Contextualism, Relativism and Practical Conflicts and Disagreements (Lisbon)

In the social sciences, cultural multiplicity has been taken as evidence for cultural relativism: the thesis that customs, aesthetic trends and values, and morality are relative to given cultural systems, systems that vary along time and from place to place, and in some cases, between social groups and even individuals. The plausibility of relativism acquires further support from the realization that it is implausible that there are objective truths about what is right or wrong, good or bad, either in morality, aesthetics or matters of taste, that are independent of there being humans who make judgements in such domains.

The coherence of relativism has been disputed by philosophers (starting with Plato), but even if relativism does not succumb to such attacks, some questions require an answer, namely:

  1. How do we explain the apparent existence of, for instance, moral progress?
  2. How are the notions of agreement and disagreement in these domains to be explained?

Recent proposals generalize semantic frameworks with centred propositions (propositions true not just at a world, but also at a centre: a time, or place, individual) to explain the perspectival nature of some areas of discourse. This project aims to offer an adequate account of the crucial notions of doxastic and practical disagreement in those problematic areas. A secondary aim is to apply the notion of practical disagreement, to be developed while the project runs, to some issues in the philosophy of law, focusing on sex- and gender based conflicts and discrimination, and developing an account of the notion of the grounds or basis of discrimination.

For further information, please contact Teresa Marques (project leader): mariateresamarques [at]