Article

Vagueness

Carl Ehrett

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online June 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0122
Vagueness

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Much, or perhaps all, of natural language is vague: the concepts expressed in natural language seem to have unclear boundaries. A central example is that of “heap”—as grains of sand are removed from a heap, at what point does it cease to be a heap? It seems that the removal of a single grain of sand can never, by itself, transform a heap into a non-heap; but applying that idea consistently would entail that a heap is still a heap when reduced to only a single grain, or zero grains. Such “sorites” paradoxes provoke troubling questions about the nature of vague languages. Some theorists (epistemicists) take vagueness to consist in speaker ignorance of certain semantic facts (such as the minimum number of grains in a heap); others take vagueness to consist in some form of semantic underdetermination (indeterminists), or in extremely subtle variations of context (contextualists). Other controversies include whether vagueness compels the adoption of a nonclassical logic, whether there is “ontic vagueness” (vagueness as a feature of the world itself rather than of representations), and whether ‘vagueness’ itself is vague.

Article.  6143 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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