Solving the Heap

Synthese 153 (2):171 - 186 (2006)
The present offers a pragmatic solution of the Heap Paradox, based on the idea that vague predicates are “indexical” in the sense that their denotation does not only depend on the context of their use, but it is a function of the context. The analysis is based on the following three claims. The borderlines of vague terms are undetermined in the sense that though they may be determined in some contexts, they may differ from one context to the next. Vagueness serves the important communicative function, enabling speakers to identify entities as objects (as things we can talk about) in terms of some quantitative differences between the “object” and its background in the context. Thus, in some contexts we can naturally partition the group of men uniquely so as to distinguish the bald from the not-bald. Whether a man with a given hair number is among the bald in a given context depends not only on his own hair number but also on the hair number of others in that context. This provides the background for the claim that when we assert that John is bald, we presuppose that there is a unique demarcation to the bald in that context. I consider the truth of the Paradox’s statements in contexts where the presupposition is true and in contexts where it is false. The analysis yields that the contradiction is avoided because though each of the statements is often true, never are all the sentences in the Paradox true together.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
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