Frege on Vagueness and Ordinary Language

Philosophical Quarterly 63 (250):120-140 (2013)
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Abstract
Frege is widely supposed to believe that vague predicates have no referent (Bedeutung). But given other things he evidently believes, such a position would seem to commit him to a suspect nihilism according to which assertoric sentences containing vague predicates are neither true nor false. I argue that we have good reason to resist ascribing to Frege the view that vague predicates have no Bedeutung and thus good reason to resist seeing him as committed to the suspect nihilism. In the process, I call attention to several under-appreciated texts in which Frege suggests that a vague predicate, though lacking a Bedeutung of its own, can come to acquire a Bedeutung in certain contexts. The upshot of this suggestion is that vague predicates can serve the purposes of ordinary communication quite well, even if they are useless for logical purposes.
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