Quasi-nihilism: An Epistemic Response to the Sorites Paradox

Fox, Corin, Philosophy - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Cargile, James, Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia

The sorites paradox appears to challenge many ordinary intuitions about natural language and logic. In responding to the sorites paradox, many philosophers have abandoned either classical logic or its standard semantics and meta-theory. Others have clung very tightly to classical logic with its standard semantics and meta-theory, and have taken one of two main paths. On the one hand, theorists have accepted that all sorites series have sharp cutoffs in the true application of the relevant terms. On the other hand, theorists have withheld the application of semantic properties to vague language. I argue that the sorites paradox does not give us reason to pursue either of these paths. More specifically, I argue that if one wishes to uphold classical logic together with its standard semantics and meta-theory, one can do so without accepting the standard responses to the paradox that are put forth to accomplish this. I defend a novel epistemic response to the paradox: quasi-nihilism. I argue that quasi-nihilism avoids some implausible commitments of the standard responses, and that, among its benefits, it fits better with ordinary intuitions about natural language.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
sorites paradox, vagueness, epistemic theories, philosophy of language, logic
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