Vagueness provides the first comprehensive examination of a topic of increasing importance in metaphysics and the philosophy of logic and language. Timothy Williamson traces the history of this philosophical problem from discussions of the heap paradox in classical Greece to modern formal approaches such as fuzzy logic. He illustrates the problems with views which have taken the position that standard logic and formal semantics do not apply to vague language, and defends the controversial realistic view that vagueness is (...) a kind of ignorance--that there really is a grain of sand whose removal turns a heap into a non-heap, but we cannot know which one it is. (shrink)
This is a paper about the nature of metaphysical laws and their relation to the phenomenon of vagueness. Metaphysical laws are introduced as analogous to natural laws, and metaphysical indeterminism is modeled on causal indeterminacy. This kind of indeterminacy is then put to work in developing a novel theory of vagueness and a solution to the sorites paradox.
In "Sider on Existence" (Nous, 2007), David Liebesman and Matti Eklund argue that my "indeterminacy argument", according to which quantifiers are never vague, clashes with my "naturalness argument", according to which quantifiers "carve at the joints". There is, I argue, no outright inconsistency. But Liebesman and Eklund have shown that my arguments are not as independent as it may have appeared. The best defense of the indeterminacy argument is via the naturalness argument.
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. (shrink)
On two standard views of vagueness, vagueness as to whether Harry is bald entails that nobody knows whether Harry is bald—either because vagueness is a type of missing truth, and so there is nothing to know, or because vagueness is a type of ignorance, and so even though there is a truth of the matter, nobody can know what that truth is. Vagueness as to whether Harry is bald does entail that nobody clearly knows that (...) Harry is bald and that nobody clearly knows that Harry is not bald. But it does not entail that nobody knows that Harry is bald or that nobody knows that Harry is not bald. Hence, the two standard views of vagueness are mistaken. (shrink)
In VAGUENESS AND DEGREES OF TRUTH, Nicholas Smith develops a new theory of vagueness: fuzzy plurivaluationism. -/- A predicate is said to be VAGUE if there is no sharply defined boundary between the things to which it applies and the things to which it does not apply. For example, 'heavy' is vague in a way that 'weighs over 20 kilograms' is not. A great many predicates -- both in everyday talk, and in a wide array of theoretical vocabularies, (...) from law to psychology to engineering -- are vague. -/- Smith argues, based on a detailed account of the defining features of vagueness, that an accurate theory of vagueness must involve the idea that truth comes in degrees. The core idea of degrees of truth is that while some sentences are true and some are false, others possess intermediate truth values: they are truer than the false sentences, but not as true as the true ones. Degree-theoretic treatments of vagueness have been proposed in the past, but all have encountered significant objections. In light of these, Smith develops a new type of degree theory. Its innovations include a definition of logical consequence that allows the derivation of a classical consequence relation from the degree-theoretic semantics, a unified account of degrees of belief and their relationships with degrees of truth and subjective probabilities, and the incorporation of semantic indeterminacy -- the view that vague statements need not have unique meanings -- into the degree-theoretic framework. -/- As well as being essential reading for those working on vagueness, Smith's book provides an excellent entry-point for newcomers to the area -- both from elsewhere in philosophy, and from computer science, logic and engineering. It contains a thorough introduction to existing theories of vagueness and to the requisite logical background. (shrink)
This paper investigates the way that linguistic expressions influence vagueness, focusing on the interpretation of the positive (unmarked) form of gradable adjectives. I begin by developing a semantic analysis of the positive form of ‘relative’ gradable adjectives, expanding on previous proposals by further motivating a semantic basis for vagueness and by precisely identifying and characterizing the division of labor between the compositional and contextual aspects of its interpretation. I then introduce a challenge to the analysis from the class (...) of ‘absolute’ gradable adjectives: adjectives that are demonstrably gradable, but which have positive forms that relate objects to maximal or minimal degrees, and do not give rise to vagueness. I argue that the truth conditional difference between relative and absolute adjectives in the positive form stems from the interaction of lexical semantic properties of gradable adjectives—the structure of the scales they use—and a general constraint on interpretive economy that requires truth conditions to be computed on the basis of conventional meaning to the extent possible, allowing for context dependent truth conditions only as a last resort. (shrink)
Stewart Shapiro's ambition in Vagueness in Context is to develop a comprehensive account of the meaning, function, and logic of vague terms in an idealized version of a natural language like English. It is a commonplace that the extensions of vague terms vary according to their context: a person can be tall with respect to male accountants and not tall (even short) with respect to professional basketball players. The key feature of Shapiro's account is that the extensions of vague (...) terms also vary in the course of conversations and that, in some cases, a competent speaker can go either way without sinning against the meaning of the words or the non-linguistic facts. As Shapiro sees it, vagueness is a linguistic phenomenon, due to the kinds of languages that humans speak; but vagueness is also due to the world we find ourselves in, as we try to communicate features of it to each other. (shrink)
In this paper, I critically discuss one of the more influential arguments for mereological universalism, what I will call ‘the Vagueness Argument’. I argue that a premise of the Vagueness Argument is not well supported and that there are at least two good reasons for thinking that the premise in question is false.
Vagueness is currently the subject of vigorous debate in the philosophy of logic and language. Vague terms -- such as 'tall', 'red', 'bald', and 'tadpole' -- have borderline cases ; and they lack well-defined extensions. The phenomenon of vagueness poses a fundamental challenge to classical logic and semantics, which assumes that propositions are either true or false and that extensions are determinate.This anthology collects for the first time the most important papers in the field. After a substantial introduction (...) that surveys the field, the essays form four groups, starting with some historically notable pieces. The 1970s saw an explosion of interest in vagueness, and the second group of essays reprints classic papers from this period. The following group of papers represent the best recent work on the logic and semantics of vagueness. The essays in the final group are contributions to the continuing debate about vague objects and vague identity. (shrink)
Roy Sorenson offers a unique exploration of an ancient problem: vagueness. Did Buddha become a fat man in one second? Is there a tallest short giraffe? According to Sorenson's epistemicist approach, the answers are yes! Although vagueness abounds in the way the world is divided, Sorenson argues that the divisions are sharp; yet we often do not know where they are. Written in Sorenson'e usual inventive and amusing style, this book offers original insight on language and logic, the (...) way world is, and our understanding of it. (shrink)
This paper deals with the truth-Conditions and the logic for vague languages. The use of supervaluations and of classical logic is defended; and other approaches are criticized. The truth-Conditions are extended to a language that contains a definitely-Operator and that is subject to higher order vagueness.
Composite materialism, as I will understand it, is the view that human persons are composite material objects. This paper develops and investigates an argument, The Vague Singulars Argument, for the falsity of composite materialism. We shall see that cogent or not, the Vague Singulars Argument has philosophically significant ramifications.
Consider an object or property a and the predicate F. Then a is vague if there are questions of the form: Is a F? that have no yes-or-no answers. In brief, vague properties and kinds have borderline instances and composite objects have borderline constituents. I'll use the expression "borderline cases" as a covering term for both. ;Having borderline cases is compatible with precision so long as every case is either borderline F, determinately F or determinately not F. Thus, in addition (...) to borderline cases, vagueness requires "fuzzy borders". A has fuzzy borders if there is no sharp line between a's borderline cases, a's determinate cases and a's determinate non-cases. To illustrate, loudness is vague because in a continuum of gradually increasing volume, there is no fact about where the last definite loud noise is and where the first borderline noise is. ;Actual borderline cases are not required for vagueness. Suppose actual noises are either ear-shatteringly loud or silent. Even so, loudness is vague since it could have borderline instances. Just so for objects. Suppose a table is cleanly bounded such that there is a sharp break between the table and its surroundings. Still, that table is vague since there are worlds at which it is indeterminate whether some wood molecule a is, or is not, part of that table. ;There are three views about which things can be vague. On the linguistic view, vagueness is solely a feature of expressions. On the nihilistic view, nothing is vague because vagueness is incoherent. Pitted against these views is the ontological conception of vagueness according to which borderline instances and constituents arise due to genuine indeterminacy in nature. ;My dissertation defends the ontological conception. I argue against the adequacy of the theory's rivals, disarm a damaging objection and demonstrate the causal superiority of vague events. Anyone familiar with the literature on vagueness will notice that only a subset of issues are discussed. What I offer is preliminary--I hope only to make the theory of ontological vagueness attractive enough to merit future work. (shrink)
When the United States Supreme Court used the expression “with all deliberate speed” in the case Brown v. Board of Education, it did so presumably because of its vagueness. Many jurists, economists, linguists, and philosophers accordingly assume that vagueness can be strategically used to one’s advantage. Roy Sorensen has cast doubt on this assumption by strictly differentiating between vagueness and generality. Indeed, most arguments for the value of vagueness go through only when vagueness is confused (...) with generality. Sorensen claims that vagueness – correctly understood – has no function in law inter alia because judges lie systematically when confronted with borderline cases. I argue that both claims are wrong. First, judges do not need to resort to lying when adjudicating borderline cases, and even if they had to, this would not render vagueness useless. Secondly, vagueness has several important functions in law such as the reduction of decision costs and the delegation of power. Although many functions commonly attributed to the vagueness of legal expressions are in fact due to their generality or other semantic properties, vagueness has at least these two functions in law. (shrink)
The Stoics’ theory of kataleptic impressions looks different once we attend to their analysis of the Sorites paradox. In defending this view, I reject the long-standing assumption that the Stoics develop their theory by focusing on sensory impressions. The Stoic approach to vagueness shows, for example, that non-sensory impressions can be seemingly indistinguishable by belonging to a series. It also draws attention to an understudied dimension of Stoic theory: in aiming to assent only to kataleptic impressions, one aims to (...) avoid not only assent to false impressions but also assent to those that are neither true nor false. (shrink)
The aim of this essay is to argue that, if a robust form of moral realism is true, then moral vagueness is ontic vagueness. The argument is by elimination: I show that neither semantic nor epistemic approaches to moral vagueness are satisfactory.
We derive a probabilistic account of the vagueness and context-sensitivity of scalar adjectives from a Bayesian approach to communication and interpretation. We describe an iterated-reasoning architecture for pragmatic interpretation and illustrate it with a simple scalar implicature example. We then show how to enrich the apparatus to handle pragmatic reasoning about the values of free variables, explore its predictions about the interpretation of scalar adjectives, and show how this model implements Edgington’s Vagueness: a reader, 1997) account of the (...) sorites paradox, with variations. The Bayesian approach has a number of explanatory virtues: in particular, it does not require any special-purpose machinery for handling vagueness, and it is integrated with a promising new approach to pragmatics and other areas of cognitive science. (shrink)
Vagueness is the study of concepts that admit borderline cases. The epistemology of vagueness concerns attitudes we should have towards propositions we know to be borderline. On this basis Andrew Bacon develops a new theory of vagueness in which vagueness is fundamentally a property of propositions, explicated in terms of its role in thought.
Stewart Shapiro's aim in Vagueness in Context is to develop both a philosophical and a formal, model-theoretic account of the meaning, function, and logic of vague terms in an idealized version of a natural language like English. It is a commonplace that the extensions of vague terms vary with such contextual factors as the comparison class and paradigm cases. A person can be tall with respect to male accountants and not tall with respect to professional basketball players. The main (...) feature of Shapiro's account is that the extensions of vague terms also vary in the course of a conversation, even after the external contextual features, such as the comparison class, are fixed. A central thesis is that in some cases, a competent speaker of the language can go either way in the borderline area of a vague predicate without sinning against the meaning of the words and the non-linguistic facts. Shapiro calls this open texture, borrowing the term from Friedrich Waismann.The formal model theory has a similar structure to the supervaluationist approach, employing the notion of a sharpening of a base interpretation. In line with the philosophical account, however, the notion of super-truth does not play a central role in the development of validity. The ultimate goal of the technical aspects of the work is to delimit a plausible notion of logical consequence, and to explore what happens with the sorites paradox.Later chapters deal with what passes for higher-order vagueness - vagueness in the notions of 'determinacy' and 'borderline' - and with vague singular terms, or objects. In each case, the philosophical picture is developed by extending and modifying the original account. This is followed with modifications to the model theory and the central meta-theorems.As Shapiro sees it, vagueness is a linguistic phenomenon, due to the kinds of languages that humans speak. But vagueness is also due to the world we find ourselves in, as we try to communicate features of it to each other. Vagueness is also due to the kinds of beings we are. There is no need to blame the phenomenon on any one of those aspects. (shrink)
Vague existence can seem like the worst kind of vagueness in the world, or seem to be an entirely unintelligible notion. This bad reputation is based upon the rumour that if there is vague existence then there are non-existent objects. But the rumour is false: the modest brand of vague existence entailed by certain metaphysical theories of composition does not deserve its bad reputation.
The goal of this paper is a comprehensive analysis of basic reasoning patterns that are characteristic of vague predicates. The analysis leads to rigorous reconstructions of the phenomena within formal systems. Two basic features are dealt with. One is tolerance: the insensitivity of predicates to small changes in the objects of predication (a one-increment of a walking distance is a walking distance). The other is the existence of borderline cases. The paper shows why these should be treated as different, though (...) related phenomena. Tolerance is formally reconstructed within a proposed framework of contextual logic, leading to a solution of the Sorites paradox. Borderline-vagueness is reconstructed using certain modality operators; the set-up provides an analysis of higher order vagueness and a derivation of scales of degrees for the property in question. (shrink)
In this paper I develop a framework for understanding ontic vagueness. The project of the paper is two-fold. I first outline a definitional account of ontic vagueness – one that I think is an improvement on previous attempts because it remains neutral on other, independent metaphysical issues. I then develop one potential manifestation of that basic definitional structure. This is a more robust (and much less neutral) account which gives a fully classical explication of ontic vagueness via (...) modal concepts. The overarching aim is to systematically investigate the puzzling question of what exactly it could be for the world itself to be vague. (shrink)
It is natural to think of precise probabilities as being special cases of imprecise probabilities, the special case being when one’s lower and upper probabilities are equal. I argue, however, that it is better to think of the two models as representing two different aspects of our credences, which are often vague to some degree. I show that by combining the two models into one model, and understanding that model as a model of vague credence, a natural interpretation arises that (...) suggests a hypothesis concerning how we can improve the accuracy of aggregate credences. I present empirical results in support of this hypothesis. I also discuss how this modeling interpretation of imprecise probabilities bears upon a philosophical objection that has been raised against them, the so-called inductive learning problem. (shrink)
Ted Sider has famously argued that existence, in the unrestricted sense of ontology, cannot be vague, as long as vagueness is modeled by means of precisifications. The first section of Chapter 9 exposes some controversial assumptions underlying Sider’s alleged reductio of vague existence. The upshot of the discussion is that, although existence cannot be vague, it can be super-vague, i.e. higher-order vague, for all orders. The second section develops and defends a novel framework, dubbed negative supervaluationary semantics, which makes (...) room for the possibility of super-vague existence. (shrink)
The conceptual spaces approach has recently emerged as a novel account of concepts. Its guiding idea is that concepts can be represented geometrically, by means of metrical spaces. While it is generally recognized that many of our concepts are vague, the question of how to model vagueness in the conceptual spaces approach has not been addressed so far, even though the answer is far from straightforward. The present paper aims to fill this lacuna.
In this paper I explore the implications of moral vagueness (viz., the vagueness of moral predicates) for non-naturalist metaethical theories like those recently championed by Shafer-Landau, Parfit, and others. I characterise non-naturalism in terms of its commitment to 7 theses: Cognitivism, Correspondence, Atomism, Objectivism, Supervenience, Non-reductivism, and Rationalism. I start by offering a number of reasons for thinking that moral predicates are vague in the same way in which ‘red’, ‘tall’, and ‘heap’ are said to be. I then (...) argue that the moral non-naturalist seeking to countenance moral vagueness faces a dilemma: are moral properties vague, or perfectly sharp? On either horn of the dilemma, serious problems arise for some of the central tenets of non-naturalism: vague properties seem to threaten Objectivism, Supervenience, and Non-reductivism; on the other hand, sharp properties raise problems for Supervenience and Rationalism. The difficulties on each horn of the dilemma are real, and while they may not be insuperable, they do, at the very least, drastically limit the things non-naturalists can consistently say about moral properties, facts, and reasons. (shrink)
In his note "can there be vague objects?" ("analysis", 1978), Gareth evans presents a purported proof that there can be no vague identity statements. Some readers think that evans endorses the proof and its false conclusion. Not so. His point is that those who put vagueness in the world, Rather than in language, Will have no way to fault the proof and no way to escape the false conclusion.
In this paper we advance a new solution to Quinn’s puzzle of the self-torturer. The solution falls directly out of an application of the principle of instrumental reasoning to what we call “vague projects”, i.e., projects whose completion does not occur at any particular or definite point or moment. The resulting treatment of the puzzle extends our understanding of instrumental rationality to projects and ends that cannot be accommodated by orthodox theories of rational choice.
David Lewis (1986) criticizes moderate views of composition on the grounds that a restriction on composition must be vague, and vague composition leads, via a precisificational theory of vagueness, to an absurd vagueness of existence. I show how to resist this argument. Unlike the usual resistance, however, I do not jettison precisificational views of vagueness. Instead, I blur the connection between composition and existence that Lewis assumes. On the resulting view, in troublesome cases of vague composition, there (...) is an object, which definitely exists, about which it is vague whether the relevant borderline parts compose it. (shrink)
Most literature on vagueness deals with the phenomenon as applied to predicates. On the contrary, even the idea of vague connectives seems to be taken as an oxymoron. The goal of this article is to propose an understanding of vague logical connectives based on vague quantifiers. The main idea is that the phenomenon of vagueness translates to connectives in terms of the property of Abnormality. I also argue that Prior’s Tonk can, according to this approach, be considered a (...) vague connective. In order to do so, I provide a sound and complete interpretation for it, based on Strict-Tolerant semantics, in which Tonk has a non-normal truth-table. (shrink)
Most expressions in natural language are vague. But what is the best semantic treatment of terms like 'heap', 'red' and 'child'? And what is the logic of arguments involving this kind of vague expression? These questions are receiving increasing philosophical attention, and in this book, first published in 2000, Rosanna Keefe explores the questions of what we should want from an account of vagueness and how we should assess rival theories. Her discussion ranges widely and comprehensively over the main (...) theories of vagueness and their supporting arguments, and she offers a powerful and original defence of a form of supervaluationism, a theory that requires almost no deviation from standard logic yet can accommodate the lack of sharp boundaries to vague predicates and deal with the paradoxes of vagueness in a methodologically satisfying way. Her study will be of particular interest to readers in philosophy of language and of mind, philosophical logic, epistemology and metaphysics. (shrink)
In this paper, I start by showing that sorites paradoxes are inclosure paradoxes. That is, they fit the Inclosure Scheme which characterizes the paradoxes of self-reference. Given that sorites and self-referential paradoxes are of the same kind, they should have the same kind of solution. The rest of the paper investigates what a dialetheic solution to sorites paradoxes is like, connections with a dialetheic solution to the self-referential paradoxes, and related issues—especially so called "higher order" vagueness.
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 this distinctive sort of indefiniteness? Conversely, are there reasons for denying that there is indefiniteness of this sort? (shrink)
Supervaluationism is a well known theory of vagueness. Subvaluationism is a less well known theory of vagueness. But these theories cannot be taken apart, for they are in a relation of duality that can be made precise. This paper provides an introduction to the subvaluationist theory of vagueness in connection to its dual, supervaluationism. A survey on the supervaluationist theory can be found in the Compass paper of Keefe (2008); our presentation of the theory in this paper (...) will be short to get rapidly into the logical issues. This paper is relatively self-contained. A modest background on propositional modal logic is, though not strictly necessary, advisable. The reader might find useful the Compass papers Kracht (2011) and Negri (2011) (though these papers cover issues of more complexity than what is demanded to follow this paper). (shrink)
The two dominant theories of consciousness argue it appeared in living beings either suddenly, or gradually. Both theories face problems. The solution is the realization that a foundational consciousness was always here, yet varying conscious states were not, and appeared gradually. Michael Tye explores this idea and the key questions it raises.
According to an old and attractive view, vagueness must be eliminated before semantic notions — truth, implication, and so on — may be applied. This view was accepted by Frege, but is rarely defended nowadays.1 This..
Vagueness is given a philosophically neutral definition in terms of an epistemic notion of tolerance. Such a notion is intended to capture the thesis that vague terms draw no known boundary across their range of signification and contrasts sharply with the semantic notion of tolerance given by Wright (1975, 1976). This allows us to distinguish vagueness from superficially similar but distinct phenomena such as semantic incompleteness. Two proofs are given which show that vagueness qua epistemic tolerance and (...)vagueness qua borderline cases (when properly construed to exclude terms which are stipulated to give rise to borderline cases) are in fact conceptually equivalent dimensions of vagueness, contrary to what might initially be expected. It is also argued that the common confusion of tolerance and epistemic tolerance has skewed the vagueness debate in favour of indeterminist over epistemic conceptions of vagueness. Clearing up that confusion provides an indirect argument in favour of epistemicism. Finally, given the equation of vagueness with epistemic tolerance, it is shown that there must be radical higher-order vagueness, contrary to what many authors have argued. (shrink)
In my book Four-dimensionalism (chapter 4, section 9), I argued that fourdimensionalism – the doctrine of temporal parts – follows from several other premises, chief among which is the premise that existence is never vague. Kathrin Koslicki (preceding article) claims that the argument fails since its crucial premise is unsupported, and is dialectically inappropriate to assume in the context of arguing for four-dimensionalism. Since the relationship between four-dimensionalism and the non-vagueness of existence is not perfectly transparent, I think the (...) argument would retain some interest even if the premise were wholly unsupported; it would show that anyone who accepts that premise (which seems reasonable enough to me though perhaps not to others) must accept four-dimensionalism. Still, Koslicki is right that my defense of the premise was thin. So I will now try to do better. The new defense will have further premises, which could ultimately be rejected by opponents of four-dimensionalism, and so the argument retains the form: anyone who thinks certain things (which seem reasonable enough to me though perhaps not to others) must believe four-dimensionalism. But that’s metaphysics for you. I should also say that, in addition to the material on vague existence, there is more in Koslicki’s excellent paper which I cannot discuss here. I agree with much of it;1 and where we disagree there are formidable challenges, some of which I hope to address in the future. (shrink)
Words, languages, symphonies, fictional characters, games, and recipes are plausibly abstract artifacts— entities that have no spatial location and that are deliberately brought into existence as a result of creative acts. Many accept that composition is unrestricted: for every plurality of material objects, there is a material object that is the sum of those objects. These two views may seem entirely unrelated. I will argue that the most influential argument against restricted composition—the vagueness argument—doubles as an argument that there (...) can be no abstract artifacts. There is no way to resist the vagueness argument against abstract artifacts that does not also undermine the vagueness argument against restricted composition. (shrink)
Vagueness leads to indeterminacies in the application of the law in many cases. This book responds to the challenges that those indeterminacies pose to a theory of law and adjudication. The book puts controversies in legal theory in a new light, using arguments in the philosophy of language to offer an explanation of the unclarities that arise in borderline cases for the application of vague expressions. But the author also argues that vagueness is a feature of law, and (...) not merely of legal language: the linguistic and non-linguistic resources of the law are commonly vague. These claims have consequences that have seemed unacceptable to many legal theorists. Because law is vague, judges cannot always decide cases by giving effect to the legal rights and obligations of the parties. Judges cannot always treat like cases alike. The ideal of the rule of law seems to be unattainable. The book offers a new articulation of the content of that ideal. It argues that the pursuit of justice and the rule of law do not depend on the idea that the requirements of the law are determinate in all cases. The resolution of unresolved disputes is an important and independent duty of judges –a duty that is itself an essential component of the ideal of the rule of law. (shrink)
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 describe three additional empirical studies that investigate further claims in the literature on vagueness: the hypothesis that speakers confuse ‘P’ with ‘definitely P’, the relative persuasiveness of different formulations of the inductive premise of the Sorites, and the interaction of vague predicates with three different forms of negation. (shrink)
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.
An argument is offered for this conditional: If our current concept conscious state is sharp rather than vague, and also correct , then common versions of familiar metaphysical theories of consciousness are false--?namely versions of the identity theory, functionalism, and dualism that appeal to complex physical or functional properties in identification, realization, or correlation. Reasons are also given for taking seriously the claim that our current concept conscious state is sharp. The paper ends by surveying the theoretical options left open (...) by the concept's sharpness and the truth of the conditional argued for in the paper. (shrink)
Book synopsis: Vagueness is currently the subject of vigorous debate in the philosophy of logic and language. Vague terms-such as "tall", "red", "bald", and "tadpole"—have borderline cases ; and they lack well-defined extensions. The phenomenon of vagueness poses a fundamental challenge to classical logic and semantics, which assumes that propositions are either true or false and that extensions are determinate. Another striking problem to which vagueness gives rise is the sorites paradox. If you remove one grain from (...) a heap of sand, surely you must be left with a heap. Yet apply this principle repeatedly as you remove grains one by one, and you end up, absurdly, with a solitary grain that counts as a heap. This anthology collects papers in the field. After an introduction that surveys the field, the essays form four groups, starting with some historically notable pieces. The 1970s saw an explosion of interest in vagueness, and the second group of essays reprints classic papers from this period. The following group of papers represent current work on the logic and semantics of vagueness. The essays in the final group are contributions to the continuing debate about vague objects and vague identity. (shrink)
The paper is divided into two parts, each with subsections. In the first part, I shall discuss some matters that have been extensively examined by Kim, namely what the basic types of supervenience are and how they are pairwise logically related; in the course of this discussion, I shall distinguish a weak from a strong notion of global supervenience. In the second part, I shall examine supervenience in a context in which Kim has not: I shall attempt to solve a (...) puzzle that arises when we consider supervenience relations involving vague properties and/or predicates. This is, of course, not a special case of property/predicate supervenience, but the typical one: for virtually all properties/predicates are vague. The two parts of the paper stand independently of each other. Of the discussion in the first part, essentially all that is presupposed in the second is the notion of “world strong supervenience” defined in section 1 of part I. (shrink)
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 is extended to cover vagueness of many-place predicates, of properties and relations, and of objects. Some of the most important advantages of the definition are that it captures the intuitions which motivate the thought that vague predicates are tolerant, without leading to contradiction, and that it yields a clear understanding of the relationships between higher-order vagueness, sorites susceptibility, blurred boundaries, and borderline cases. The most notable consequence of the definition is that the correct theory of vagueness must countenance degrees of truth. (shrink)