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Charles Travis

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199230334

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199230334.001.0001

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Vagueness, Observation, and Sorites

Vagueness, Observation, and Sorites

(p.206) 9 Vagueness, Observation, and Sorites

Charles Travis (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Frege believes that vagueness leads to inconsistency in language, and Michael Dummett has suggested that he may have been right, at least in some cases. Dummett writes: ‘the use of vague predicates — at least when the source of the vagueness is the non-transitivity of a relation of non-discriminable difference — is intrinsically incoherent’. The moral Dummett draws is that ‘while our language certainly contains observational predicates as well as relational expressions, the former (though not the latter) infect it with inconsistency’. This chapter argues that Dummett is mistaken on both scores. First, our language does not and could not contain observational expressions in Dummett's sense, nor is there reason to want it to. Second, our language is not and could not be inconsistent for anything like the reasons Dummett offers.

Keywords:   Michael Dummett, language, observational expressions, Frege

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