Castles Built on Clouds: Vague Identity and Vague Objects

In Ken Akiba & Ali Abasnezhad (eds.), Vague Objects and Vague Identity: New Essays on Ontic Vagueness. Springer. pp. 305-326 (2014)

Harold Noonan
Nottingham University
Benjamin L. Curtis
Nottingham Trent University
Can identity itself be vague? Can there be vague objects? Does a positive answer to either question entail a positive answer to the other? In this paper we answer these questions as follows: No, No, and Yes. First, we discuss Evans’s famous 1978 argument and argue that the main lesson that it imparts is that identity itself cannot be vague. We defend the argument from objections and endorse this conclusion. We acknowledge, however, that the argument does not by itself establish either that there cannot be vague objects or that there cannot be identity statements that are indeterminate for ontic reasons. And we further acknowledge that it does not by itself establish that there cannot be identity statements that are indeterminate in virtue of the existence of vague objects. We then go on to argue that, despite this, one who believes in vague objects cannot endorse Evans’s argument. To establish this we offer supplementary arguments that show that if vague objects exist then identity is vague, and that if identity is vague then vague objects exist. Finally we draw attention to an argument parallel to that of Evans’s, but safer, which can be employed against the putative ontic indeterminacy in identity of vague objects which can be differentiated by identity-free properties.
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