Philosophical Studies

, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 765–786 | Cite as

Luminosity and determinacy



The paper discusses some ways in which the phenomenon of borderline cases may be thought to bear on the traditional philosophical idea that certain domains of facts are fully open to our view. The discussion focusses on a very influential argument (due to Tim Williamson) to the effect that, roughly, no such domains of luminous facts exist. Many commentators have felt that the vagueness unavoidably inherent in the description of the facts that are best candidates for being luminous plays an illicit role in the argument. The paper investigates this issue by centring around the idea that vagueness brings with itself borderline cases, and that these in turn generate absence of a fact of the matter and hence epistemically benign lack of knowledge. It is argued that, given the possibility of absence of a fact of the matter, the idea of luminosity should be reformulated using the notion of determinacy, and that the resulting reformulation is not immediately subject to the original anti-luminosity argument. However, it is shown that the specific understanding of determinacy required by this strategy validates a new argument against the reformulated version of luminosity. Moreover, reflection on the connection between mistake and absence of a fact of the matter offers another argument against such version, with the surprising upshot that, granting the soundness of the original anti-luminosity argument, not even the determinacy of a certain fact would guarantee its knowability.


Borderline cases Determinacy Ignorance Luminosity Sorites Vagueness 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northern Institute of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, School of Divinity, History and PhilosophyUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK

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