Vagueness as Arbitrariness: Outline of a Theory of Vagueness

Springer (2021)
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This book proposes a new solution to the problem of vagueness. There are several different ways of addressing this problem and no clear agreement on which one is correct. The author proposes that it should be understood as the problem of explaining vague predicates in a way that systematizes six intuitions about the phenomenon and satisfies three criteria of adequacy for an ideal theory of vagueness. The third criterion, which is called the “criterion of precisification”, is the most controversial one. It is based on the intuition that a predicate is vague only if it is imprecise. The author considers some different definitions of linguistic imprecision, proposing that a predicate is imprecise if and only if there is no sharp boundary between objects to which its application yields some particular truth-value and objects to which its application does not yield that truth-value. The volume critically reviews the current theories of vagueness and proposes a new one, the Theory of Vagueness as Arbitrariness, which defines a vague predicate as an arbitrary predicate that must be precisified in order to contribute to a sentence that has truth-conditions. The main advantages of this theory over the current alternatives are that it satisfies all three criteria and systematizes the relevant intuitions.



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Theories of Vagueness

In this chapter, I consider some of the main theories of vagueness: Three-Valued Theory, Supervaluationism, Degrees-of-Truth Theory, Epistemicism, Incoherentism and Contextualism. I briefly argue that all fail to solve the problem of vagueness as interpreted in Chap. 2. I claim that none of them sat... see more

Imprecise Predicates

In this chapter, I consider some different definitions of the linguistic conception of imprecision, proposing that a predicate is imprecise if and only if there is no sharp boundary between objects to which its application yields some particular truth-value and objects to which its application does ... see more

Problem of Vagueness

I present and motivate a more precise formulation of the problem of vagueness. This formulation has two important elements. First, I defend three criteria of adequacy for an ideal theory of vagueness, which I call the “criterion of sorites”, “criterion of coherence” and “criterion of precisification... see more


This is an introductory chapter. I present the sorites paradox in a very informal way and explain why it matters to philosophy. I then make some introductory remarks about how I understand the problem of vagueness. Both the sorites paradox and the problem of vagueness will be more precisely formulat... see more

Vagueness as Arbitrariness

In this chapter, I present the Theory of Vagueness as Arbitrariness . In Sect. 5.1 I consider some minimal constraints on the use of vague predicates. I argue that the principle of tolerance should not be considered a constraint, and that the clear-case constraint should be replaced by the ideal-cas... see more

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Author's Profile

Sagid Salles
Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz

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