Vagueness and the Irrelevance of Truth to Metaphysics (tweaked 4/11/12)
This paper proposes a unified account of three puzzling intuitions about vagueness. Firstly, one ‘can go either way’ on a borderline case. Secondly, one can suspend judgment on a borderline case without thereby ‘missing out on a hidden fact of the matter’. Thirdly, we are repulsed by each position on whether there is a sharp boundary in the application of a vague property. It is natural to put those thoughts in terms of ‘acceptable’ judgments: either verdict on a borderline case is acceptable; suspending judgment on a borderline case is acceptable; and no position on the sorites paradox is acceptable. The relevant kind of acceptability is not epistemic; the idea is that some questions don’t have one ‘right’ answer. The paper explores taking the intuitions thus glossed at face value. That is, I investigate taking ‘acceptable’ judgment as the central ideology of a metaphysical theory. It is familiar that an expressivist metaethical theory is silent on ethical questions, explaining in other terms why we are licensed to affirm that (e.g.) killing people is wrong. Analogously, our proposal is that a metaphysical theory says what makes it acceptable to judge that a given proposition is true, while remaining silent on whether the proposition is true. On this view, solving the sorites paradox is impossible, but unnecessary for a complete metaphysical understanding of vagueness.
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