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The Argument from Vagueness

Philosophy Compass 5 (10):891-901 (2010)

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  1. Balls and All.Daniel Nolan - 2014 - In S. Kleinschmidt (ed.), Mereology and Location. Oxford University Press. pp. 91-116.
    This paper describes a plausible view of the nature of physical objects, their mereological connections to each other, and their relation to spacetime. As well as being parsimonious, the view provides a plausible context for denying all of the following: (1) A theory that objects endure through time (and do not have temporal parts, as normally conceived) cannot claim that material objects are identical to space-time regions they occupy. (2) At least one of the family of mereological connections (part-whole, overlap (...)
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  • Vagueness, Multiplicity and Parts.Daniel P. Nolan - 2006 - Noûs 40 (4):716–737.
    There’s an argument around from so-called “linguistic theories of vagueness”, plus some relatively uncontroversial considerations, to powerful metaphysical conclusions. David Lewis employs this argument to support the mereological principle of unrestricted composition, and Theodore Sider employs a similar argument not just for unrestricted composition but also for the doctrine of temporal parts. This sort of argument could be generalised, to produce a lot of other less palatable metaphysical conclusions. However, arguments to Lewis’s and Sider’s conclusions on the basis of considerations (...)
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  • Blocking the Path From Vagueness to Four Dimensionalism.Kristie Miller - 2005 - Ratio 18 (3):317–331.
    There is a general form of an argument which I call the ‘argument from vagueness’ which attempts to show that objects persist by perduring, via the claim that vagueness is never ontological in nature and thus that composition is unrestricted. I argue that even if we grant that vagueness is always the result of semantic indeterminacy rather than ontological vagueness, and thus also grant that composition is unrestricted, it does not follow that objects persist by perduring. Unrestricted mereological composition lacks (...)
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  • Many, but Almost One.David K. Lewis - 1993 - In Keith Cambell, John Bacon & Lloyd Reinhardt (eds.), Ontology, Causality and Mind: Essays on the Philosophy of D. M. Armstrong. Cambridge University Press. pp. 23-38.
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  • Ordinary Objects.Amie Thomasson (ed.) - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
    Arguments that ordinary inanimate objects such as tables and chairs, sticks and stones, simply do not exist have become increasingly common and increasingly prominent. Some are based on demands for parsimony or for a non-arbitrary answer to the special composition question; others arise from prohibitions against causal redundancy, ontological vagueness, or co-location; and others still come from worries that a common sense ontology would be a rival to a scientific one. Until now, little has been done to address these arguments (...)
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  • Ontic Vagueness and Metaphysical Indeterminacy.J. Robert G. Williams - 2008 - Philosophy Compass 3 (4):763-788.
    Might it be that world itself, independently of what we know about it or how we represent it, is metaphysically indeterminate? This article tackles in turn a series of questions: In what sorts of cases might we posit metaphysical indeterminacy? What is it for a given case of indefiniteness to be 'metaphysical'? How does the phenomenon relate to 'ontic vagueness', the existence of 'vague objects', 'de re indeterminacy' and the like? How might the logic work? Are there reasons for postulating (...)
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  • Change, Temporal Parts, and the Argument From Vagueness.Achille C. Varzi - 2005 - Dialectica 59 (4):485–498.
    The so-called "argument from vagueness", the clearest formulation of which is to be found in Ted Sider’s book Four-dimensionalism, is arguably the most powerful and innovative argument recently offered in support of the view that objects are four-dimensional perdurants. The argument is defective--I submit--and in a number of ways that is worth looking into. But each "defect" corresponds to a model of change that is independently problematic and that can hardly be built into the common-sense picture of the world. So (...)
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  • In Defense of the Simplest Quantified Modal Logic.Bernard Linsky & Edward N. Zalta - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8 (Logic and Language):431-458.
    The simplest quantified modal logic combines classical quantification theory with the propositional modal logic K. The models of simple QML relativize predication to possible worlds and treat the quantifier as ranging over a single fixed domain of objects. But this simple QML has features that are objectionable to actualists. By contrast, Kripke-models, with their varying domains and restricted quantifiers, seem to eliminate these features. But in fact, Kripke-models also have features to which actualists object. Though these philosophers have introduced variations (...)
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  • Four-Dimensionalism.Theodore Sider - 1997 - Philosophical Review 106 (2):197-231.
    Persistence through time is like extension through space. A road has spatial parts in the subregions of the region of space it occupies; likewise, an object that exists in time has temporal parts in the various subregions of the total region of time it occupies. This view — known variously as four dimensionalism, the doctrine of temporal parts, and the theory that objects “perdure” — is opposed to “three dimensionalism”, the doctrine that things “endure”, or are “wholly present”.1 I will (...)
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  • Brutal Composition.Ned Markosian - 1998 - Philosophical Studies 92 (3):211 - 249.
    According to standard, pre-philosophical intuitions, there are many composite objects in the physical universe. There is, for example, my bicycle, which is composed of various parts - wheels, handlebars, molecules, atoms, etc. Recently, a growing body of philosophical literature has concerned itself with questions about the nature of composition.1 The main question that has been raised about composition is, roughly, this: Under what circumstances do some things compose, or add up to, or form, a single object? It turns out that (...)
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  • Against Vague and Unnatural Existence: Reply to Liebesman and Eklund.Theodore Sider - 2009 - Noûs 43 (3):557 - 567.
    In "Sider on Existence" (Noužs, 2007), David Liebesman and Matti Eklund argue that my "indeterminacy argument", according to which quantifiers are never vague, clashes with my "naturalness argument", according to which quantifiers "carve at the joints". There is, I argue, no outright inconsistency. But Liebesman and Eklund have shown that my arguments are not as independent as it may have appeared. The best defense of the indeterminacy argument is via the naturalness argument.
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  • Against Vague Existence.Theodore Sider - 2003 - Philosophical Studies 114 (1-2):135 - 146.
    In my book Four-dimensionalism (chapter 4, section 9), I argued that fourdimensionalism – the doctrine of temporal parts – follows from several other premises, chief among which is the premise that existence is never vague. Kathrin Koslicki (preceding article) claims that the argument fails since its crucial premise is unsupported, and is dialectically inappropriate to assume in the context of arguing for four-dimensionalism. Since the relationship between four-dimensionalism and the non-vagueness of existence is not perfectly transparent, I think the argument (...)
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  • Vagueness and Endurance.E. J. Lowe - 2005 - Analysis 65 (2):104-112.
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  • Vague Composition Without Vague Existence.Chad Carmichael - 2011 - Noûs 45 (2):315-327.
    David Lewis (1986) criticizes moderate views of composition on the grounds that a restriction on composition must be vague, and vague composition leads, via a precisificational theory of vagueness, to an absurd vagueness of existence. I show how to resist this argument. Unlike the usual resistance, however, I do not jettison precisificational views of vagueness. Instead, I blur the connection between composition and existence that Lewis assumes. On the resulting view, in troublesome cases of vague composition, there is an object, (...)
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  • Against Universal Mereological Composition.Crawford Elder - 2008 - Dialectica 62 (4):433-454.
    This paper opposes universal mereological composition (UMC). Sider defends it: unless UMC were true, he says, it could be indeterminate how many objects there are in the world. I argue that there is no general connection between how widely composition occurs and how many objects there are in the world. Sider fails to support UMC. I further argue that we should disbelieve in UMC objects. Existing objections against them say that they are radically unlike Aristotelian substances. True, but there is (...)
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  • The Vagueness Argument for Mereological Universalism.Donald Smith - 2006 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (3):357–368.
    In this paper, I critically discuss one of the more influential arguments for mereological universalism, what I will call ‘the Vagueness Argument’. I argue that a premise of the Vagueness Argument is not well supported and that there are at least two good reasons for thinking that the premise in question is false.
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  • Universalism, Four Dimensionalism, and Vagueness.Hud Hudson - 2000 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 60 (3):547-560.
    Anyone who endorses Universalism and Four Dimensionalism owes us an argument for those controversial mereological theses. One may put forth David Lewis's and Ted Sider's arguments from vagueness. However, the success of those arguments depends on the rejection of the epistemic view of vagueness, and thus opens the door to a fatal confrontation with one particularly troubling version of The Problem of the Many. The alternative for friends of Universalism and Four Dimensionalism is to abandon those currently fashionable arguments in (...)
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  • Kinds of Being: A Study of Individuation, Identity and the Logic of Sortal Terms.E. J. LOWE - 1989 - Blackwell.
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  • Material Beings.Peter VAN INWAGEN - 1990 - Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
    The topic of this book is material objects. Like most interesting concepts, the concept of a material object is one without precise boundaries.
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  • Comments on Ted Sider: Four Dimensionalism. [REVIEW]André Gallois - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (3):648–657.
    Ted Sider’s book makes a beautifully presented and compellingly argued case for four dimensionalism. Most of the arguments for four dimensionalism to be found in the literature seem to me to be uncompelling. Ted’s argument from vagueness, given in the last section of chapter 4, is a notable exception. After discussing that argument I will respond to his objections in section 5 chapter 5 to my own temporary identity view.
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  • Four Dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time.Theodore Sider - 2001 - Oxford University Press.
    Four- Dimensionalism defends the thesis that the material world is composed of temporal as well as spatial parts. This defense includes a novel account of persistence over time, new arguments in favour of the four-dimensional ontology, and responses to the challenges four- dimensionalism faces." "Theodore Sider pays particular attention to the philosophy of time, including a strong series of arguments against presentism, the thesis that only the present is real. Arguments offered in favour of four- dimensionalism include novel arguments based (...)
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  • Four Dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time.Theodore Sider - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (3):642-647.
    Precis of my book by this title, for a symposium.
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  • Comments on Varzi.Fabrice Correia - 2005 - Dialectica 59 (4):499-502.
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  • On Vagueness, 4d and Diachronic Universalism.Yuri Balashov - 2005 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (4):523 – 531.
    I offer a new criticism of the argument from vagueness to four-dimensionalism [Sider 2001. The argument is modelled after an older argument for mereological universalism [Lewis 1986 and may be looked upon as a tightened-up and extended version of the latter. While I agree with other critics [Koslicki 2003; Markosian 2004 that the argument from vagueness fails precisely because of this affinity, my recipe for dealing with it is different. I reject the assumption, shared by Sider with his opponents, that (...)
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  • Universalism, Vagueness and Supersubstantivalism.Nikk Effingham - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (1):35 – 42.
    Sider has a favourable view of supersubstantivalism (the thesis that all material objects are identical to the regions of spacetime that they occupy). This paper argues that given supersubstantivalism, Sider's argument from vagueness for (mereological) universalism fails. I present Sider's vagueness argument (§§II-III), and explain why - given supersubstantivalism - some but not all regions must be concrete in order for the argument to work (§IV). Given this restriction on what regions can be concrete, I give a reductio of Sider's (...)
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  • Vagueness in Reality.Timothy Williamson - 2003 - In Michael J. Loux & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics. Oxford University Press.
    When I take off my glasses, the world looks blurred. When I put them back on, it looks sharpedged. I do not think that the world really was blurred; I know that what changed was my relation to the distant physical objects ahead, not those objects themselves. I am more inclined to believe that the world really is and was sharp-edged. Is that belief any more reasonable than the belief that the world really is and was blurred? I see more (...)
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  • The Metaphysics of Everyday Life: An Essay in Practical Realism.Lynne Rudder Baker - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.
    Lynne Rudder Baker presents and defends a unique account of the material world: the Constitution View. In contrast to leading metaphysical views that take everyday things to be either non-existent or reducible to micro-objects, the Constitution View construes familiar things as irreducible parts of reality. Although they are ultimately constituted by microphysical particles, everyday objects are neither identical to, nor reducible to, the aggregates of microphysical particles that constitute them. The result is genuine ontological diversity: people, bacteria, donkeys, mountains and (...)
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  • Promiscuous Endurantism and Diachronic Vagueness.Achille C. Varzi - 2007 - American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (2):181-189.
    According to a popular line of reasoning, diachronic vagueness creates a problem for the endurantist conception of persistence. Some authors have replied that this line of reasoning is inconclusive, since the endurantist can subscribe to a principle of Diachronic Unrestricted Composition (DUC) that is perfectly parallel to the principle required by the perdurantist’s semantic account. I object that the endurantist should better avoid DUC. And I argue that even DUC, if accepted, would fail to provide the endurantist with the necessary (...)
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  • Composition and Vagueness.Trenton Merricks - 2005 - Mind 114 (455):615-637.
    says that there are some composite objects. And it says that some objects jointly compose nothing at all. The main threat to restricted composition is the in.uential and widely defended Vagueness Argument. We shall see that the Vagueness Argument fails. In seeing how this argument fails, we shall discover a new focus for the debate over composition's extent.
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  • Unrestricted Composition and Restricted Quantification.Daniel Z. Korman - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 140 (3):319-334.
    Many of those who accept the universalist thesis that mereological composition is unrestricted also maintain that the folk typically restrict their quantifiers in such a way as to exclude strange fusions when they say things that appear to conflict with universalism. Despite its prima facie implausibility, there are powerful arguments for universalism. By contrast, there is remarkably little evidence for the thesis that strange fusions are excluded from the ordinary domain of quantification. Furthermore, this reconciliatory strategy seems hopeless when applied (...)
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  • Vagueness and Existence.Katherine Hawley - 2002 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 102 (1):125-140.
    Vague existence can seem like the worst kind of vagueness in the world, or seem to be an entirely unintelligible notion. This bad reputation is based upon the rumour that if there is vague existence then there are non-existent objects. But the rumour is false: the modest brand of vague existence entailed by certain metaphysical theories of composition does not deserve its bad reputation.
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  • How Things Persist.Katherine Hawley - 2001 - Oxford University Press.
    Katherine Hawley explores and compares three theories of persistence -- endurance, perdurance, and stage theories - investigating the ways in which they attempt to account for the world around us. Having provided valuable clarification of its two main rivals, she concludes by advocating stage theory.
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  • Sider on Existence.David Liebesman & Matti Eklund - 2007 - Noûs 41 (3):519–528.
    In (2001), (2003), and elsewhere, Ted Sider presents two arguments concerning the existential quantifier which are justly central to the recent discussion of metaontology. What we will call Sider's indeterminacy argument is an attempted reductio of the suggestion that the existential quantifier might be semantically indeterminate. What we will call Sider's naturalness argument is an argument for the claim that the semantic value of the existential quantifier is the most eligible existence-like meaning there is, à la David Lewis' eligibility theory (...)
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  • The Contingency of Composition.Ross P. Cameron - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 136 (1):99-121.
    There is widespread disagreement as to what the facts are concerning just when a collection of objects composes some further object; but there is widespread agreement that, whatever those facts are, they are necessary. I am unhappy to simply assume this, and in this paper I ask whether there is reason to think that the facts concerning composition hold necessarily. I consider various reasons to think so, but find fault with each of them. I examine the theory of composition as (...)
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  • Three-Dimensionalist’s Semantic Solution to Diachronic Vagueness.Irem Kurtsal Steen - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 150 (1):79-96.
    A standard response to the problem of diachronic vagueness is ‘the semantic solution’, which demands an abundant ontology. Although it is known that the abundant ontology does not logically preclude endurantism, their combination is rejected because it necessitates massive coincidence between countless objects. In this paper, I establish that the semantic solution is available not only to perdurantists but also to endurantists by showing that there is no problem with such ubiquitous and principled coincidence.
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  • Vagueness and Arbitrariness: Merricks on Composition.Elizabeth Barnes - 2007 - Mind 116 (461):105-113.
    In this paper I respond to Trenton Merricks's (2005) paper ‘Composition and Vagueness’. I argue that Merricks's paper faces the following difficulty: he claims to provide independent motivation for denying one of the premisses of the Lewis-Sider vagueness argument for unrestricted composition, but the alleged motivation he provides begs the question.
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  • Universalism, Four Dimensionalism, and Vagueness.Hud Hudson - 2000 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60 (3):547-560.
    Anyone who endorses Universalism and Four Dimensionalism owes us an argument for those controversial mereological theses. One may put forth David Lewis’s and Ted Sider’s arguments from vagueness. However, the success of those arguments depends on the rejection of the epistemic view of vagueness, and thus opens the door to a fatal confrontation with one particularly troubling version of The Problem of the Many. The alternative for friends of Universalism and Four Dimensionalism is to abandon those currently fashionable arguments in (...)
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  • The Ontology of Physical Objects.Mark Heller - 1990 - Philosophical Review 102 (1):122-126.
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  • A Plea for Things That Are Not Quite All There: Or, Is There a Problem About Vague Composition and Vague Existence?Nicholas J. J. Smith - 2005 - Journal of Philosophy 102 (8):381-421.
    Orthodoxy has it that mereological composition can never be a vague matter, for if it were, then existence would sometimes be a vague matter too, and that's impossible. I accept that vague composition implies vague existence, but deny that either is impossible. In this paper I develop degree-theoretic versions of quantified modal logic and of mereology, and combine them in a framework that allows us to make clear sense of vague composition and vague existence, and the relationships between them.
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  • The Vagueness of Identity.Eli Hirsch - 1999 - Philosophical Topics 26 (1/2):139-158.
    The Evans-Salmon position on vague identity has deservedly elicited a large response in the literature. I think it is in fact among the most provocative metaphysical ideas to appear in recent years. I will try to show in this paper, however, that the position is vulnerable to a fundamental criticism that seems to have been virtually ignored in the many discussions of it. I take the Evans-Salmon position to consist of the following two theses: Thesis I. There cannot be objects (...)
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  • A Materialist Metaphysics of the Human Person.Hud Hudson - 2001 - Cornell University Press.
    Introduction In the first four chapters of this book, I develop and defend a monistic account of human persons according to which human persons are highly ...
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  • Real Natures and Familiar Objects.Crawford L. Elder - 2004 - Bradford.
    In _Real Natures and Familiar Objects_ Crawford Elder defends, with qualifications, the ontology of common sense. He argues that we exist -- that no gloss is necessary for the statement "human beings exist" to show that it is true of the world as it really is -- and that we are surrounded by many of the medium-sized objects in which common sense believes. He argues further that these familiar medium-sized objects not only exist, but have essential properties, which we are (...)
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  • Quantifier Variance and Realism.Eli Hirsch - 2002 - Philosophical Issues 12 (1):51-73.
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  • Ontological Arguments : Interpretive Charity and Quantifier Variance.Eli Hirsch - 2008 - In Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics. Blackwell. pp. 367--81.
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  • The Ontology of Physical Objects: Four-Dimensional Hunks of Matter.Mark Heller - 1990 - Cambridge University Press.
    This provocative book attempts to resolve traditional problems of identity over time. It seeks to answer such questions as 'How is it that an object can survive change?' and 'How much change can an object undergo without being destroyed'? To answer these questions Professor Heller presents a theory about the nature of physical objects and about the relationship between our language and the physical world. According to his theory, the only actually existing physical entities are what the author calls 'hunks', (...)
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  • When Are Objects Parts?Peter van Inwagen - 1987 - Philosophical Perspectives 1:21-47.
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  • Ordinary Objects.Amie Thomasson - 2009 - Analysis 69 (1):173-174.
    In recent analytic metaphysics, the view that ‘ordinary inanimate objects such as sticks and stones, tables and chairs, simply do not exist’ has been defended by some noteworthy writers. Thomasson opposes such revisionary ontology in favour of an ontology that is conservative with respect to common sense. The book is written in a straightforward, methodical and down-to-earth style. It is also relatively non-specialized, enabling the author and her readers to approach problems that are often dealt with in isolation in a (...)
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  • Real Natures and Familiar Objects.Crawford Elder - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2):518-523.
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  • Is 'Everything' Precise?Dan López de Sa - 2006 - Dialectica 60 (4):397–409.
    There are certain metaphysically interesting arguments ‘from vagueness’, for unrestricted mereological composition and for four-dimensionalism, which involve a claim to the effect that idioms for unrestricted quantification are precise. An elaboration of Lewis’ argument for this claim, which assumes the view of vagueness as semantic indecision, is presented. It is argued that the argument also works according to other views on the nature of vagueness, which also require for an expression to be vague that there are different admissible alternatives of (...)
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  • Mereological Vagueness and Existential Vagueness.Maureen Donnelly - 2009 - Synthese 168 (1):53 - 79.
    It is often assumed that indeterminacy in mereological relations—in particular, indeterminacy in which collections of objects have fusions—leads immediately to indeterminacy in what objects there are in the world. This assumption is generally taken as a reason for rejecting mereological vagueness. The purpose of this paper is to examine the link between mereological vagueness and existential vagueness. I hope to show that the connection between the two forms of vagueness is not nearly so clear-cut as has been supposed.
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