Vagueness and the Logic of the World

Dissertation, University of Nebraska, Lincoln (2020)
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In this dissertation, I argue that vagueness is a metaphysical phenomenon---that properties and objects can be vague---and propose a trivalent theory of vagueness meant to account for the vagueness in the world. In the first half, I argue against the theories that preserve classical logic. These theories include epistemicism, contextualism, and semantic nihilism. My objections to these theories are independent of considerations of the possibility that vagueness is a metaphysical phenomenon. However, I also argue that these theories are not capable of accommodating metaphysical vagueness. As I move into my positive theory, I first argue for the possibility of metaphysical vagueness and respond to objections that charge that the world cannot be vague. One of these objections is Gareth Evans' much-disputed argument that vague identities are impossible. I then describe what I call the logic of states of affairs. The logic of states of affairs has as its atomic elements states of affairs that can obtain, unobtain, or be indeterminate. Finally, I argue that the logic of states of affairs is a better choice for a theory of vagueness than other logics that could accommodate metaphysical vagueness such as supervaluationism and degree theories. Preference should be given to the logic of states of affairs because it provides a better explanation of higher-order vagueness and does a better job of matching our ordinary understandings of logical operators than supervaluationism does and because it provides a more general account of indeterminacy than the account given by degree theories. Advisor: Reina Hayaki.

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Zack Garrett
University of Nebraska, Lincoln (PhD)


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