David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In Petr Cintula, Christian Fermuller, Lluis Godo & Petr Hajek (eds.), Reasoning Under Vagueness. College Publications (forthcoming)
In everyday language, we can call someone ‘consistent’ to say that they’re reliable, that they don’t change over time. Someone who’s consistently on time is always on time. Similarly, we can call someone ‘inconsistent’ to say the opposite: that they’re changeable, mercurial. A student who receives inconsistent grades on her tests throughout a semester has performed better on some than on others. With our philosophy hats on, though, we mean something quite different by ‘consistent’ and ‘inconsistent’. Something consistent is simply something that’s not contradictory. There’s nothing contradictory about being on time, so anyone who’s on time at all is consistently on time, in this sense of ‘consistent’. And only a student with an unusual teacher can receive inconsistent grades on her tests throughout a semester, in this sense of ‘inconsistent’. In this paper, I’ll use ‘consistent’ and ‘inconsistent’ in their usual philosophical sense: to mark the second distinction. By contrast, I’ll use ‘constant’ and ‘inconstant’ to mark the first distinction. And although we can, should, and do sharply distinguish the two distinctions, they are related. In particular, they have both been used to account for some otherwise puzzling phenomena surrounding vague language. According to some theorists, vague language is inconstant. According to others, it is inconsistent. I do not propose here to settle these differences; only to get a bit clearer about what the differences amount to, and to show what it would take to settle..
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