I'm just back from a fun conference on Moral Contextualism in Aberdeen. Some of my photos of the conference are now online. (I can assure readers that there is a perfectly rational explanation of those ones with the cutlery.)
Highlights from the conference included Berit Brogaard's attempts to convince us that the truth-value of one and the same proposition can vary with the speaker. (Her presentation is available online.) She appealed to Recanati's views on direct speech reports (whereby the quoted sentence is not merely mentioned but used) to argue that such reports, although they create shifed contexts, do not change the parameters of the circumstance of evaluation.
While I agreed that the view seems to have advantages over Macfarlane-style relativism, one thing that made me suspicious about it was that one surely wants to deliver the same result for unquoted sentences as for quoted sentences. The following pair, for instance, sounds very odd:
1. At t, John said 'Murder is wrong' and he was mistaken.
2. The sentence John uttered at t was true.
But it wasn't clear how the account could deliver this uniformity; since it appeals to special features of quoted speech to deliver the desired result in case 1, it wasn't clear how to get it for cases like 2.
John Hawthorne suggested in his talk that 'ought' claims might be subject to contextual variation in semantic value for the same reasons as are the 'can' claims which they (supposedly) imply. This, I thought, might sit quite well with the view (suggested in Lewis) that there is contextual variation in the semantic value of modal utterances due to contextual restriction of the quantifiers over worlds which they involve.
I was particularly interested, therefore, to hear Ralph Wedgwood developing a version of Angelika Kratzer's possible-world semantics for 'ought' claims in the next-but-one session. Kratzer's basic idea here (subject to many bells and whistles, of course) is that context supplies a set of propositions which are held fixed across all relevant worlds, and an ordering on those worlds. 'It ought to be that p' is then true iff p is true in all the worlds ranked as unsurpassed.
Tomorrow I'm off to Southampton for the Joint Session, so more paper reports should follow soon.