, Volume 79, Issue 5, pp 1027–1044 | Cite as

Vagueness, Uncertainty and Degrees of Belief: Two Kinds of Indeterminacy—One Kind of Credence

  • Nicholas J. J. Smith
Original Article


If we think, as Ramsey did, that a degree of belief that P is a stronger or weaker tendency to act as if P, then it is clear that not only uncertainty, but also vagueness, gives rise to degrees of belief. If I like hot coffee and do not know whether the coffee is hot or cold, I will have some tendency to reach for a cup; if I like hot coffee and know that the coffee is borderline hot, I will have some tendency to reach for a cup. Suppose that we take degrees of belief arising from uncertainty to obey the laws of probability and that we model vagueness using degrees of truth. We then encounter a problem: it does not look as though degrees of belief arising from vagueness should obey the laws of probability. One response would be to countenance two different sorts of degrees of belief: degrees of belief arising from uncertainty, which obey the laws of probability; and degrees of belief arising from vagueness, which obey a different set of laws. I argue, however, that if a degree of belief that P is a stronger or weaker tendency to act as if P, then this option is not open. Instead, I propose an account of the behaviour of degrees of belief that integrates subjective probabilities and degrees of truth. On this account, degrees of belief are expectations of degrees of truth. The account explains why degrees of belief behave in accordance with the laws of probability in cases involving only uncertainty, while also allowing degrees of belief to behave differently in cases involving only vagueness, and in mixed cases involving both uncertainty and vagueness. Justifications of the account are given both via Dutch books and in terms of epistemic accuracy.


Probability Measure Actual World Subjective Probability Epistemic State Belief Function 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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