Four Experimental Studies on Vagueness

Phil Serchuk‘s paper (with Ian Hargreaves and me) describing some experimental philosophy of logic he did when he was writing his undergrad thesis with me back in ’05 is now out in Mind and Language.  It’s a response to a 1999 paper by Tim Williamson together with psychologists Bonini, Osherson, and Viale, and we also have something to say about Brian Weatherson’s “True, Truer, Truest” paper.

Although arguments for and against competing theories of vagueness often appeal to claims about the use of vague predicates by ordinary speakers, such claims are rarely tested. An exception is Bonini et al. (1999), who report empirical results on the use of vague predicates by Italian speakers, and take the results to count in favor of epistemicism. Yet several methodological difficulties mar their experiments; we outline these problems and devise revised experiments that do not show the same results. We then describe three additional empirical studies that investigate further claims in the literature on vagueness: the hypothesis that speakers confuse ‘P’ with ‘definitely P’, the relative persuasiveness of different formulations of the inductive premise of the Sorites, and the interaction of vague predicates with three different forms of negation.

If you don’t have access, I will gladly send you an electronic offprint — just email me. 

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