In Giuseppina Ronzitti (ed.), Vagueness: A Guide. Springer Verlag. pp. 107--121 (2011)

Diana Raffman
University of Toronto, Mississauga
Of the many families of words that are thought to be vague, so-called observational predicates may be both the most fascinating and the most confounding. Roughly, observational predicates are terms that apply to objects on the basis of how those objects appear to us perceptually speaking. ‘Red’, ‘loud’, ‘sweet’, ‘acrid’, and ‘smooth’ are good examples. Delia Graff explains that a “predicate is observational just in case its applicability to an object (given a fixed context of evaluation) depends only on the way that object appears” (2001, 3). By the same token observational predicates are, as Crispin Wright observes, terms “whose senses are taught entirely by ostension” (1976). Like other vague predicates, observational words appear to generate sorites paradoxes. Consider for example a series of 20 colored patches progressing from a clearly red one to a clearly orange one, so ordered that each patch is just noticeably different in hue from the one before. The following argument then seems forced upon us: (1) Patch #1 is red. (2) Any patch that differs only slightly in hue from a red patch is itself red. (3) Therefore patch #20 is red. Premise (2) expresses what Wright has called the tolerance of ‘red’: the application of the predicate tolerates small changes in a decisive parameter (here, hue). Of course, most vague predicates, hence most versions of the sorites, are not observational. For instance, given a series of.
Keywords vagueness  sorites  perceptual psychology
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,599
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

A Study of Concepts.Christopher Peacocke - 1992 - Studia Logica 54 (1):132-133.
Wang's Paradox.Michael Dummett - 1975 - Synthese 30 (3-4):201--32.
Perception.F. Jackson - 1979 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 41 (1):155-155.

View all 10 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Borel on the Heap.Paul Égré & Anouk Barberousse - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (S5):1043-1079.
Indiscriminability and Phenomenal Continua.Diana Raffman - 2012 - Philosophical Perspectives 26 (1):309-322.
Incommensurability in Population Ethics.Jacob Nebel - 2015 - Dissertation, University of Oxford
Engineering Differences Between Natural, Social, and Artificial Kinds.Eric T. Kerr - 2013 - In Maarten Franssen, Peter Kroes, Pieter Vermaas & Thomas A. C. Reydon (eds.), Artefact Kinds: Ontology and the Human-made World. Synthese Library.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Borderline Cases and Bivalence.Diana Raffman - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (1):1-31.
Demoting Higher-Order Vagueness.Diana Raffman - 2009 - In Sebastiano Moruzzi & Richard Dietz (eds.), Cuts and Clouds. Vaguenesss, its Nature and its Logic. Oxford University Press. pp. 509--22.
Disjunctive Predicates.David H. Sanford - 1993 - American Philosophical Quarterly 30 (2):167-1722.
Vague Predicates and Language Games.Rohit Parikh - 1996 - Theoria 11 (3):97-107.
Is Perceptual Indiscriminability Nontransitive?Diana Raffman - 2000 - Philosophical Topics 28 (1):153-75.


Added to PP index

Total views
58 ( #188,235 of 2,462,215 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #299,023 of 2,462,215 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes