Vagueness

1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology

Author: Darren Hibbs
Categories: Philosophy of Language, Metaphysics 
Word Count: 1000

How tall do you have to be to be tall? How much hair do you have to lose to be bald? How old do you have to be to be old?

It is an unremarkable feature of language that words such as ‘tall’, ‘bald’, and ‘old’ are vague in the sense that it may be unclear whether someone is tall, bald, or old. (Many other words are vague also). However, vagueness plays a crucial role in a range of philosophical issues, including fundamental problems in logic, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of language.[1]

A heap of sand.A heap of sand.

1. Vague terms

If Kathryn has no money, then she is clearly not rich. However, suppose $20 is deposited into her bank account every minute of every day for a year. Assuming she did not spend the…

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2 thoughts on “Vagueness

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  1. Philosophy can really cross a person’s eyes, as we nitpick over the meaning of every little thing. It kind of leads me to the conclusion of, “Who cares?” For instance, the question, “at what point does someone become rich,” eventually leads me to the answer of “who cares, it’s no big deal” I just accept any label anyone wants to apply to me, whether good or bad or positive or negative. Thus, I can be both rich and poor at the same time. When I don’t worry about it, it frees my mind for more productive pursuits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds reasonable. But I am not sure if this specific example of “the boundaries of being rich” is the point. What I understand is when we build something by induction, even though every step is considered a miniscule, it could lead to huge conclusions. And in some scenarios it feels paradoxical. Also, I am not sure in what contexts the term “vagueness” is usually used in. Is the example of being rich really a good demonstration of the point? Or is the point? I don’t know. But I am delighted to know the existence of this paradox because the problem always boggled my mind in its usage in mathematics and I did not know that this was actually considered a paradox. Thanks for your insight 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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