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Magidor, Ofra, Stephen Kearns. Epistemicism about vagueness and meta-linguistic safety
2008, Philosophical Perspectives 22 (1): 277-304.
Added by: Berta Grimau
Abstract: The paper challenges Williamson's safety based explanation for why we cannot know the cut-off point of vague expressions. We assume throughout (most of) the paper that Williamson is correct in saying that vague expressions have sharp cut-off points, but we argue that Williamson's explanation for why we do not and cannot know these cut-off points is unsatisfactory. In sect 2 we present Williamson's position in some detail. In particular, we note that Williamson's explanation relies on taking a particular safety principle ('Meta-linguistic belief safety' or 'MBS') as a necessary condition on knowledge. In section 3, we show that even if MBS were a necessary condition on knowledge, that would not be sufficient to show that we cannot know the cut-off points of vague expressions. In section 4, we present our main case against Williamson's explanation: we argue that MBS is not a necessary condition on knowledge, by presenting a series of cases where one's belief violates MBS but nevertheless constitutes knowledge. In section 5, we present and respond to an objection to our view. And in section 6, we briefly discuss the possible directions a theory of vagueness can take, if our objection to Williamson's theory is taken on board.

Comment: This paper would work well as a secondary reading in a course on vagueness with a section on epistemicism. For instance, the course could present Williamson's as the main proposal within that tradition and then turn to this paper for criticism and an alternative proposal within the same tradition.

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