Special event

April 23, 11-12:30, Erasmusbuilding 20.10

Giusi Ronzitti

On the possibility of classifying color predicates without setting boundaries

Abstract: The problem with classical formal semantics for vagueness is that the precision of mathematical tools there employed is at odds with the imprecision of vague natural languages. As consequence any such theory is inadequate for the purpose of describing the phenomenon of vagueness as, it might be said, it explains away vagueness rather than accounting for it, thus missing the point. Some authors (Tye and Sainsbury) argue that a suitable formal semantics for vagueness must directly involve vague notions. This solution requires the devising of a method of classification which could group things according to some property without setting sharp boundaries between closely related properties when these are almost indistinguishable (for example when there is no clear distinction between red and orange). This immediately dismisses the possibility of using sets and leaves us with the problem of finding a substitute. My proposal is to use the notion of spread. Classification behaves differently from what we are used to; there is no sharp distinction between red and not red things, predicates are rather treated as pairs of closely related concepts (es: red / orange) and things are classified according to their belonging to a pair. There is sharp distinction between adjacent distinguishable pairs (es: pink / red and red / orange). This also seems to account for the requirement of non transitivity of the indiscriminability (Wright 1975) and thus blocks the sorites series.