Multiple reference and vague objects
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Kilimanjaro is an example of what some philosophers would call a ‘vague object’: it is only roughly 5895 m tall, its weight is not precise and its boundaries are fuzzy because some particles are neither determinately part of it nor determinately not part of it. It has been suggested that this vagueness arises as a result of semantic indecision: it is because we didn’t make up our mind what the expression “Kilimanjaro” applies to that we can truthfully say such things as “It is indeterminate whether this particle is part of Kilimanjaro”. After reviewing some of the limitations of this approach, I will propose an alternative account, based on a new semantic relation—multiple reference—capable of holding in a one-many pattern between a term and several objects in the domain. I will explain how multiple reference works, what differentiates it from plural reference and how it might be used to accommodate at least some aspects of our ordinary discourse about vague objects.
KeywordsVague objects Supervaluationism Plural reference Multiple reference
Thanks to Donald Baxter, Philipp Blum, Cian Dorr, Kit Fine, Manuel García-Carpintero, Martin Lipman, Matthew McKeever, Bryan Pickel, Giulia Pravato, Carlos Romero, Sven Rosenkranz, Moritz Schulz, Stewart Shapiro, Achille Varzi, Elia Zardini and two anonymous referees for helpful comments on the ideas in this paper. I am also grateful to the participants of the 65th Eidos Meeting in Ligerz, the LOGOS Seminar in Barcelona, the 8th Arché Graduate Conference in St Andrews, the 1st UNAM-IIFs Philosophy Graduate Conference in Mexico City and the Phlox Research Seminar in Hamburg. The research leading to this paper has received funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation Sinergia Project ‘Grounding - Metaphysics, Science, and Logic’ (Project 147685).
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