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Vagueness in Context$
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Stewart Shapiro

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280391

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199280391.001.0001

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The Nature of Vagueness: Humpty Dumpty Gets His Due

The Nature of Vagueness: Humpty Dumpty Gets His Due

(p.1) 1 The Nature of Vagueness: Humpty Dumpty Gets His Due
Vagueness in Context

Stewart Shapiro (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides a simplified account of how vagueness arises in language and is manifested in the use of language. It is a commonplace that the extensions of vague terms vary with such contextual factors as the comparison class and paradigm cases. A person can be tall with respect to male accountants and not tall (or even short) with respect to professional basketball players. A person can be wealthy with respect to local business tycoons, but not wealthy with respect to CEOs of major software companies. The main feature of the present account is that the extensions (and anti-extensions) of vague terms also vary in the course of a conversation, even after the external contextual features, such as the comparison class, are fixed. A central thesis of the view is that, in some cases, a competent speaker of the language can go either way in the borderline area of a vague predicate without sinning against the meaning of the words and the non-linguistic facts.

Keywords:   vague terms, language, determinacy, tolerance, open-texture, conversation

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