Vagueness and Indeterminacy

Stephen Schiffer

in The Things We Mean

Published in print September 2003 | ISBN: 9780199257768
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602313 | DOI:
 Vagueness and Indeterminacy

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A theory of vagueness must lie at the heart of any complete theory of meaning. This chapter offers a theory of vagueness, and of indeterminacy generally, since the indeterminacy of vague borderline proposition is only one source of indeterminacy. The theory distinguishes two kinds of partial belief: standard partial belief, which is normatively governed by the axioms of probability theory, and what I call vagueness-related partial belief, which is not normatively governed by those axioms. Thanks to the pleonastic nature of properties, it is possible to define vagueness and indeterminacy in terms of vagueness-related partial belief. The account of vagueness is applied to the sorites paradox, and resolving that paradox requires distinguishing between what I call happy-face and unhappy-face solutions to a paradox. The theory of indeterminacy yields a resolution of Gareth Evans’s puzzle about indeterminate identity.

Keywords: Gareth Evans; happy-/unhappy-face solution; indeterminacy; indeterminate identity; pleonastic properties; probability; sorites paradox; standard partial belief; vagueness; vagueness-related partial belief

Chapter.  26288 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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