Context, Vagueness and the Sorites: Comments on Shapiro
Keefe (Rosanna)
Source: Liars and Heaps, JC Beall (ed) Oxford University Press, 2003
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Shapiro and Raffman have, together, told an interesting and plausible psychological and pragmatic story about many of our judgements involving vague predicates.
  2. Shapiro explains how, if we focus on changes in conversational context (prompted by changes of score, in Lewis’s sense) then the fact that, when taken through a sorites1 series, subjects will at some point jump from applying the sorites2 predicate to denying that it applies, does not mean that those subjects are violating a plausible principle governing judgement, a principle that he labels the tolerance principle.
  3. In this paper, I am particularly concerned to take up a question Shapiro himself addresses: ‘what does this have to do with the semantics and logic?’ Is there a (relatively simple) way to get from facts about our judgements to facts about truth-conditions of the sentences expressed? In particular, what can facts about how subjects respond to members of a sorites3 series tell us about the true classifications along that series?
    1. First, I will briefly explore some features of, and possible problems with, the use of conversational score (in §2).
    2. Then I’ll take up the question of the bridge between the pragmatic and the semantic.
    3. And finally, in §4, I will ask what response to the sorites4 paradox Shapiro’s view can offer us.


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