ArgLab • Colloquium

Erich Rast

Value Disagreement and Different Aspects of Meaning

Value disagreement is puzzling from the point of view of truth-conditional semantics, because speakers often associate vastly different criteria with value terms and defend their values argumentatively on the basis of these criteria. However, at the same time not many people are willing to concede that value disputes are merely verbal. To alleviate this tension, various suggestions have been made that concern the nature of value disputes and the lexical semantics of value terms. In this talk, I give a short overview of some of these approaches — primitivism, relativism and the metalinguistic account in particular — and lay out my own account, which is based on well-known earlier work by Putnam and other semantic externalists. I argue that value disputes are not substantially different from other disputes involving theoretical terms and that they highlight a very general problem of lexical semantics that any sound semantic theory must address.