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Higher-Order Vagueness

Bolton, Stephen (2018) Higher-Order Vagueness. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis deals with three interconnected questions: What does it mean to say that an expression is vague? Could there be 'higher-order' vagueness? And could there be a correct theory of the meaning of vague terms? I argue that a traditional answer to the first question - that if an expression is vague, it has borderline cases and does not draw any knowable sharp boundaries - is incorrect. If this answer were correct, vague terms would exhibit higher-order vagueness. But I demonstrate a number of problems with this implication. I then put forward an alternative characterisation of vagueness: roughly, if a term is vague, speakers will fail to reach a certain kind of consensus on how that term is to be applied. In answering the second question, I discuss some paradoxes that seem to emerge from the existence of higher-order vagueness. These paradoxes present a serious threat to the possibility of making sense of higher-order vagueness. I show that one such paradox can be generated using fewer resources than has previously been suggested, and so that this threat is greater than it may have seemed. I then argue that an attempt to avoid these paradoxes, Bobzien's 'columnar' theory of higher-order vagueness, fails to provide a plausible, or consistent, picture of higher-order vagueness. Finally, I make use of my alternative characterisation of vagueness to argue that there is no correct semantics for vague terms. I discuss some ways in which theorists about vagueness could make sense of this, reflecting on the aims that we might have when approaching logic and semantics in the first place.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.770127
Depositing User: Mr Stephen R Bolton
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2019 14:24
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 20:07
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22941

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