Vagueness and inductive molding

Synthese 154 (1):147 - 172 (2007)
Vagueness is epistemic, according to some. Vagueness is ontological, according to others. This article deploys what I take to be a compromise position. Predicates are coined in specific contexts for specific purposes, but these limited practices do not automatically fix the extensions of predicates over the domain of all objects. The linguistic community using the predicate has rarely considered, much less decided, all questions that might arise about the predicate’s extension. To this extent, the ontological view is correct. But a predicate that applies in some contexts can be reasonably extended to other contexts where it is initially vague. This process of development approximates the cognitive remedy for vagueness that the epistemic view prescribes. The process is piecemeal and inductive, akin to what von Wright described as the molding of concepts. Vagueness cannot be understood apart from the backdrop of classification, for vagueness is classification gone awry. Hence these pages explore the classification of particulars, both its clear successes and vague failures. How we classify unique particulars is the theme of Sections 2 and 3, which are primarily descriptive. Section 2 identifies a way of classifying particulars that pervades discourse of all sorts, and Section 3 illustrates its use in a field notorious for vagueness: ethics. Why a certain particular should (or should not) be classified in a certain way is a normative question, however, and it occupies Sections 4 and 5. Section 4 proposes a norm for strong arguments by analogy, and Section 5 illustrates how the norm might resolve vagueness in one kind of ethical dispute. This norm, which has a strong probabilistic component, is one way of affirming that probability is a guide to life.
Keywords Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language  Vagueness
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,664
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
Roy A. Sorensen (1988). Blindspots. Oxford University Press.

View all 36 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

46 ( #104,381 of 1,903,041 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

19 ( #32,730 of 1,903,041 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.