This paper constructs a model of metaphysical indeterminacy that can accommodate a kind of ‘deep’ worldly indeterminacy that arguably arises in quantum mechanics via the Kochen-Specker theorem, and that is incompatible with prominent theories of metaphysical indeterminacy such as that in Barnes and Williams (2011). We construct a variant of Barnes and Williams's theory that avoids this problem. Our version builds on situation semantics and uses incomplete, local situations rather than possible worlds to build a model. We (...) evaluate the resulting theory and contrast it with similar alternatives, concluding that our model successfully captures deep indeterminacy. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Many phenomena appear to be indeterminate, including material macro-object boundaries and certain open future claims. Here I provide an account of indeterminacy in metaphysical, rather than semantic or epistemic, terms. Previous accounts of metaphysical indeterminacy have typically taken this to involve its being indeterminate which of various determinate states of affairs obtain. On my alternative account, MI involves its being determinate that an indeterminate state of affairs obtains. I more specifically suggest that MI involves an object's having (...) a determinable property, but not having any unique determinate of that determinable. I motivate the needed extension of the traditional understanding of determinables, then argue that a determinable-based account of MI accommodates, in illuminating fashion, both ‘glutty’ and ‘gappy’ cases of MI, while satisfactorily treating concerns about MI stemming from Evans’ argument and the problem of the many. (shrink)
I propose a new argument showing that conscious vision sometimes depends constitutively on conscious attention. I criticise traditional arguments for this constitutive connection, on the basis that they fail adequately to dissociate evidence about visual consciousness from evidence about attention. On the same basis, I criticise Ned Block's recent counterargument that conscious vision is independent of one sort of attention (‘cognitive access'). Block appears to achieve the dissociation only because he underestimates the indeterminacy of visual consciousness. I then appeal (...) to empirical work on the interaction between visual indeterminacy and attention, to argue for the constitutive connection. (shrink)
Cases of grounding failure present a puzzle for fundamental metaphysics. Typically, solutions are thought to lie either in adding ontology such as haecceities or in re‐describing the cases by means of the ideology of metaphysical indeterminacy. The controversial status of haecceities has led some to favour metaphysical indeterminacy as the way to solve the puzzle. We consider two further treatments of grounding failure each of which, we argue, is a more plausible alternative. As such, the initial dichotomy is (...) a false one, and these alternative options deserve consideration before resorting to the heavyweight machinery of metaphysical indeterminacy. -/- . (shrink)
An attractive approach to the semantic paradoxes holds that cases of semantic pathology give rise to indeterminacy. What attitude should a rational agent have toward a proposition that it takes to be indeterminate in this sense? Orthodoxy holds that rationality requires that an agent disbelieve such a proposition. I argue that a rational agent should be such that it is indeterminate whether it believes the proposition in question. For rational agents, indeterminacy in the objects of their attitudes will (...) filter up to the attitudes themselves. (shrink)
A number of analytical philosophers have recently endorsed the view that the world itself is indeterminate in some respect. Intriguingly, ideas similar to the view are expressed by thinkers from Chinese Madhyamaka Buddhism, which may shed light on the current discussion of worldly indeterminacy. Using as a basis Chinese Madhyamaka thought, together with Jessica Wilson’s account of indeterminacy, I develop an ontological conception of indeterminacy, termed ontic indeterminacy, which centres on two complementary ideas—conclusive indeterminability and provisional (...) determinability. I show that OI is well-equipped to tackle several issues of worldly indeterminacy. My overarching aim is to present a viable and sustainable perspective on the subject of indeterminacy to enrich analytical philosophers’ insights into the intricate nature of reality. (shrink)
Indeterminacy in its various forms has been the focus of a great deal of philosophical attention in recent years. Much of this discussion has focused on the status of vague predicates such as ‘tall’, ‘bald’, and ‘heap’. It is determinately the case that a seven-foot person is tall and that a five-foot person is not tall. However, it seems difficult to pick out any determinate height at which someone becomes tall. How best to account for this phenomenon is, of (...) course, a controversial matter. For example, some (such as Sorensen (2001) and Williamson (2002)) maintain that there is a precise height at which someone becomes tall and such apparent cases of indeterminacy merely reflects our ignorance of this fact. Others maintain that there is some genuine – and not merely epistemic – indeterminacy present is such cases and offer various accounts of how best to account for it. Supervaluationists (such as Keefe (2008)), for example, claim that the indeterminacy with respect to vague terms lies in their not having a single definite extension. Rather, each term is associated with a range of possible precise extensions or precisifications such that it is semantically unsettled which is the correct extension. One precisification of ‘tall’ might allow that anyone over five feet ten inches is tall, whereas another would only allow those over six foot to qualify; but no precisification will take someone who is five foot to be tall, and someone who is seven foot will count as tall on all precisifications. Thus – while someone who is seven foot will be determinately tall and someone who is five foot determinately not so – it will be indeterminate whether someone who stands at five foot eleven inches is tall. -/- Yet, it is important to stress that putative cases of indeterminacy are not limited to vague predicates of this kind. Philosophers have invoked indeterminacy in discussions of topics as diverse as moral responsibility (Bernstein (forthcoming)), identity over time (Williams (2014)), and the status of the future (Barnes and Cameron (2009)). In this paper, we focus on two areas where discussion of various kinds of indeterminacy has been commonplace: physics and fiction. We propose a new model for understanding indeterminacy across these domains and argue that it has some notable advantages when compared to earlier accounts. Treating physics and fiction cases univocally also indicates an interesting connection between indeterminacy in these two areas. (shrink)
This paper argues that several sorts of metaphysical and semantic indeterminacy afflict the causal relation. If, as it is plausible to hold, there is a relationship between causation and moral responsibility, then indeterminacy in the causal relation results in indeterminacy of moral responsibility more generally.
In this article, I argue that the small-improvement argument fails since some of the comparisons involved in the argument might be indeterminate. I defend this view from two objections by Ruth Chang, namely the argument from phenomenology and the argument from perplexity. There are some other objections to the small-improvement argument that also hinge on claims about indeterminacy. John Broome argues that alleged cases of value incomparability are merely examples of indeterminacy in the betterness relation. The main premise (...) of his argument is the much-discussed collapsing principle. I offer a new counterexample to this principle and argue that Broome's defence of the principle is not cogent. On the other hand, Nicolas Espinoza argues that the small-improvement argument fails as a result of the mere possibility of evaluative indeterminacy. I argue that his objection is unsuccessful. (shrink)
This paper defends the idea that there might be vagueness or indeterminacy in the world itself--as opposed to merely in our representations of the world--against the charges of incoherence and unintelligibility. First we consider the idea that the world might contain vague properties and relations ; we show that this idea is already implied by certain well-understood views concerning the semantics of vague predicates (most notably the fuzzy view). Next we consider the idea that the world might contain vague (...) objects ; we argue that an object is indeterminate in a certain respect (colour, size, etc.) just in case it is a borderline case of a maximally specific colour (size, etc.) property. Finally we consider the idea that the world as a whole might be indeterminate; we argue that the world is indeterminate just in case it lacks a determinate division into determinate objects. (shrink)
An influential theory has it that metaphysical indeterminacy occurs just when reality can be made completely precise in multiple ways. That characterization is formulated by employing the modal apparatus of ersatz possible worlds. As quantum physics taught us, reality cannot be made completely precise. I meet the challenge by providing an alternative theory which preserves the use of ersatz worlds but rejects the precisificational view of metaphysical indeterminacy. The upshot of the proposed theory is that it is metaphysically (...) indeterminate whether p just in case it is neither true nor false that p, and no terms in ‘p’ are semantically defective. In other words, metaphysical indeterminacy arises when the world cannot be adequately described by a complete set of sentences defined in a semantically nondefective language. Moreover, the present theory provides a reductive analysis of metaphysical indeterminacy, unlike its influential predecessor. Finally, I argue that any adequate logic of a language with an indeterminate subject matter is neither compositional nor bivalent. (shrink)
On many currently live interpretations, quantum mechanics violates the classical supposition of value definiteness, according to which the properties of a given particle or system have precise values at all times. Here we consider whether either metaphysical supervaluationist or determinable-based approaches to metaphysical indeterminacy can accommodate quantum metaphysical indeterminacy (QMI). We start by discussing the standard theoretical indicator of QMI, and distinguishing three seemingly different sources of QMI (S1). We then show that previous arguments for the conclusion that (...) metaphysical supervaluationism cannot accommodate QMI, due to Darby 2010 and Skow 2010, are unsuccessful, in leaving open several supervaluationist responses. We go on to provide more comprehensive argumentation for the negative conclusion. Here, among other results, we establish that the problems for supervaluationism extend far beyond the concern that is the focus of Darby's and Skow's discussions (according to which a supervaluationist approach is incompatible with the orthodox interpretation, in light of the Kochen-Specker theorem) to also attach to common understandings of other interpretations on which there is QMI (S2). We then argue that a determinable-based account can successfully accommodate all three varieties of QMI (S3). We close by observing the positive mutual bearing of our results on the coherence and intelligibility of both quantum mechanics and metaphysical indeterminacy (S4). (shrink)
A growing literature is premised on the claim that quantum mechanics provides evidence for metaphysical indeterminacy. But does it? None of the currently fashionable realist interpretations involve fundamental indeterminacy and the ‘standard interpretation’, to the extent that it can be made out, doesn't require indeterminacy either.
This paper discusses and relates two puzzles for indicative conditionals: a puzzle about indeterminacy and a puzzle about triviality. Both puzzles arise because of Ramsey's Observation, which states that the probability of a conditional is equal to the conditional probability of its consequent given its antecedent. The puzzle of indeterminacy is the problem of reconciling this fact about conditionals with the fact that they seem to lack truth values at worlds where their antecedents are false. The puzzle of (...) triviality is the problem of reconciling Ramsey's Observation with various triviality proofs which establish that Ramsey's Observation cannot hold in full generality. In the paper, I argue for a solution to the indeterminacy puzzle and then apply the resulting theory to the triviality puzzle. On the theory I defend, the truth conditions of indicative conditionals are highly context dependent and such that an indicative conditional may be indeterminate in truth value at each possible world throughout some region of logical space and yet still have a nonzero probability throughout that region. (shrink)
Discussions of “indeterminacy” customarily distinguish two putative types: semantic indeterminacy (SI)—indeterminacy that’s somehow the product of the semantics of our words/concepts—and metaphysical indeterminacy (MI)—indeterminacy that exists as a mind/language-independent feature of reality itself. A popular and influential thought among philosophers is that all indeterminacy must be SI. In this paper we challenge this thought. Our challenge is guided by the question: What, exactly, does it take for a case of indeterminacy to count as (...) SI? We argue that the only satisfactory answer to this question must take SI to be grounded in a more basic type of MI. We conclude that SI cannot be made sense of without implicating MI. If there’s any indeterminacy, there must be indeterminacy in the world itself. (shrink)
The current literature on indeterminacy centers around two projects. One concerns the logic of indeterminacy; the other concerns its nature or source. The aim of this paper is to introduce, motivate and go some way toward addressing a new, third project: that of providing what I call a minimal characterization of indeterminacy. An MC, to a first approximation, is a relatively pre-theoretical characterization of indeterminacy that is neutral between the various substantive theories of the nature and (...) logic of indeterminacy. An MC thus captures a generic sense of indeterminacy that, at least in principle, is recognized by all parties to the debate over the phenomenon’s underlying nature and logic. I begin by introducing the concept of an MC and outlining some of the main theoretical virtues of providing an MC. I then establish some desiderata on a suitable MC, and use these desiderata to rule out various initially attractive proposals. In the final part of the paper I sketch the beginnings of my own MC and defend it against objections. (shrink)
Hartry Field has recently examined the question whether our logical and mathematical concepts are referentially indeterminate. In his view, (1) certain logical notions, such as second-order quantification, are indeterminate, but (2) important mathematical notions, such as the notion of finiteness, are not (they are determinate). In this paper, I assess Field's analysis, and argue that claims (1) and (2) turn out to be inconsistent. After all, given that the notion of finiteness can only be adequately characterized in pure secondorder logic, (...) if Field is right in claiming that second-order quantification is indeterminate (see (1)), it follows that finiteness is also indeterminate (contrary to (2)). After arguing that Field is committed to these claims, I provide a diagnosis of why this inconsistency emerged, and I suggest an alternative, consistent picture of the relationship between logical and mathematical indeterminacy. (shrink)
Quine’s thesis of the indeterminacy of translation has puzzled the philosophical community for several decades. It is unquestionably among the best known and most disputed theses in contemporary philosophy. Quine’s classical argument for the indeterminacy thesis, in his seminal work Word and Object, has even been described by Putnam as “what may well be the most fascinating and the most discussed philosophical argument since Kant’s Transcendental Deduction of the Categories” (Putnam, 1975a: p. 159).
This paper discusses a counterexample to the thesis that visual experience is cognitively impenetrable. My central claim is that sometimes visual experience is influenced by the perceiver’s beliefs, rendering her experience’s representational content indeterminate. After discussing other examples of cognitive penetrability, I focus on a certain kind of visual experience— that is, an experience that occurs under radically nonstandard conditions—and show that it may have indeterminate content, particularly with respect to low-level properties such as colors and shapes. I then explain (...) how this indeterminacy depends on the perceiver’s beliefs or thoughts. Finally, I attempt to generalize the case and show how other sorts of visual experiences can also be penetrated by beliefs and, hence, be indeterminate. (shrink)
The topic of this paper is whether there is metaphysical vagueness. It is shown that it is important to distinguish between the general phenomenon of indeterminacy and the more narrow phenomenon of vagueness. Relatedly, it is important to distinguish between metaphysical indeterminacy and metaphysical vagueness. One can wish to allow metaphysical indeterminacy but rule out metaphysical vagueness. As is discussed in the paper, central argument against metaphysical vagueness, like those of Gareth Evans and Mark Sainsbury, would if (...) successful rule out metaphysical indeterminacy. One way to argue specifically against the possibility of metaphysical vagueness might be thought to be to argue for a specific theory of the nature of vagueness according to which vagueness is a semantic phenomenon. But it is shown that there are complications also pertaining to arguments with that structure. Toward the end of the paper, I discuss Trenton Merricks’ well-known argument against a semantic view on vagueness and for a metaphysical view. (shrink)
: Significant issues remain for understanding and evaluating the Quinean critique of the analytic/synthetic distinction. These issues are highlighted in a puzzling mismatch between the common philosophical attitude toward the critique and its broader intellectual legacy. A discussion of this mismatch sets the larger context for criticism of a recent tradition of interpretation of the critique. I argue that this tradition confuses the roles and relative importance of indeterminacy, a priority, and analyticity in the Quinean critique.
Quine’s writings on indeterminacy of translation are mostly abstract and theoretical; his reasons for the thesis are not based on historical cases of translation but on general considerations about how language works. So it is no surprise that a common objection to the thesis asserts that it is not backed up by any positive empirical evidence. Ian Hacking (1981 and 2002) claims that whatever credibility the thesis does enjoy comes rather from alleged (fictitious) cases of radical mistranslation. This paper (...) responds to objections of that kind by exhibiting actual cases of indeterminacy of translation. (shrink)
This article explores the notions of indeterminacy and creation in Castoriadis’ work. The notions of indeterminacy and creation are initially associated with Castoriadis’ conception of Being as Chaos contradicted with what Castoriadis calls “ensemblistic-identitary logic”. The conception of Being as Chaos is then linked with the notion of otherness analyzed as creation ex nihilo. In particular, creation ex nihilo is analyzed in the context of Castoriadis division of Being’s multiplicity into difference and otherness. I will argue that Being’s (...) multiplicity as difference refers to the “ensemblistic-identitary logic” while otherness comes up with a novel form of Being identified as ex nihilo creation. Finally, otherness is approached through Castoriadis’ conception of time whereby otherness and, consequently, time is further associated with Castoriadis’ notion of imaginary as the latter deploys in the social-historical field of mankind through the imaginary significations of society. (shrink)
Derek Parfit has offered numerous arguments in an attempt to establish that identity is not what matters. Jens Johannson has recently argued that Parfit's various arguments for the claim that identity is not what matters fail to establish what Parfit takes such arguments to establish. Johannson contends that this is due in part to the invalidity of one of Parfit's key arguments, and the fact that Parfit ignores a position that is compatible with the conclusions of his successful arguments and (...) the claim that identity is in fact what matters, namely, that I survive fission as either one of the fission products or the other, but it is indeterminate which one I survive as. I aim to establish here that both of Johannson's assertions are problematic. As a corollary of this task, I hope to shed some light on the relationship between indeterminacy and fission-based arguments for the claim that identity is not what matters. (shrink)
For Jizang (549−623), a prominent philosophical exponent of Chinese Madhyamaka, all things are empty of determinate form or nature. Given anything X, no linguistic item can truly and conclusively be applied to X in the sense of positing a determinate form or nature therein. This philosophy of ontic indeterminacy is connected closely with his notion of the Way (dao), which seems to indicate a kind of ineffable principle of reality. However, Jizang also equates the Way with nonacquisition as a (...) conscious state of freedom from any attachment and definite understanding whatsoever. The issue then becomes pressing as to how we are to understand Jizang's notion of the Way. Does it indicate some metaphysical principle or reality? Is it actually a skilful expedient to lead one to the consummate state of complete spiritual freedom? How is this issue related to Jizang's conception of ontic indeterminacy? In this book chapter, I examine Jizang's key writings in an attempt to clarify his ontological position. (shrink)
The main argument of this article is based on a functional disanalogy, between what I will call ‘international humanity-based law’, constituted by human rights and criminal law, and the domestic rule of law. If we adopt a functionalist approach, the attention has to be focused both on Rule of Law’s pragmatical objective – a reasonable stability – and on its means – formalism and legality, for dealing with indeterminacy. Do international key players share such values, embedded in the Rule (...) of Law’s political project? Does humanity-based international law fulfil the requirements of the Rule of Law? The conclusion of this work is that institutions and mechanism to which usually legal scholars refer when stating that a legal order is a Rule of Law, are almost absent in humanity-based international law. That implies that radical indeterminacy is, in humanity issues, a too strong obstacle for achieving the ideal of the Rule of Law. (shrink)
Given that the mind is the brain, as materialists insist, those who would understand the mind must understand the brain. Assuming that arrays of neural firing frequencies are highly salient aspects of brain information processing (the vector functional account), four hurdles to an understanding of the brain are identified and inspected: indeterminacy, micro-specificity, chaos, and openness.
Thomas Bonk has dedicated a book to analyzing the thesis of underdetermination of scientific theories, with a chapter exclusively devoted to the analysis of the relation between this idea and the indeterminacy of meaning. Both theses caused a revolution in the philosophic world in the sixties, generating a cascade of articles and doctoral theses. Agitation seems to have cooled down, but the point is still debated and it may be experiencing a renewed resurgence.
This paper presents and discusses design studio outcomes that followed a brief, collaboratively developed by the authors, and linked to the Fun Palace Futures initiative launched by the Royal British Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in honour of the architect Cedric Price and the artist Joan Littlewood. One of the core questions set by the brief was: How the thoughts that guided the development and design of the Fun Palace – a project that was never built but is still today (...) cited as a model for thinking flexible and open architecture – could be re-interpreted and renewed for the future? The paper presents a pedagogic approach that postulates that the conditions of indeterminacy, of uncertainty, of chance and change hold potentiality for establishing a challenging framework for the design and creation of a new kind of dynamic architecture, as well as for initiating experimental architectural thinking in a design studio setting. (shrink)
Despite offering many formulations of his controversial indeterminacy of translation thesis, Quine has never explored in detail the connection between indeterminacy and the conception of meaning that he supposedly derived from the work of Peirce and Duhem. The outline of such a conception of meaning, as well as its relationship to the indeterminacy thesis, is worked out in this paper; and its merits and implications are assessed both in the context of Quine’s own philosophical agenda, and also (...) with a view to a very different approach to meaning and understanding exemplified by the work of Gadamer. (shrink)
I argue that John Searle's (1980) influential Chinese room argument (CRA) against computationalism and strong AI survives existing objections, including Block's (1998) internalized systems reply, Fodor's (1991b) deviant causal chain reply, and Hauser's (1997) unconscious content reply. However, a new ``essentialist'' reply I construct shows that the CRA as presented by Searle is an unsound argument that relies on a question-begging appeal to intuition. My diagnosis of the CRA relies on an interpretation of computationalism as a scientific theory about the (...) essential nature of intentional content; such theories often yield non-intuitive results in non-standard cases, and so cannot be judged by such intuitions. However, I further argue that the CRA can be transformed into a potentially valid argument against computationalism simply by reinterpreting it as an indeterminacy argument that shows that computationalism cannot explain the ordinary distinction between semantic content and sheer syntactic manipulation, and thus cannot be an adequate account of content. This conclusion admittedly rests on the arguable but plausible assumption that thought content is interestingly determinate. I conclude that the viability of computationalism and strong AI depends on their addressing the indeterminacy objection, but that it is currently unclear how this objection can be successfully addressed. (shrink)
We analyze the notions of indiscernibility and indeterminacy in the light of the Galois theory of field extensions and the generalization to \(K\) -algebras proposed by Grothendieck. Grothendieck’s reformulation of Galois theory permits to recast the Galois correspondence between symmetry groups and invariants as a Galois–Grothendieck duality between \(G\) -spaces and the minimal observable algebras that discern (or separate) their points. According to the natural epistemic interpretation of the original Galois theory, the possible \(K\) -indiscernibilities between the roots of (...) a polynomial \(p(x)\in K[x]\) result from the limitations of the field \(K\) . We discuss the relation between this epistemic interpretation of the Galois–Grothendieck duality and Leibniz’s principle of the identity of indiscernibles. We then use the conceptual framework provided by Klein’s Erlangen program to propose an alternative ontologic interpretation of this duality. The Galoisian symmetries are now interpreted in terms of the automorphisms of the symmetric geometric figures that can be placed in a background Klein geometry. According to this interpretation, the Galois–Grothendieck duality encodes the compatibility condition between geometric figures endowed with groups of automorphisms and the ‘observables’ that can be consistently evaluated at such figures. In this conceptual framework, the Galoisian symmetries do not encode the epistemic indiscernibility between individuals, but rather the intrinsic indeterminacy in the pointwise localization of the figures with respect to the background Klein geometry. (shrink)
Can the world itself be vague, so that rather than vagueness be a deficiency in our mode of describing the world, it is a necessary feature of any true description of it? Gareth Evans famously poses this question in his paper ‘Can There Be Vague Objects’ :208, 1978). In his recent paper ‘Indeterminacy and Vagueness: Logic and Metaphysics’, Peter van Inwagen elaborates the account of vagueness and, in particular, in the case of sentences, consequent indeterminacy in truth value, (...) to which this conception of ‘worldly’ vagueness is opposed, calling it the ‘sensible’ theory of indeterminacy and rejecting it. In what follows, I defend the sensible theory van Inwagen rejects. I first explain more fully what it involves and, as importantly, what it does not. (shrink)
For Sengzhao 僧肇 (374−414 CE), a leading Sanlun 三論 philosopher of Chinese Buddhism, things in the world are ontologically indeterminate in that they are devoid of any determinate form or nature. In his view, we should understand and use words provisionally, so that they are not taken to connote the determinacy of their referents. To echo the notion of ontic indeterminacy and indicate the provisionality of language, his main work, the Zhaolun 肇論, abounds in paradoxical expressions. In this essay, (...) I offer a philosophical analysis and rational reconstruction of Sengzhao’s linguistic thought, with a view to exploring the rationale for and purpose of his use of paradoxical language. (shrink)
This essay investigates the indeterminacy thesis - roughly the claim that the content of authoritative legal materials (such as the texts of constitutions, statutes, cases, rules, and regulations) does not determine the outcome of particular legal disputes. The indeterminacy thesis can be formulated as either "strong" or weak." The strong version of the indeterminacy thesis is demonstrably false, but several weak versions of the thesis are true but lack the radical implications of strong indeterminacy.The strong (...) class='Hi'>indeterminacy thesis is the claim that all cases are "hard" cases - or that in any case any conceivable result can be derived from existing legal doctrine. Strong indeterminacy does not hold if there are easy cases - cases in which some outcomes cannot be legally correct. For example, if it were the case that the first paragraph of this abstract did not slander Gore Vidal, then there would be at least one easy case, and strong indeterminacy would be false.Weak versions of the indeterminacy thesis include the claim that important cases are indeterminate, that the law does not necessarily determine outcomes, or that every case could become indeterminate if political conditions supported indeterminacy. These weaker claims may be true, but they lack the critical bite associated with strong indeterminacy.The essay also distinguishes between "determinacy," "indeterminacy," and "underdeterminacy." The law is "determinate" with respect ot a given case if and only if the set of results that can be squared with the legal materials contains only one member. The law is "indeterminate" with respect to a given case if and only if the set of results that can be squared with the legal materials is identical with the set of all imaginable results. The law is "underdeterminate" with respect to a given case if and only if the set of results that can be squared with the legal materials is a nonidentical subset of the set of all imaginable results.This article was first published in 1987, and some of the author's views have been revised in interim. (shrink)
The paper seeks to show that Quine’s theses concerning the underdetermination of scientific theories by experience and the indeterminacy of reference cannot be reconciled if some of Quine’s central assumptions are accepted. The argument is this. Quine holds that the thesis about reference is not just a special case of the other thesis. In order to make sense of this comment we must distinguish between factual and epistemic indeterminacy. Something is factual indeterminate if it is not determined by (...) the facts. Epistemic indeterminacy, on the other hand, is due to the lack of evidence. Quine’s claim about the relationship between the two theses is best understood as saying that reference is factually indeterminate, whereas the underdetermination of scientific theories is merely epistemic. But the latter cannot be sustained in light of Quine’s verificationism, holism and naturalism. (shrink)
Davidson has always been explicit in his faithful adherence to the main doctrines of Quine’s philosophy of language, among which the indeterminacy of translation thesis is significant. For Quine, the indeterminacy of translation has considerable ontological consequences, construed as leading to a sceptical conclusion regarding the existence of fine-grained meaning facts. Davidson’s suggested reading of Quine’s indeterminacy arguments seems to be intended to block any such sceptical consequences. According to this reading, Quine’s arguments at most yield the (...) conclusion that there are always different ways of representing the facts about meaning, rather than the sceptical conclusion that there are no such facts. It is, however, puzzling how Davidson can endorse the main premises of Quine’s arguments, i.e. his general physicalistic view and his thesis of the indeterminacy of translation, and yet resist the arguments’ sceptical outcome. I will argue that Davidson’s construal of Quine’s thesis of the indeterminacy of translation is unjustified and faces a problematic dilemma. (shrink)
Abstract: This paper argues that continua of both genetic and environmental manipulation give rise to cases in which it is indeterminate whether the non-identity problem arises. In clear non-identity cases, impersonal principles can underwrite intuitions of wrongdoing. In clear cases of ordinary personal harm, ordinary ethical thinking about personal compensation augments or supersedes impersonal considerations. Indeterminate cases raise a special problem because it is indeterminate whether personal ethical considerations apply. Might indeterminacy of identity preclude a determinate and ethically justified (...) resolution of personal compensation claims? A way is suggested in which to continue ethically substantive discussion despite indeterminacy. (shrink)
In this contribution I address the type of emergency that threatens a stateâs monopoly of violence, meaning that the stateâs competence to provide citizens with elementary security is challenged. The question is, whether actions taken by the state to ward off these threats (should) fall within the ambit of the criminal law. A central problem is the indeterminacy that is inherent in the state of emergency, implicating that adequate measures as well as constitutional constraints to be imposed on such (...) measures cannot easily be determined in advance. This indeterminacy raises two interrelated issues. Firstly, the issue of whether it makes sense to speak of criminal jurisdiction when the existing jurisdiction is challenged as such. To what extent does the indeterminacy call for inherently unlimited powers of the state, implying there can be no such thing as criminal jurisdiction during a state of emergency? Secondâif criminal jurisdiction is not in contradiction with the state of emergencyâthe issue of what criminal liability could mean in such a state needs to be confronted. To what extent does the indeterminacy inherent in the state of emergency jeopardise criminal liability because such indeterminacy engenders severe legal uncertainty regarding the standards against which the relevant actions are to be judged? Both issues will be discussed from the perspective of constitutional democracy, assuming that what is at stake in times of emergency is both the competence to sustain the monopoly of violence and the possibility to constrain the powers of the state. (shrink)
One might take the significance of Davidson’s indeterminacy thesis to be that the question as to which language we can take another to be speaking can only be settled relative to our choice of an acceptable theory for interpreting the speaker. This, in turn, could be taken to show that none of us is ever speaking a determinate language. I argue that this result is self-defeating and cannot avoid collapse into a troubling skepticism about meaning. I then offer a (...) way of trying to make sense of the idea that some utterances do belong to determinate languages even though there is no determinate language one can take another to be speaking. This, however, results in an uninviting picture of communication in which no speaker is really in a position to say what another’s words mean. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor has charged that Fred Dretske's account of content suffers from indeterminacy to the extent that we should reject it in favor of Fodorâs own account. In this paper, we ask what the problem of indeterminacy really is; we distinguish a relatively minor problem we call âlooseness of fitâ from a major problem of failing to show how to point to what is not there. We sketch Dretske's account of content and how it is supposed to solve (...) the major problem. After presenting Fodor's challenge as the claim that Dretske has failed to solve the major problem, we articulate a response available to Dretske. Although we do not think the response is ultimately successful, we argue that it is every bit as good as the response Fodor has offered to a similar challenge, in his so-called âmixed theory.â The upshot is this: despite advertisements to the contrary, Fodor's theory, in its mixed version, offers no real advantages over Dretske's regarding the serious problem of indeterminacy. (shrink)
A critical survey of recent work on the ontological status of colors supports the conclusion that, while some accounts of color can plausibly be dismissed, no single account can yet be endorsed. Among the remaining options are certain forms of color realism according which familiar colors are instantiated by objects in our extra-cranial visual environment. Also still an option is color anti-realism, the view that familiar colors are, at best, biologically adaptive fictions, instantiated nowhere.I argue that there is simply no (...) fact of the matter as to which of these remaining options is correct. I blame this indeterminacy on the fact that color vision exhibits several of the hallmarks of a modular input system, as described by Jerry Fodor in The Modularity of Mind. (shrink)
SummaryDonald Davidson's account of the interrelation between attitudes, and linguistic and non‐linguistic behaviour is a thoroughly holistic one. The project of radical interpretation itself embodies a holistic approach to the interpretative task. Yet Davidson also accepts a degree of indeterminacy in interpretation. Davidson's commitment to both holism and indeterminacy can give rise to a problem in the Davidsonian position. That problem is explained and a solution proposed. The indeterminacy thesis is thereby clarified, as is the nature of (...) Davidsonian holism. (shrink)
We demonstrate in this article how critical realism can be used to explain indeterminacy in role behaviour systematically. In so doing, we both rebut various criticisms of critical realism made recently by Kemp and Holmwood and attempt to illustrate the weaknesses and absences of approaches that concentrate unduly on the collection of expectations of actors concerning roles and the behaviour of incumbents. Within a framework that recognises that structure and agency are ontologically distinct but necessarily empirically related entities, we (...) argue that structures should be seen as sources of indeterminacy within role behaviour for at least four reasons: the co-determination of roles through the intersection of structures; conflicting role expectations caused by contradictions inhering within structures; asymmetries of power within social relations; and asymmetric repetition within structural reproduction/transformation. In light of this discussion of structural sources of indeterminacy, we then go on to demonstrate how critical realism is also able to analyse systematically the agential sources of indeterminacy within role behaviour and expectations through theories of psychobiography and reflexivity. We thus conclude that critical realism contains the conceptual tools required to illuminate the point of intersection between structure, culture and agency which is central to understanding both role behaviour and the plurality of expectations concerning such behaviour. (shrink)
This chapter presents a detailed explanation of Peirce’s early and late views on semiotic indeterminacy and then considers how those views might be applied within biosemiotics. Peirce distinguished two different forms of semiotic indeterminacy: generality and vagueness. He defined each in terms of the “right” that indeterminate signs extend, either to their interpreters in the case of generality or to their utterers in the case of vagueness, to further determine their meaning. On Peirce’s view, no sign is absolutely (...) determinate, i.e., every sign is indeterminate to at least some degree and so exhibits some degree of generality or vagueness. If Peirce was right about this, then no instance of biosemiosis is completely determinate—every biosign must be general or vague to some degree. I show that on Peirce’s view, whether a sign is general or vague depends on its immediate object, “the idea which the sign is built upon,” and I explain how Peirce would go about identifying the immediate object of a sign lacking both a minded utterer and a minded interpreter—an identification that must be possible if any biosign is indeterminate. (shrink)
Summary This paper tries to show how the irreducible indeterminacy of textual meanings can be reconciled with epistemological realism which normally presupposes independently existing but determinate objects of knowledge. E.D. Hirsch's project of objective interpretation, including his most recent attempts to show that meanings, in spite of their openness to future modifications, are historically determined objects of knowledge, is being criticized. The paper argues that his use of the semantics and the reference theories of Kripke, Putnam, and others forces (...) him to give up, against his own intention, his methodologically important distinction between meaning and significance. Within such theories a strict separation of linguistic knowledge of meaning and world knowledge can no longer be upheld. Since the application of individually and historically variable world knowledge is unavoidable in the process of understanding texts, the textual meanings reconstructed by readers will always remain indeterminate. (shrink)
This article considers a Quine-Dennett style of argument from the indeterminacy of intentional content against the reducibility of mental states to neurological states. The most compelling version of such an argument, I suggest, is one that exploits a semantic anti-realist notion of truth; this holds out the promise of a relatively sophisticated story about the respects in which mental state attributions may be true or false of physical systems, without those states themselves being physical states.
This paper focuses on the debate over two central claims regarding cinematic narration: the claim that there are implicit cinematic narrators and the thesis that when we watch movies, we imagine seeing the events and characters in the film fiction. I examine what a consideration of the indeterminate nature of fictional narration, that is, what is specified by the fiction about how we come to imagine the story events, can contribute to the debate on these issues. It is argued that (...) consideration of fictional indeterminacy can be used to show that positing an implicit cinematic narrator is not only unnecessary, but is also incompatible with appreciating the film fiction. While the opposite result is reached regarding the claim about imagined seeing: considerations of indeterminacy suggest that we can suppose, without absurdities, that audiences at the movies sometimes engage in imagined seeing. (shrink)
In this book I examine various forms of indeterminacy in the law and scrutinize (i.a. by way of game theoretical models) the conditions under which they can be strategically used. In particular, I analyze the advantages and disadvantages of indeterminacy in the wording of laws, contracts, and verdicts. Legal texts are particularly interesting insofar as they address a heterogeneous audience, are applied in a variety of unforeseeable circumstances and must, at the same time, lay down clear and unambiguous (...) standards. I argue for the claim that semantic vagueness is less relevant than commonly supposed in the debate, while other forms of indeterminacy (in particular, polysemy and standard-relativity) are underrated or altogether ignored. This misconception is, as I argue, due to a systematic confusion between semantic vagueness and these forms of indeterminacy. Once it is resolved, the value of indeterminacy can be clearly shown. (shrink)
McCarthy develops a theory of radical interpretation--the project of characterizing from scratch the language and attitudes of an agent or population--and applies it to the problems of indeterminacy of interpretation first described by Quine. The major theme in McCarthy's study is that a relatively modest set of interpretive principles, properly applied, can serve to resolve the major indeterminacies of interpretation.