Higher-order Vagueness, Radical Unclarity, and Absolute Agnosticism

Philosophers' Imprint 10:1-30 (2010)
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Abstract

The paper presents a new theory of higher-order vagueness. This theory is an improvement on current theories of vagueness in that it (i) describes the kind of borderline cases relevant to the Sorites paradox, (ii) retains the ‘robustness’ of vague predicates, (iii) introduces a notion of higher-order vagueness that is compositional, but (iv) avoids the paradoxes of higher-order vagueness. The theory’s central building-blocks: Borderlinehood is defined as radical unclarity. Unclarity is defined by means of competent, rational, informed speakers (‘CRISPs’) whose competence, etc., is indexed to the scope of the unclarity operator. The unclarity is radical since it eliminates clear cases of unclarity and, that is, clear borderline cases. This radical unclarity leads to a (bivalence-compatible, non-intuitionist) absolute agnosticism about the semantic status of all borderline cases. The corresponding modal system would be a non-normal variation on S4M.

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Susanne Bobzien
Oxford University

Citations of this work

Topological Models of Columnar Vagueness.Thomas Mormann - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (2):693 - 716.
Ignorance of ignorance.Kit Fine - 2018 - Synthese 195 (9):4031-4045.
I—Columnar Higher-Order Vagueness, or Vagueness is Higher-Order Vagueness.Susanne Bobzien - 2015 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 89 (1):61-87.
Sorites paradox.Dominic Hyde - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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