Vagueness and Similarity


in Vagueness in Law

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780198268406
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191714795 | DOI:
Vagueness and Similarity

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This chapter compares the similarity model with the boundary model, arguing that no social choice can determine sharp boundaries, but also rejects the notion that the location of boundaries is indeterminate. On the contrary, the notion of a location of boundaries is misleading. If the correct application of words is determined by a social choice of boundaries to their application, Kenneth Arrow's ‘impossibility theorem’ can be invoked to show that, under certain attractive assumptions, such boundaries cannot have a precise location. The social choice argument might be modified to claim that the location of boundaries is roughly determined by social choice: the possibility is examined and rejected through a critique of James Griffin's views on the rough equality in value of incommensurable options. That argument uses the work of Joseph Raz and John Finnis on incommensurability, and suggests that incommensurabilities in the application of vague language show that the indeterminacies arising from vagueness are significant.

Keywords: vagueness; social choice; sharp boundaries; boundary model; similarity model; Kenneth Arrow; impossibility theorem; James Griffin; incommensurability

Chapter.  10342 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Civil Law

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