, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 165–179 | Cite as

Metaphysical Vagueness and Metaphysical Indeterminacy

  • Matti EklundEmail author


The topic of this paper is whether there is metaphysical vagueness. It is shown that it is important to distinguish between the general phenomenon of indeterminacy and the more narrow phenomenon of vagueness (the phenomenon that paradigmatically rears its head in sorites reasoning). Relatedly, it is important to distinguish between metaphysical indeterminacy and metaphysical vagueness. One can wish to allow metaphysical indeterminacy but rule out metaphysical vagueness. As is discussed in the paper, central argument against metaphysical vagueness, like those of Gareth Evans and Mark Sainsbury, would if successful rule out metaphysical indeterminacy. One way to argue specifically against the possibility of metaphysical vagueness might be thought to be to argue for a specific theory of the nature of vagueness according to which vagueness is a semantic phenomenon. But it is shown that there are complications also pertaining to arguments with that structure. Toward the end of the paper, I discuss Trenton Merricks’ well-known argument against a semantic view on vagueness and for a metaphysical view.


Metaphysical indeterminacy Metaphysical vagueness Meaning-inconsistency view Gareth Evans Mark Sainsbury Trenton Merricks 



Thanks to an audience at the GAP 8 in Konstanz, September 2012, as well as to Elizabeth Barnes, Ross Cameron and Robbie Williams, for helpful feedback.


  1. Barnes E (2010) Ontic vagueness: a guide for the perplexed. Nous 44: 607–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Eklund M (2005) What vagueness consists in. Philosophical Studies 125: 27–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Eklund M (2007) Characterizing vagueness. Philosophy Compass 2: 896–909.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Eklund M (2008) Deconstructing ontological vagueness. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 38: 117–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Eklund M (2013) Williams on the normative silence of indeterminacy. Analysis 37(2): 264–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Evans G (1978) Can there be vague objects? Analysis 38: 208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Field H (1973) Theory change and the indeterminacy of reference. Journal of Philosophy 70: 462–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fine K (1975) Vagueness, truth and logic. Synthese 30: 265–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Heller M (1996) Against metaphysical vagueness. Philosophical Perspectives 10: 177–83.Google Scholar
  10. Lewis D (1986) On the plurality of worlds. Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  11. Lewis, D (1988) Vague identity: Evans misunderstood. Analysis 48: 128–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lewis D (1997) Naming the colours. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 75: 325–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Merricks T (2001) Varieties of vagueness. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62: 145–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Morreau M (2002) What vague objects are like. Journal of Philosophy 99: 333–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Rosen G, Smith N J J (2004) Worldly indeterminacy. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82: 185–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Sainsbury M (1995) Why the world cannot be vague. Southern Journal of Philosophy 33, suppl. vol.: 63–81Google Scholar
  17. Weatherson B (2010) Vagueness as indeterminacy. In: Dietz R, Moruzzi S (eds) Cuts and clouds: vagueness, its nature and its logic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  18. Williams J R G (2012) Indeterminacy and normative silence. Analysis 72: 217–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Williamson T (2005) Vagueness in reality. In: Michael Loux and Dean Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford handbook of metaphysics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 690–715.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sage School of PhilosophyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

Personalised recommendations