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Vagueness: A minimal theory

Mind 112 (446):235-281 (2003)

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  1. Neutralism and Conceptual Engineering.Patrick Greenough - 2019 - In Alexis Burgess, Herman Cappelen & David Plunkett (eds.), Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    Conceptual Engineering alleges that philosophical problems are best treated via revising or replacing our concepts (or words). The goal here is not to defend Conceptual Engineering but rather show that it can (and should) invoke Neutralism—the broad view that philosophical progress can take place when (and sometimes only when) a thoroughly neutral, non-specific theory, treatment, or methodology is adopted. A neutralist treatment of one form of skepticism is used as a case study and is compared with various non-neutral rivals. Along (...)
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  • A Theory of Metaphysical Indeterminacy.Elizabeth Barnes & J. Robert G. Williams - 2011 - In Karen Bennett & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 6. Oxford University Press UK. pp. 103-148.
    If the world itself is metaphysically indeterminate in a specified respect, what follows? In this paper, we develop a theory of metaphysical indeterminacy answering this question.
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  • Castles Built on Clouds: Vague Identity and Vague Objects.Benjamin L. Curtis & Harold W. Noonan - 2014 - In Ken Akiba & Ali Abasnezhad (eds.), Vague Objects and Vague Identity: New Essays on Ontic Vagueness. Dordrecht, Netherland: Springer. pp. 305-326.
    Can identity itself be vague? Can there be vague objects? Does a positive answer to either question entail a positive answer to the other? In this paper we answer these questions as follows: No, No, and Yes. First, we discuss Evans’s famous 1978 argument and argue that the main lesson that it imparts is that identity itself cannot be vague. We defend the argument from objections and endorse this conclusion. We acknowledge, however, that the argument does not by itself establish (...)
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  • Squeezing and stretching: How vagueness can outrun borderlineness.Elia Zardini - 2006 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 106 (3):419–426.
    The paper develops a critical dialectic with respect to the nowadays dominant approach in the theory of vagueness, an approach whose main tenet is that it is in the nature of the vagueness of an expression to present borderline cases of application, conceived of as enjoying some kind of distinctive normative status. Borderlineness is used to explain the basic phenomena of vagueness, such as, for example, our ignorance of the location of cut-offs in a soritical series. Every particular theory of (...)
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  • Higher-Order Sorites Paradox.Elia Zardini - 2013 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 42 (1):25-48.
    The naive theory of vagueness holds that the vagueness of an expression consists in its failure to draw a sharp boundary between positive and negative cases. The naive theory is contrasted with the nowadays dominant approach to vagueness, holding that the vagueness of an expression consists in its presenting borderline cases of application. The two approaches are briefly compared in their respective explanations of a paramount phenomenon of vagueness: our ignorance of any sharp boundary between positive and negative cases. These (...)
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  • Closed without boundaries.Elia Zardini - 2020 - Synthese 199 (Suppl 3):641-679.
    The paper critically discusses two prominent arguments against closure principles for knowledge. The first one is the “argument from aggregation”, claiming that closure under conjunction has the consequence that, if one individually knows i premises, one also knows their i-fold conjunction—yet, every one of the premises might exhibit interesting positive epistemic properties while the i-fold conjunction might fail to do so. The second one is the “argument from concatenation”, claiming that closure under entailment has the consequence that, if one knows (...)
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  • Ontic vagueness and metaphysical indeterminacy.J. Robert G. Williams - 2008 - Philosophy Compass 3 (4):763-788.
    Might it be that world itself, independently of what we know about it or how we represent it, is metaphysically indeterminate? This article tackles in turn a series of questions: In what sorts of cases might we posit metaphysical indeterminacy? What is it for a given case of indefiniteness to be 'metaphysical'? How does the phenomenon relate to 'ontic vagueness', the existence of 'vague objects', 'de re indeterminacy' and the like? How might the logic work? Are there reasons for postulating (...)
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  • Indeterminacy and normative silence.J. R. G. Williams - 2012 - Analysis 72 (2):217-225.
    This paper examines two puzzles of indeterminacy. The first puzzle concerns the hypothesis that there is a unified phenomenon of indeterminacy. How are we to reconcile this with the apparent diversity of reactions that indeterminacy prompts? The second puzzle focuses narrowly on borderline cases of vague predicates. How are we to account for the lack of theoretical consensus about what the proper reaction to borderline cases is? I suggest (building on work by Maudlin) that the characteristic feature of indeterminacy is (...)
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  • An argument for the many.J. Robert G. Williams - 2006 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (Paperback) 106 (3):409-417.
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  • An argument for the many.Robert Williams - 2006 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 106 (1):411-419.
    If one believes that vagueness is an exclusively representational phenomenon, one faces the problem of the many. In the vicinity of Kilimanjaro, there are many many ‘mountain candidates’ all, apparently, with more-or-less equal claim to be mountains. David Lewis has defended a radical claim: that all the billions of mountain candidates are mountains. This paper argues that the supervaluationist about vagueness should adopt Lewis’ proposal, on pain of losing their best explanation of the seductiveness of the sorites.
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  • True, Truer, Truest.Brian Weatherson - 2005 - Philosophical Studies 123 (1):47-70.
    What the world needs now is another theory of vagueness. Not because the old theories are useless. Quite the contrary, the old theories provide many of the materials we need to construct the truest theory of vagueness ever seen. The theory shall be similar in motivation to supervaluationism, but more akin to many-valued theories in conceptualisation. What I take from the many-valued theories is the idea that some sentences can be truer than others. But I say very different things to (...)
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  • Epistemic Approaches to Vagueness.Zoltán Vecsey - 2010 - Dialogue 49 (2):295-307.
  • Vagueness as closeness.Nicholas J. J. Smith - 2005 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2):157 – 183.
    This paper presents and defends a definition of vagueness, compares it favourably with alternative definitions, and draws out some consequences of accepting this definition for the project of offering a substantive theory of vagueness. The definition is roughly this: a predicate 'F' is vague just in case for any objects a and b, if a and b are very close in respects relevant to the possession of F, then 'Fa' and 'Fb' are very close in respect of truth. The definition (...)
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  • Vagueness and zombies: why ‘phenomenally conscious’ has no borderline cases.Jonathan A. Simon - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (8):2105-2123.
    I argue that there can be no such thing as a borderline case of the predicate ‘phenomenally conscious’: for any given creature at any given time, it cannot be vague whether that creature is phenomenally conscious at that time. I first defend the Positive Characterization Thesis, which says that for any borderline case of any predicate there is a positive characterization of that case that can show any sufficiently competent speaker what makes it a borderline case. I then appeal to (...)
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  • II—Patrick Greenough: Contextualism about Vagueness and Higher‐order Vagueness.Stewart Shapiro & Patrick Greenough - 2005 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 79 (1):167-190.
    To get to grips with what Shapiro does and can say about higher-order vagueness, it is first necessary to thoroughly review and evaluate his conception of (first-order) vagueness, a conception which is both rich and suggestive but, as it turns out, not so easy to stabilise. In Sections I–IV, his basic position on vagueness (see Shapiro [2003]) is outlined and assessed. As we go along, I offer some suggestions for improvement. In Sections V–VI, I review two key paradoxes of higher-order (...)
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  • Contextualism about vagueness and higher-order vagueness.Patrick Greenough - 2005 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 79 (1):167–190.
    To get to grips with what Shapiro does and can say about higher-order vagueness, it is first necessary to thoroughly review and evaluate his conception of (first-order) vagueness, a conception which is both rich and suggestive but, as it turns out, not so easy to stabilise. In Sections I–IV, his basic position on vagueness (see Shapiro [2003]) is outlined and assessed. As we go along, I offer some suggestions for improvement. In Sections V–VI, I review two key paradoxes of higher-order (...)
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  • II—Patrick Greenough: Contextualism about Vagueness and Higher‐order Vagueness.Stewart Shapiro - 2005 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 79 (1):167-190.
    To get to grips with what Shapiro does and can say about higher-order vagueness, it is first necessary to thoroughly review and evaluate his conception of (first-order) vagueness, a conception which is both rich and suggestive but, as it turns out, not so easy to stabilise. In Sections I–IV, his basic position on vagueness (see Shapiro [2003]) is outlined and assessed. As we go along, I offer some suggestions for improvement. In Sections V–VI, I review two key paradoxes of higher-order (...)
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  • Vagueness, Logic and Use: Four Experimental Studies on Vagueness.Phil Serchuk, Ian Hargreaves & Richard Zach - 2011 - Mind and Language 26 (5):540-573.
    Although arguments for and against competing theories of vagueness often appeal to claims about the use of vague predicates by ordinary speakers, such claims are rarely tested. An exception is Bonini et al. (1999), who report empirical results on the use of vague predicates by Italian speakers, and take the results to count in favor of epistemicism. Yet several methodological difficulties mar their experiments; we outline these problems and devise revised experiments that do not show the same results. We then (...)
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  • God’s silence.Elisa Paganini - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 157 (2):287-298.
    Vagueness manifests itself (among other things) in our inability to find boundaries to the extension of vague predicates. A semantic theory of vagueness plans to justify this inability in terms of the vague semantic rules governing language and thought. According to a supporter of semantic theory, the inability to find such a boundary is not dependent on epistemic limits and an omniscient being like God would be equally unable. Williamson (Vagueness, 1994 ) argued that cooperative omniscient beings adequately instructed would (...)
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  • The End of Vagueness: Technological Epistemicism, Surveillance Capitalism, and Explainable Artificial Intelligence.Alison Duncan Kerr & Kevin Scharp - 2022 - Minds and Machines 32 (3):585-611.
    Artificial Intelligence (AI) pervades humanity in 2022, and it is notoriously difficult to understand how certain aspects of it work. There is a movement—_Explainable_ Artificial Intelligence (XAI)—to develop new methods for explaining the behaviours of AI systems. We aim to highlight one important philosophical significance of XAI—it has a role to play in the elimination of vagueness. To show this, consider that the use of AI in what has been labeled _surveillance capitalism_ has resulted in humans quickly gaining the capability (...)
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  • Forced‐March Sorites Arguments and Linguistic Competence.Jonas Åkerman - 2013 - Dialectica 67 (4):403-426.
    Agent relativists about vagueness (henceforth ‘agent relativists’) hold that whether or not an object x falls in the extension of a vague predicate ‘P’ at a time t depends on the judgemental dispositions of a particular competent agent at t. My aim in this paper is to critically examine arguments that purport to support agent relativism by appealing to data from forced-march Sorites experiments. The most simple and direct versions of such forced-march Sorites arguments rest on the following (implicit) premise: (...)
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  • Epistemicism and response-dependence.Ivan Hu - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):9109-9131.
    Epistemicists claim that if it is vague whether p, it is unknowable whether p. Some contest this on epistemic grounds: vague intuitions about vague matters need not fully preclude knowledge, if those intuitions are response-dependent in some special sense of enabling vague knowledge. This paper defends the epistemicist principle that vagueness entails ignorance against such objections. I argue that not only is response-dependence an implausible characterization of actual vague matters, its mere possibility poses no threat to epistemicism and is properly (...)
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  • Vagueness: Why Do We Believe in Tolerance?Paul Égré - 2015 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 44 (6):663-679.
    The tolerance principle, the idea that vague predicates are insensitive to sufficiently small changes, remains the main bone of contention between theories of vagueness. In this paper I examine three sources behind our ordinary belief in the tolerance principle, to establish whether any of them might give us a good reason to revise classical logic. First, I compare our understanding of tolerance in the case of precise predicates and in the case of vague predicates. While tolerance in the case of (...)
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  • On what it is to be in a quandary.Patrick Greenough - 2009 - Synthese 171 (3):399 - 408.
    A number of serious problems are raised against Crispin Wright’s quandary conception of vagueness. Two alternative conceptions of the quandary view are proposed instead. The first conception retains Wright’s thesis that, for all one knows, a verdict concerning a borderline case constitutes knowledge. However a further problem is seen to beset this conception. The second conception, in response to this further problem, does not enjoin the thesis that, for all one knows, a verdict concerning a borderline case constitutes knowledge. The (...)
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  • Is Truth Inconsistent?Patrick Greenough - 2023 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    A popular and enduring approach to the liar paradox takes the concept of truth to be inconsistent. Very roughly, truth is an inconsistent concept if the central principles of this concept (taken together) entail a contradiction, where one of these central principles is Tarski's T-schema for truth: a sentence S is true if and only if p, (where S says that p). This article targets a version of Inconsistentism which: retains classical logic and bivalence; takes the truth-predicate “is true” to (...)
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  • II—Patrick Greenough: Contextualism about Vagueness and Higher‐order Vagueness.Patrick Greenough - 2005 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 79 (1):167-190.
    To get to grips with what Shapiro does and can say about higher-order vagueness, it is first necessary to thoroughly review and evaluate his conception of (first-order) vagueness, a conception which is both rich and suggestive but, as it turns out, not so easy to stabilise. In Sections I–IV, his basic position on vagueness (see Shapiro [2003]) is outlined and assessed. As we go along, I offer some suggestions for improvement. In Sections V–VI, I review two key paradoxes of higher-order (...)
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  • Two quantum logics of indeterminacy.Samuel C. Fletcher & David E. Taylor - 2021 - Synthese 199 (5-6):13247-13281.
    We implement a recent characterization of metaphysical indeterminacy in the context of orthodox quantum theory, developing the syntax and semantics of two propositional logics equipped with determinacy and indeterminacy operators. These logics, which extend a novel semantics for standard quantum logic that accounts for Hilbert spaces with superselection sectors, preserve different desirable features of quantum logic and logics of indeterminacy. In addition to comparing the relative advantages of the two, we also explain how each logic answers Williamson’s challenge to any (...)
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  • The small improvement argument, epistemicism and incomparability.Edmund Tweedy Flanigan & John Halstead - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (2):199-219.
    :The Small Improvement Argument is the leading argument for value incomparability. All vagueness-based accounts of the SIA have hitherto assumed the truth of supervaluationism, but supervaluationism has some well-known problems. This paper explores the implications of epistemicism, a leading rival theory. We argue that if epistemicism is true, then options are comparable in small improvement cases. Moreover, even if SIAs do not exploit vagueness, if epistemicism is true, then options cannot be on a par. The epistemicist account of the SIA (...)
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  • The possibility of vagueness.Kit Fine - 2017 - Synthese 194 (10):3699-3725.
    I present a new approach to the logic and semantics of vagueness.
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  • The impossibility of vagueness.Kit Fine - 2008 - Philosophical Perspectives 22 (1):111-136.
    I wish to present a proof that vagueness is impossible. Of course, vagueness is possible; and so there must be something wrong with the proof. But it is far from clear where the error lies and, indeed, all of the assumptions upon which the proof depends are ones that have commonly been accepted. This suggests that we may have to radically alter our current conception of vagueness if we are to make proper sense of what it is.
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  • What Vagueness Consists In.Matti Eklund - 2005 - Philosophical Studies 125 (1):27-60.
    The main question of the paper is that ofwhat vagueness consists in. This question must be distinguished from other questions about vagueness discussed in the literature. It is argued that familiar accounts of vagueness for general reasons failto answer the question ofwhat vagueness consists in. A positive view is defended, according to which, roughly, the vagueness of an expression consists in it being part ofsemantic competence to accept a tolerance principle for the expression. Since tolerance principles are inconsistent, this is (...)
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  • Recent Work on Vagueness.M. Eklund - 2011 - Analysis 71 (2):352-363.
    Vagueness, as discussed in the philosophical literature, is the phenomenon that paradigmatically rears its head in the sorites paradox, one prominent version of which is: One grain of sand does not make a heap. For any n, if n grains of sand do not make a heap, then n + 1 grains of sand do not make a heap. So, ten billion grains of sand do not make a heap. It is common ground that the different versions of the sorites (...)
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  • Characterizing vagueness.Matti Eklund - 2007 - Philosophy Compass 2 (6):896–909.
    Philosophy Compass 2: 896-909. (Link to Philosophy Compass.).
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  • Ethical Vagueness and Practical Reasoning.Billy Dunaway - 2017 - Philosophical Quarterly 67 (266):38-60.
    This paper looks at the phenomenon of ethical vagueness by asking the question, how ought one to reason about what to do when confronted with a case of ethical vagueness? I begin by arguing that we must confront this question, since ethical vagueness is inescapable. I then outline one attractive answer to the question: we ought to maximize expected moral value when confronted with ethical vagueness. This idea yields determinate results for what one rationally ought to do in cases of (...)
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  • Quantum Mechanics and Metaphysical Indeterminacy.George Darby - 2010 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (2):227-245.
    There has been recent interest in formulating theories of non-representational indeterminacy. The aim of this paper is to clarify the relevance of quantum mechanics to this project. Quantum-mechanical examples of vague objects have been offered by various authors, displaying indeterminate identity, in the face of the famous Evans argument that such an idea is incoherent. It has also been suggested that the quantum-mechanical treatment of state-dependent properties exhibits metaphysical indeterminacy. In both cases it is important to consider the details of (...)
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  • What is a Truth Value And How Many Are There?Roy T. Cook - 2009 - Studia Logica 92 (2):183-201.
    Truth values are, properly understood, merely proxies for the various relations that can hold between language and the world. Once truth values are understood in this way, consideration of the Liar paradox and the revenge problem shows that our language is indefinitely extensible, as is the class of truth values that statements of our language can take – in short, there is a proper class of such truth values. As a result, important and unexpected connections emerge between the semantic paradoxes (...)
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  • Vague Comparisons.Cristian Constantinescu - 2016 - Ratio 29 (4):357-377.
    Some comparisons are hard. How should we think about such comparisons? According to John Broome, we should think about them in terms of vagueness. But the vagueness account has remained unpopular thus far. Here I try to bolster it by clarifying the notion of comparative vagueness that lies at its heart.
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  • Cuts and Clouds.J. Collins - 2012 - Analysis 72 (1):138-145.
  • Complexity, Deconstruction and Relativism.Paul Cilliers - 2005 - Theory, Culture and Society 22 (5):255-267.
    The acknowledgement that something is complex, it is argued, implies that our knowledge of it will always be limited. We cannot make complete, absolute or final claims about complex systems. Post-structuralism, and specifically deconstruction, make similar claims about knowledge in general. Arguments against deconstruction can, therefore, also be held against a critical form of complexity thinking and a defence of the view from complexity (as presented here) should take account of them. Three of these arguments are investigated: that deconstruction and (...)
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  • Just what is vagueness?Otávio Bueno & Mark Colyvan - 2012 - Ratio 25 (1):19-33.
    We argue that standard definitions of ‘vagueness’ prejudice the question of how best to deal with the phenomenon of vagueness. In particular, the usual understanding of ‘vagueness’ in terms of borderline cases, where the latter are thought of as truth-value gaps, begs the question against the subvaluational approach. According to this latter approach, borderline cases are inconsistent (i.e., glutty not gappy). We suggest that a definition of ‘vagueness’ should be general enough to accommodate any genuine contender in the debate over (...)
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  • Truth Meets Vagueness. Unifying the Semantic and the Soritical Paradoxes.Riccardo Bruni & Lorenzo Rossi - 2023 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 52 (6):1637-1671.
    Semantic and soritical paradoxes display remarkable family resemblances. For one thing, several non-classical logics have been independently applied to both kinds of paradoxes. For another, revenge paradoxes and higher-order vagueness—among the most serious problems targeting solutions to semantic and soritical paradoxes—exhibit a rather similar dynamics. Some authors have taken these facts to suggest that truth and vagueness require a unified logical framework, or perhaps that the truth predicate is itself vague. However, a common core of semantic and soritical paradoxes has (...)
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  • Higher-Order Vagueness and Borderline Nestings: A Persistent Confusion.Susanne Bobzien - 2013 - Analytic Philosophy 54 (1):1-43.
    ABSTRACT: This paper argues that the so-called paradoxes of higher-order vagueness are the result of a confusion between higher-order vagueness and the distribution of the objects of a Sorites series into extensionally non-overlapping non-empty classes.
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  • A Wittgensteinian solution to the sorites.Hanoch Ben-Yami - 2010 - Philosophical Investigations 33 (3):229-244.
    I develop a solution to the Sorites Paradox, according to which a concatenation of valid arguments need not itself be valid. I specify which chains of valid arguments are those that do not preserve validity: those that pass the vague boundary between cases where the relevant concept applies and cases where that concept does not apply. I also develop various criticisms of this solution and show why they fail; basically, they all involve a petitio at some stage. I criticise the (...)
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  • Is vagueness Sui generis ?David Barnett - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (1):5 – 34.
    On the dominant view of vagueness, if it is vague whether Harry is bald, then it is unsettled, not merely epistemically, but metaphysically, whether Harry is bald. In other words, vagueness is a type of indeterminacy. On the standard alternative, vagueness is a type of ignorance: if it is vague whether Harry is bald, then, even though it is metaphysically settled whether Harry is bald, we cannot know whether Harry is bald. On my view, vagueness is neither a type of (...)
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  • Is Vagueness Sui Generis?David Barnett - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (1):5-34.
    On the dominant view of vagueness, if it is vague whether Harry is bald, then it is unsettled, not merely epistemically, but metaphysically, whether Harry is bald. In other words, vagueness is a type of indeterminacy. On the standard alternative, vagueness is a type of ignorance: if it is vague whether Harry is bald, then, even though it is metaphysically settled whether Harry is bald, we cannot know whether Harry is bald. On my view, vagueness is neither a type of (...)
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  • The role of disagreement in semantic theory.Carl Baker - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy (1):1-18.
    Arguments from disagreement often take centre stage in debates between competing semantic theories. This paper explores the theoretical basis for arguments from disagreement and, in so doing, proposes methodological principles which allow us to distinguish between legitimate arguments from disagreement and dialectically ineffective arguments from disagreement. In the light of these principles, I evaluate Cappelen and Hawthorne's [2009] argument from disagreement against relativism, and show that it fails to undermine relativism since it is dialectically ineffective. Nevertheless, I argue that an (...)
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  • Are our concepts CONSCIOUS STATE and CONSCIOUS CREATURE vague?Michael V. Antony - 2008 - Erkenntnis 68 (2):239 - 263.
    Intuitively it has seemed to many that our concepts conscious state and conscious creature are sharp rather than vague, that they can have no borderline cases. On the other hand, many who take conscious states to be identical to, or realized by, complex physical states are committed to the vagueness of those concepts. In the paper I argue that conscious state and conscious creature are sharp by presenting four necessary conditions for conceiving borderline cases in general, and showing that some (...)
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  • A defense of indeterminate distinctness.Ken Akiba - 2014 - Synthese 191 (15):3557-3573.
    On the one hand, philosophers have presented numerous apparent examples of indeterminate individuation, i.e., examples in which two things are neither determinately identical nor determinately distinct. On the other hand, some have argued against even the coherence of the very idea of indeterminate individuation. This paper defends the possibility of indeterminate individuation against Evans’s argument and some other arguments. The Determinacy of Identity—the thesis that identical things are determinately identical—is distinguished from the Determinacy of Distinctness—the thesis that distinct things are (...)
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  • Vague Objects and Vague Identity: New Essays on Ontic Vagueness.K. Akiba (ed.) - 2014 - Dordrecht, Netherland: Springer.
    This unique anthology of new, contributed essays offers a range of perspectives on various aspects of ontic vagueness. It seeks to answer core questions pertaining to onticism, the view that vagueness exists in the world itself. The questions to be addressed include whether vague objects must have vague identity, and whether ontic vagueness has a distinctive logic, one that is not shared by semantic or epistemic vagueness. The essays in this volume explain the motivations behind onticism, such as the plausibility (...)
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  • Vagueness: A Guide.Giuseppina Ronzitti (ed.) - 2011 - Dordrecht, Netherland: Springer Verlag.
    This volume analyzes and studies how vagueness occurs and matters as a specific problem in the context of theories that are primarily about something else.
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