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The paper develops a critical dialectic with respect to the nowadays dominant approach in the theory of vagueness, an approach whose main tenet is that it is in the nature of the vagueness of an expression to present borderline cases of application, conceived of as enjoying some kind of distinctive normative status. Borderlineness is used to explain the basic phenomena of vagueness, such as, for example, our ignorance of the location of cut-offs in a soritical series. Every particular theory of vagueness exemplifying the approach makes use, in the vague object language, of a definiteness operator which, however substantially interpreted, unavoidably inherits the vagueness of the expressions on which it operates (‘higher-order vagueness’). It is first argued that finite soritical series force a surprising collapse result concerning a particular set of expressions involving the definiteness operator. It is then shown that, under two highly plausible assumptions about higher-order vagueness (the existence of ‘absolutely definitely’ positive and negative cases and the ‘radical’ character of higher-order vagueness itself), the collapse result implies the inadequacy of the dominant approach as a theory of vagueness, as its main tenet can be, at best, not absolutely definitely true.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Arché AHRC Centre for the Philosophy of Logic, Language, Mathematics and Mind Department of Logic and Metaphysics University of St Andrews 17–19 College Street St Andrews Fife, KY169AL, Email:

Publication date: 2006-05-01

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