Degrees of belief, expected and actual

Synthese 194 (10):3789-3800 (2017)
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A framework of degrees of belief, or credences, is often advocated to model our uncertainty about how things are or will turn out. It has also been employed in relation to the kind of uncertainty or indefiniteness that arises due to vagueness, such as when we consider “a is F” in a case where a is borderline F. How should we understand degrees of belief when we take into account both these phenomena? Can the right kind of theory of the semantics of vagueness help us answer this? Nicholas J.J. Smith defends a unified account, according to which “degree of belief is expected truth-value”; this builds on his Degree Theory of vagueness that offers an account of the semantics and logic of vagueness in terms of degrees of truth. I argue that his account fails. Degree theories of vagueness do not help us understand degrees of belief and, I argue, we shouldn’t expect a theory of vagueness to yield a detailed uniform story about this. The route from the semantics to psychological states needn’t be straightforward or uniform even before we attempt to combine vagueness with probabilistic uncertainty



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Rosanna Keefe
University of Sheffield

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References found in this work

Truth and probability.Frank Ramsey - 2010 - In Antony Eagle (ed.), Philosophy of Probability: Contemporary Readings. New York: Routledge. pp. 52-94.
Vagueness, truth and logic.Kit Fine - 1975 - Synthese 30 (3-4):265-300.
General semantics.David K. Lewis - 1970 - Synthese 22 (1-2):18--67.
Theories of Vagueness.Rosanna Keefe - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Vagueness and Degrees of Truth.Nicholas J. J. Smith - 2008 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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