A generic Solution to the Sorites Paradox

Erkenntnis 2024 (Online):1-40 (2024)
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ABSTRACT: This paper offers a generic revenge-proof solution to the Sorites paradox that is compatible with several philosophical approaches to vagueness, including epistemicism, supervaluationism, psychological contextualism and intuitionism. The solution is traditional in that it rejects the Sorites conditional and proposes a modally expressed weakened conditional instead. The modalities are defined by the first-order logic QS4M+FIN. (This logic is a modal companion to the intermediate logic QH+KF, which places the solution between intuitionistic and classical logic.) Borderlineness is introduced modally as usual. The solution is innovative in that its modal system brings out the semi-determinability of vagueness. Whether something is borderline and whether a predicate is vague or precise is only semi-determinable: higher-order vagueness is columnar. Finally, the solution is based entirely on two assumptions. (1) It rejects the Sorites conditional. (2) It maintains that if one specifies borderlineness in terms of the ‒suitably interpreted‒ modal logic QS4M+FIN, then one can explain why the Sorites appears paradoxical. From (1)+(2) it results that one can tell neither where exactly in a Sorites series the borderline zone starts and ends nor what its extension is. Accordingly, the solution is also called agnostic.

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Susanne Bobzien
University of Oxford


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