Topological Models of Columnar Vagueness

Erkenntnis 87 (2):693 - 716 (2022)
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This paper intends to further the understanding of the formal properties of (higher-order) vagueness by connecting theories of (higher-order) vagueness with more recent work in topology. First, we provide a “translation” of Bobzien's account of columnar higher-order vagueness into the logic of topological spaces. Since columnar vagueness is an essential ingredient of her solution to the Sorites paradox, a central problem of any theory of vagueness comes into contact with the modern mathematical theory of topology. Second, Rumfitt’s recent topological reconstruction of Sainsbury’s theory of prototypically defined concepts is shown to lead to the same class of spaces that characterize Bobzien’s account of columnar vagueness, namely, weakly scattered spaces. Rumfitt calls these spaces polar spaces. They turn out to be closely related to Gärdenfors’ conceptual spaces, which have come to play an ever more important role in cognitive science and related disciplines. Finally, Williamson’s “logic of clarity” is explicated in terms of a generalized topology (“locology”) that can be considered an alternative to standard topology. Arguably, locology has some conceptual advantages over topology with respect to the conceptualization of a boundary and a borderline. Moreover, in Williamson’s logic of clarity, vague concepts with respect to a notion of a locologically inspired notion of a “slim boundary” are (stably) columnar. Thus, Williamson’s logic of clarity also exhibits a certain affinity for columnar vagueness. In sum, a topological perspective is useful for a conceptual elucidation and unification of central aspects of a variety of contemporary accounts of vagueness.

Author's Profile

Thomas Mormann
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München (PhD)


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