Vagueness: A minimal theory

Mind 112 (446):235-281 (2003)

Abstract

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.

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Patrick Greenough
University of St. Andrews

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Citations of this work

A Theory of Metaphysical Indeterminacy.Elizabeth Barnes & J. Robert G. Williams - 2011 - In Karen Bennett & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics volume 6. Oxford University Press. pp. 103-148.
Ambiguity.Adam Sennet - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Neutralism and Conceptual Engineering.Patrick Greenough - 2019 - In Alexis Burgess, Herman Cappelen & David Plunkett (eds.), Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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