely factual claims. The book presents syntactic and semantic rules for a substantial fragment of English, including tense, locatives, infinitival clauses, and other constructions. Special attention is given to the semantics of attitude reports, including reports of de se and other “centered” attitudes. The semantic analysis is paired with a pragmatic theory exploring the nature of assertion and truth assessment if truth is relativized in the way suggested. Finally, the book gives a speculative account of the functional motivation for relativism in truth assignment, by treating truth as idealized reliability.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages304
ISBN (Print)9780199573677, 9780199573684
StatePublished - Feb 8 2017

Publication series

NameOxford Studies in Semantics and Pragmatics


  • semantics
  • pragmatics
  • relativism
  • personal taste
  • attitudes
  • tense
  • locatives
  • de se
  • faultless disagreement


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