Transvaluationism about vagueness: A progress report

Terry Horgan

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7 Scopus citations


The philosophical account of vagueness I call "transvaluationism" makes three fundamental claims. First, vagueness is logically incoherent in a certain way: it essentially involves mutually unsatisfiable requirements that govern vague language, vague thought-content, and putative vague objects and properties. Second, vagueness in language and thought (i.e., semantic vagueness) is a genuine phenomenon despite possessing this form of incoherence - and is viable, legitimate, and indeed indispensable. Third, vagueness as a feature of objects, properties, or relations (i.e., ontological vagueness) is impossible, because of the mutually unsatisfiable conditions that such putative items would have to meet. In this paper I set forth the core claims of transvaluationism in a way that acknowledges and explicitly addresses a challenging critique by Timothy Williamson of my prior attempts to articulate and defend this approach to vagueness. I sketch my favored approach to truth and ontological commitment, and I explain how it accommodates the impossibility of ontological vagueness. I argue that any approach to the logic and semantics of vagueness that both (i) eschews epistemicism and (ii) thoroughly avoids positing any arbitrary sharp boundaries (either first-order or higher-order) will have to be not an alternative to transvaluationism but an implementation of it. I sketch my reasons for repudiating epistemicism. I briefly describe my current thinking about how to accommodate intentional mental properties with vague content within an ontology that eschews ontological vagueness. And I revisit the idea, which played a key role in my earlier articulations of transvaluationism, that moral conflicts provide an illuminating model for understanding vagueness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-94
Number of pages28
JournalSouthern Journal of Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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