Relativism About Epistemic Modals

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

14 Scopus citations


Epistemic uses of modal expressions such as "might," "must," and "possibly" - uses for which a plausible fi rst pass at an analysis is that (for example) an assertion of "Bob might be in his offi ce" is true if and only if it's compatible with what's known that Bob is in his offi ce - are one of the central battlegrounds in disputes about the plausibility of relativist theories in natural language semantics. This chapter seeks to lay out the basics of two proposed relativist theories, the contextualist framework that they're alternatives to, and the main lines of argument that have been proposed in order to motivate relativist views over their contextualist competitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Companion to Relativism
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9781405190213
StatePublished - Apr 20 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


  • Assigning truth - values to sentences, in a context of utterance, a two-step process
  • Contextualism - sentence associated, in first instance, with a character
  • Contextualism about epistemic modals
  • Difference between a MacFarlanian relativist account - and a standard Kaplanian account
  • Epistemic modals, sorts of uses of "might," "must" and "possible" that occur in exchanges
  • Family of examples - motivating variability in whose knowledge is relevant
  • Relativism about epistemic modals
  • Relativist proposals - number of different relativist views of epistemic modals on offer
  • Retraction arguments against contextualism
  • Two proposed relativist theories


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