The Epistemic Theory of Vagueness


in Vagueness in Law

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780198268406
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191714795 | DOI:
The Epistemic Theory of Vagueness

Show Summary Details


This chapter addresses the epistemic theory of vagueness, which claims that there are sharp, unknowable boundaries to the application of vague expressions. Some features of Timothy Williamson's elaboration of the epistemic theory are discussed, and reasons not to take the epistemic view are proposed. The epistemic theory confronts and rejects the claim that there are indeterminacies in the application of vague language. If it succeeds, the indeterminacy claim is false. If it fails, its failure may help us to understand the indeterminacy claim. In his account of the relation between meaning and use, Williamson claims that use determines meaning, but that the correct application of words depends on the dispositions of speakers. That view of meaning and use supports what is called the ‘boundary model’, which is a theory of meaning because it explains the application of vague words as determined by a social choice function.

Keywords: epistemic theory; vagueness; vague expressions; Timothy Williamson; indeterminacy; legal language

Chapter.  19273 words. 

Subjects: Civil Law

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.