Book Chapter

On the Characterization of Borderline Cases



Wright C (2016) On the Characterization of Borderline Cases. In: Ostertag G (ed.) Meanings and Other Things: Themes from the Work of Stephen Schiffer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 190-210.〈=en&cc=gb#

The chapter takes Schiffer’s central contribution to the study of vagueness to be his treatment of the characterization problem: saying what being a borderline case of a concept expressed by a vague expression consists in. While broadly sympathetic to Schiffer’s approach, the paper takes issue with two aspects of his theory. Schiffer endorses verdict exclusion: the doctrine that a “polar verdict” about a borderline case cannot be an expression of knowledge. This comes at too high a cost: among other things, it conflicts with the entitlement intuition – the intuition that it there will be no point in a sorites sequence at which it is mandatory to return neither of the polar verdicts. The author argues for agnosticism about verdict exclusion (“liberalism”). He also rejects Schiffer’s idea that a special form of belief – vagueness-related partial belief – plays an essential role in characterizing the possession conditions for vague concepts.

Vagueness-related partial belief; quandary; verdict exclusion; borderline case; epistemicism; sorites

Publication date31/12/2016
PublisherOxford University Press
Publisher URL…ngs〈=en&cc=gb#
Place of publicationOxford

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Professor Crispin Wright

Professor Crispin Wright

Professor, Philosophy