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Vagueness (The Problems of Philosophy: Their Past and Present) Hardcover – August 19, 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0415033312 ISBN-10: 0415033314 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 325 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (August 19, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415033314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415033312
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,034,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Vagueness provides a complete and lucid account of one of the hottest topics in philosophy of language and philosophy of logic . . . Williamson constructs a broader and broader theory of vagueness sensitive to the constraints and resources of contemporary philosophy of language. His efforts drive epistemicism to a new level of depth and distinction.
–Roy Sorensen, New York University

About the Author

Timothy Williamson is a Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh. Oxford.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By G.D. TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 25, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Despite the occasionally highly technical nature of the subject matter he discusses, Williamson's oeuvre is among the most insightful, readable and accessible in current philosophy. As such, it should be of value to both students and professionals.

Despite this, "Vagueness" cannot be given an unreserved recommendation. Of its three rather sharply delineated parts, the first, surveying the history of the subject matter, is overlong and only intermittingly of any interest, and the third, presenting his own, epistemic position, far more profoundly developed in "Knowledge and its Limits" (by comparison, the presentation in "Vagueness" seems sketchy and uses a lot of pages to say very little). The middle part, however, discussing semantic approaches to the question of vagueness, is valuable, and his attacks on fuzzy logic and superevaluationist approaches are ingenious (and, in my opinion, decisive).

To conclude, I would recommend anyone interested in the issue to read these chapters (4 and 5, I believe, not having the book in front of me), but urge more general readers to acquire "Knowledge and its Limits" instead. The latter is a stroke of genius - one of the most important contributions to philosophy since 1976. (PS: Hope readers will excuse the somewhat stilted language in t6his review - I am not a native speaker).
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Pierce on August 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you took grains of sand away from a pile of sand, when would it cease to be a pile? The paradox of the sorites goes back to early Greek philosophers, and recent metaphysicians have revived the debate after a couple thousand years of philosophers ignoring it. According to Timothy Williamson, there is an exact point when every pile ceases to be a pile, and we could never know what that point is. If a man loses a certain number of hairs, he will be bald, and just one hair makes the difference. Williamson's epistemic view of vagueness has now come to occupy the front stage. Everyone wants to show why such a wacky view just can't be right, but no one seems to have a convincing reply to his arguments. His book covers the main views for dealing with problems of vagueness, and it goes through basic reasons deriving just from standard logic, showing why the other views are seriously inadequate unless they revise our standard logic to the point of absurdity. This book isn't easy even for trained philosophers, but it's well worth it for anyone who wants to delve into this fundamental issue in metaphysics and philosophy of language.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By W. Jamison VINE VOICE on November 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Odd - this appears to be the only entry close in Amazon but it does not fit the text exactly. The title is the same and the author is the same but the library copy is printed 1994 and the editor is Ted Honderich and Routledge is the publisher. Sorry about being so vague but there is clearly a difference. This book is not a collection of essays but a continuous treatment of the subject by Williamson. Oddly, it also fits the other four reviews better as well, so this still seems like the right place to make this entry.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Pi on March 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
Clearly, the previous reviewer, Mr. Nagate, doesn't even understand the problem of vagueness. His explanation of Sorites paradox is that "at some point" after removing grains of sand from a heap, we are unsure whether, if removing another grain of sand, it can still be called "a heap". And after removing some more grains of sand, "at some point", we become sure that it is not a heap.

This simply begs the question, at what point exactly are we "unsure" that it is a heap? It is the same problem -- and remains a problem for most of the meaningful language that we use. To say such things, he seems to understand neither the problem of vagueness nor Wittgenstein.

Timothy Williamson is a fantastic philosopher, and one whom I'm inclined to believe will one day rank with Wittgenstein in the history books (thankfully, he is still alive and productive, and most certainly not "historical"). I sincerely hope that no one will forgo purchasing this book on the basis of that reviewer's "original research" and unorthodox "interpretation" of Wittgenstein. He clearly knows little to nothing of serious philosophy, and clearly lacks the imagination to see why anyone would see vagueness as a legitimate philosophical problem (which greater minds than both he and Wittgenstein have believed -- for a couple thousand years).
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17 of 65 people found the following review helpful By John Nygate on September 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you want to learn how not to do philosophy, read this book (if you can). In his later work genius Ludwig Wittgenstein taught that philosophical problems only appear when a writer is cavalier with the meaning and usage of words. Mr Williamson can only write about "the philosophical problem of vagueness" by ignoring Wittgenstein's dictum.
Suppose I stand in front of a pile of sand and someone removes grains a teaspoonful at a time. I am asked "When does it cease to be a pile?" How to answer this? The answer would have to be something like this. After a certain quantity of sand has been removed I might say "Maybe it is reaching the point where someone could question whether it is a pile or not." More sand removed..."I am not sure whether it is a pile or not." More sand removed... "I think many people would not call this a pile." More sand removed ..."Definitely not a pile now."
To ask "Exactly when does it cease to be a pile?" is to ignore the linguistic conventions and contexts concerning the phrase "a pile of sand." It is to be careless with language. So taught Wittgenstein more than fifty years ago.
According to Mr Williamson, vagueness is an epistemic phenomenon. "In cases of unclarity, statements remain true or false, but speakers of the language have no way of knowing which." Consider what this means. Some people say Pluto is a planet in the solar system. Others say Pluto is too small to be a planet, it is merely an asteroid. Thus according to Mr Williamson, the statement "Pluto is a planet" must either be true or false but we do not know which. Mr Williamson then correctly writes that such a view of vagueness appears incredible.
How does Mr Williamson create such a pickle?
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