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Vagueness in Law$
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Timothy A. O. Endicott

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198268406

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198268406.001.0001

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The Epistemic Theory of Vagueness

The Epistemic Theory of Vagueness

(p.99) 6 The Epistemic Theory of Vagueness
Vagueness in Law


Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses the epistemic theory of vagueness, which claims that there are sharp, unknowable boundaries to the application of vague expressions. Some features of Timothy Williamson's elaboration of the epistemic theory are discussed, and reasons not to take the epistemic view are proposed. The epistemic theory confronts and rejects the claim that there are indeterminacies in the application of vague language. If it succeeds, the indeterminacy claim is false. If it fails, its failure may help us to understand the indeterminacy claim. In his account of the relation between meaning and use, Williamson claims that use determines meaning, but that the correct application of words depends on the dispositions of speakers. That view of meaning and use supports what is called the ‘boundary model’, which is a theory of meaning because it explains the application of vague words as determined by a social choice function.

Keywords:   epistemic theory, vagueness, vague expressions, Timothy Williamson, indeterminacy, legal language

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