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Quantum objects are vague objects

French, S.R.D. and Krause, D. (1996) Quantum objects are vague objects. Sorites, 6. pp. 21-33. ISSN 1135-1349


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Is vagueness a feature of the world or merely of our representations of the world? Of course, one might respond to this question by asserting that insofar as our knowledge of the world is mediated by our representations of it, any attribution of vagueness must attach to the latter. However, this is to trivialize the issue: even granted the point that all knowledge is representational, the question can be re-posed by asking whether vague features of our representations are ultimately eliminable or not. It is the answer to this question which distinguishes those who believe that vagueness is essentially epistemic from those who believe that it is, equally essentially, ontic. The eliminability of vague features according to the epistemic view can be expressed in terms of the supervenience of ‘vaguely described facts’ on ‘precisely describable facts’:

If two possible situations are alike as precisely described in terms of physical measurements, for example, then they are alike as vaguely described with words like ‘thin’. It may therefore be concluded that the facts themselves are not vague, for all the facts supervene on precisely describable facts. (Williamson 1994, p. 248; see also pp. 201- 204)

It is the putative vagueness of certain identity statements in particular that has been the central focus of claims that there is vagueness ‘in’ the world (Parfit 1984, pp. 238-241; Kripke 1972, p. 345 n. 18). Thus, it may be vague as to who is identical to whom after a brain-swap, to give a much discussed example. Such claims have been dealt a forceful blow by the famous Evans-Salmon argument which runs as follows: suppose for reductio that it is indeterminate whether a = b. Then b definitely possesses the property that it is indeterminate whether it is identical with a, but a definitely does not possess this property since it is surely not indeterminate whether a=a. Therefore, by Leibniz’s Law, it cannot be the case that a=b and so the identity cannot be indeterminate (Evans 1978; Salmon 1982).

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 1996 Sorites and the authors. Uploaded with permission from the Editor.
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds)
Depositing User: Leeds Philosophy Department
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2007 14:24
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 16:55
Published Version: http://www.sorites.org/Issue_06/
Status: Published
Refereed: Yes
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3225

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