Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||Let us begin with a word about what our topic is not. There is a familiar kind of argument for an epistemic view of vagueness in which one claims that denying bivalence introduces logical puzzles and complications that are not easily overcome. One then points out that, by ‘going epistemic’, one can preserve bivalence—and thus evade the complications. James Cargile presented an early version of this kind of argument [Cargile 1969], and Tim Williamson seemingly makes a similar point in his paper, ‘Vagueness and Ignorance’, when he says that ‘classical logic and semantics are vastly superior to . . . alternatives in simplicity, power, past success, and integration with theories in other domains’, and contends that this provides some grounds for not treating vagueness in this way [Williamson 1996: 279].2 Obviously an argument of this kind invites a rejoinder about the puzzles and complications that the epistemic view introduces. Here are two quick examples. First, postulating, as the epistemicist does, linguistic facts no speaker of the language could possibly know, and which have no causal link to actual or possible speech behaviour, is accompanied by a litany of disadvantages—as the reader can imagine. Second, since Williamson’s preferred explanation of our failure to know the exact boundary of vague predicates is precisely that speakers don’t know the relevant linguistic facts—and this because they might be changing constantly, in subtle ways—we risk preserving classical logic at the cost of giving up its usefulness. If this epistemic view is correct, then for all we know, every supposedly valid argument might involve a fallacy of equivocation between what the words in the premises mean and, milliseconds later, what the (homophonous but not known-to-be synonymous) words in the conclusion mean. It looks, then, like there will be complexities whichever way one goes. In which case, whether this familiar kind of argument ends up being compelling depends very much on detailed issues concerning which complications are introduced by which logics for vagueness..|
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