Research Projects
Understanding Each Other: Meaning and the Contextualist Challenge

The project is a continuation of existing work on the interpretation of semantically incomplete utterances. My main goal is to further develop the interpretation by plausibility approach, which is an alternative to recent contextualist and relativist accounts to the truth-conditional meaning of natural language utterances such as ‘Licorice is tasty’. The interpretation-based approach brings together two previously unconnected lines of research in the Philosophy of Language and Formal Epistemology: The missing ingredient (tasty for whom?) is inferred by the hearer on the basis of some minimal semantic content derived from his ‘mental lexicon’, his prior beliefs and communicative assumptions, and his presumed ability to subjectively assess different possible scenarios according to how plausible they are. The inference occurs prior to the kind of deep interpretation whose result is speech act content and for which existing Gricean and relevance-theoretic models exist, and the approach does not compete with these but rather supplements them. It may be taken as one more piece in the toolset of formal pragmatics. The approach will be evaluated and contrasted with traditional contextualist accounts based on D. Kaplan’s work and with recent assessment-based truth-relativism. The investigation will specifically focus on predicates of personal taste and moral and aesthetic value judgments, as they have recently been discussed by P. Lasersohn, M. Koelbel, J. MacFarlane. The project will therefore also touch foundational issues in aesthetics and ethics.