How Not to Solve the Paradox of the Heap


in Vagueness in Law

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780198268406
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191714795 | DOI:
How Not to Solve the Paradox of the Heap

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This chapter examines higher-order vagueness by pointing out problems that it poses for philosophers of logic who seek to solve the sorites paradox. Various proposed solutions to the sorites paradox face problems with higher-order vagueness. The chapter gives very brief accounts of three such solutions: supervaluation theory, degree theories, and the use of a ‘definiteness’ operator. It also explores whether vagueness is trivial or substantial, and discusses the importance of a little-recognised fact about vagueness: that there may be no clear borderline cases of the application of a vague expression. It concludes by asking whether the sorites paradox can be solved, in Wittgensteinian style, by not asking the question ‘How big is the smallest heap’?.

Keywords: sorites paradox; higher-order vagueness; logic; supervaluation theory; degree theories; definiteness operator; vague expressions; trivalence

Chapter.  11020 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Civil Law

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