Theoria (2021)

David Lanius
Karlsruhe Institute Of Technology
Classically, vagueness has been considered something bad. It leads to the Sorites paradox, borderline cases, and the (apparent) violation of the logical principle of bivalence. Nevertheless, there have always been scholars claiming that vagueness is also valuable. Many have pointed out that we could not communicate as successfully or efficiently as we do if we would not use vague language. Indeed, we often use vague terms when we could have used more precise ones instead. Many scholars (implicitly or explicitly) assume that we do so because their vagueness has a positive function. But how and in what sense can vagueness be said to have a function or value? This paper is an attempt to give an answer to this question. After clarifying the concepts of vagueness and value, it examines nine arguments for the value of vagueness, which have been discussed in the literature. The (negative) result of this examination is, however, that there is not much reason to believe that vagueness has a value or positive function at all because none of the arguments is conclusive. A tenth argument that has not been discussed so far seems most promising but rests on a solely strategic notion of function.
Keywords Vagueness  Borderline Cases  Sorites Paradox  Value of Vagueness
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Reprint years 2021
DOI 10.1111/theo.12313
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