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The Vagueness of ‘Vague’: Rejoinder to Hull

Varzi, Achille C.

Is ‘vague’ vague? Why so much fuss about a single word? One reason, I think, is that a lot depends on how we settle the question. For example, Frege famously remarked that logic must be restricted to non-vague predicates. But if ‘vague’ is vague, then so is ‘non-vague’, hence the restriction is itself vague and, therefore, helpless. For another example, incoherence theorists such as Unger have claimed that vague terms have no clear instances, blocking the sorites paradox at the base step. If ‘vague’ is vague, however, then either it is a clear instance of itself, in which case the incoherentist claim is plainly false, or it has an empty extension, in which case the claim is vacuously true (there are no vague predicates) and the paradox strikes back. Finally, if ‘vague’ is vague, then—as Hyde has argued—vague predicates must suffer from the phenomenon of higher-order vagueness (at least some must, if Tye is right). So I agree with Hull: this is no small issue and we need to look at it closely

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Philosophy
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November 21, 2014