Philosophical Studies

, Volume 161, Issue 3, pp 453–470

Modelling vagueness: what can we ignore?


DOI: 10.1007/s11098-011-9750-1

Cite this article as:
Keefe, R. Philos Stud (2012) 161: 453. doi:10.1007/s11098-011-9750-1


A theory of vagueness gives a model of vague language and of reasoning within the language. Among the models that have been offered are Degree Theorists’ numerical models that assign values between 0 and 1 to sentences, rather than simply modelling sentences as true or false. In this paper, I ask whether we can benefit from employing a rich, well-understood numerical framework, while ignoring those aspects of it that impute a level of mathematical precision that is not present in the modelled phenomenon of vagueness. Can we ignore apparent implications for the phenomena by pointing out that it is “just a model” and that the unwanted features are mere artefacts? I explore the distinction between representors and artefacts and criticise the strategy of appealing to features as mere artefacts in defence of a theory. I focus largely on theories using numerical resources, but also consider other, related theories and strategies, including theories appealing to non-linear structures.


VaguenessModellingSorites paradoxDegree theoriesArtefacts

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK