, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 41-45
Date: 04 Aug 2011

Kees van Deemter: Not Exactly: In Praise of Vagueness

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To a first approximation, the sorites paradox, or paradox of the heap, proceeds thus. Consider n + 1 grains of sand, and let n be large enough so that n + 1 grains of sand clearly and unambiguously make a heap. Consider, then, the following principle: if n + 1 grains of sand make a heap, then surely n grains also make a heap. Putting both seemingly acceptable assumptions together, we may conclude that n grains make a heap. Yet, if we can once reason along these lines, we can equally well apply this reasoning n times, and thus conclude that even a single grain of sand makes a heap. This last conclusion surely can’t be true, yet we arrived at it by (seemingly) correct reasoning from (apparently) true premises. An obviously false or at least clearly unacceptable conclusion that follows from otherwise intuitively true premises is all we need to have a genuine paradox.

One of the things van Deemter does is to defend a specific solution to the sorites paradox. However, this book does much mor