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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

1 - Epistemicism and the Sorites Paradox

from Part I - Solutions to the Sorites Paradox


The epistemicist solution to the Sorites Paradox consists of two key components. First, vague terms, just as non-vague ones, have ordinary classical semantic-values and do not require any revision of classical logic or semantics. In the case of ‘tall’, each person is either tall or not tall, and there is a specific number k such that someone is tall if and only if they are over k metres in height, thus ensuring that one of the premises of the paradox is just plainly false. Second, although words like ‘tall’ have such sharp boundaries, we do not and cannot know what these boundaries are, and this explains why we might be tempted to (falsely) conclude that such boundaries do not exist.

Epistemicm faces four principle challenges: addressing the counterintuitiveness of the view; accounting for how the sharp meanings of vague terms are determined; explaining why we are principally ignorant of the sharp-boundaries of vague terms; and explaining what makes vagueness into a distinctive phenomenon, different than other kinds of ignorance. The chapter focuses on discussion of these four challenges, presents the most prominent defence of Epistemicism - Timothy Williamson’s- and discusses a range of objections from recent literature to these responses.

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