Demoting Higher‐Order Vagueness
Higher-order vagueness is widely thought to be a feature of vague predicates that any adequate theory of vagueness must accommodate. It takes a variety of forms. Perhaps the most familiar is the supposed existence, or at least possibility, of higher-order borderline cases: borderline borderline cases, borderline borderline borderline cases, and so forth. A second form of higher-order vagueness, what this chapter calls ‘prescriptive’ higher-order vagueness, is thought to characterize complex predicates constructed from vague predicates by attaching operators having to do with the predicates' proper application. For example, the predicates ‘mandates application of old’ and ‘can competently be called old’ are prescriptively higher-order vague. Higher-order vagueness appears in other guises as well, but these two have been of particular interest to philosophers and are the target here. This chapter exposes some misconceptions about them, and shows that higher-order vagueness is less prevalent and less important theoretically than is usually supposed.
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