Vagueness

Philosophical Review 107 (4):637 (1998)

Abstract
Consider an object or property a and the predicate F. Then a is vague if there are questions of the form: Is a F? that have no yes-or-no answers. In brief, vague properties and kinds have borderline instances and composite objects have borderline constituents. I'll use the expression "borderline cases" as a covering term for both. ;Having borderline cases is compatible with precision so long as every case is either borderline F, determinately F or determinately not F. Thus, in addition to borderline cases, vagueness requires "fuzzy borders". A has fuzzy borders if there is no sharp line between a's borderline cases, a's determinate cases and a's determinate non-cases. To illustrate, loudness is vague because in a continuum of gradually increasing volume, there is no fact about where the last definite loud noise is and where the first borderline noise is. ;Actual borderline cases are not required for vagueness. Suppose actual noises are either ear-shatteringly loud or silent. Even so, loudness is vague since it could have borderline instances. Just so for objects. Suppose a table is cleanly bounded such that there is a sharp break between the table and its surroundings. Still, that table is vague since there are worlds at which it is indeterminate whether some wood molecule a is, or is not, part of that table. ;There are three views about which things can be vague. On the linguistic view, vagueness is solely a feature of expressions. On the nihilistic view, nothing is vague because vagueness is incoherent. Pitted against these views is the ontological conception of vagueness according to which borderline instances and constituents arise due to genuine indeterminacy in nature. ;My dissertation defends the ontological conception. I argue against the adequacy of the theory's rivals, disarm a damaging objection and demonstrate the causal superiority of vague events. Anyone familiar with the literature on vagueness will notice that only a subset of issues are discussed. What I offer is preliminary--I hope only to make the theory of ontological vagueness attractive enough to merit future work
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0031-8108  
DOI 10.2307/2998388
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Verbal Disputes.David J. Chalmers - 2011 - Philosophical Review 120 (4):515-566.
Semantic Plasticity and Speech Reports.Cian Dorr & John Hawthorne - 2014 - Philosophical Review 123 (3):281-338.
Mereological Nihilism and Puzzles About Material Objects.Bradley Rettler - 2018 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (4):842-868.

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