Vagueness and Identity |
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Garrett (Brian) |

Source: Analysis, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Jun., 1988), pp. 130-134 |

Paper - Abstract |

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__Author’s Abstract__

- The thesis that there can be vague objects is the thesis that there can be identity statements which are indeterminate in truth-value (i.e. neither true nor false) as a result of vagueness (as opposed e.g. to reference-failure),
*the singular terms of which do not have their references fixed by vague descriptive*. (If this is not what is meant by the thesis that there can be vague objects, it is not clear what is meant by it.)__means___{1} - The possibility of vague objects should not be taken, in itself, to imply the more radical thesis that the identity relation can be one of
*degree*. One can hold that the concept of degrees of identity is absurd (how can one thing be more or less identical to another?) and that indeterminacy in identity is possible; hence, any incoherence in the idea of degrees of identity does not thereby undermine the idea of indeterminate identity^{2}.

- Gareth Evans attempted to prove, by reductio, that vague objects are impossible ("Evans (Gareth) - Can There Be Vague Objects?", Analysis 38.4, October 1978).
- Evans's argument evidently requires supplementation since, as it stands, it appears to prove the impossibility of any indeterminate identity
^{3}statement and to embody a familiar scope fallacy. - A plausible interpretation - or reinterpretation - of Evans's argument, under which the argument is neither fallacious nor has an obviously false conclusion, is the following. Evans is concerned, not with the question of whether there can be vague identity
^{4}statements, but with the question of whether there can be vague objects, i.e. vague identity^{5}statements the singular terms of which do not have their references fixed by vague descriptive means. - Evans's proof - on this interpretation - purports to demonstrate that it cannot be indeterminate whether a is b if neither 'a' nor 'b' have their references fixed by vague descriptive means.

- It seems uncontentious that there can be vague identity statements the vagueness of which is a consequence of the vagueness of their component singular terms - e.g. 'the greatest ruler was the wisest ruler' (Wiggins, p. 174)

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