Contextualism, Relativism, and the Problem of Lost Disagreement

Authored by: Elke Brendel

The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138818392
eBook ISBN: 9781315745275
Adobe ISBN: 9781317594697


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Disagreement has been receiving attention in the recent debate between contextualists and relativists. A central challenge for contextualism and relativism is to account for the phenomenon of disagreement while still capturing the idea of context-sensitivity. In what follows, I focus on the prospects for epistemic contextualism and relativism to account for our intuitions concerning disagreement about knowledge ascriptions. The discussion is also briefly extended to epistemic modal claims. I will examine whether contextualist and relativist semantics allow us to model situations of disagreement and certain related phenomena of rejection and retraction. In particular, I analyze the “problem of lost disagreement,” which can be considered the largest threat to indexical contextualism. It is argued that this problem can be avoided within nonindexical contextualism and truth-value relativism. However, both relativist and contextualist semantics seem unable to address substantial forms of disagreement about knowledge ascription.

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