Vagueness and Non-Indexical Contextualism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Contextualism concerning vagueness (hereafter ‘CV’) is a popular response to the puzzle of vagueness.[1] The goal in this paper is to uncover in what ways vagueness may be a particular species of context-sensitivity. The most promising form of CV turns out to be a version of socalled ‘Non-Indexical Contextualism’.[2] In §2, we sketch a generic form of CV (hereafter ‘GCV’). In §3, we distinguish between Truth CV and Content CV. A non-indexical form of CV is a form of Truth CV, while an indexical form of CV is a form of Content CV. In §4, we argue that the theory of vagueness given in Fara (2000) is crucially incomplete but is best seen as a non-indexical form of CV. In §5, we set forth four kinds of error-theory to which CV might be committed. It turns out that Non-Indexical CV is committed to a weaker, and more plausible, error-theory than Indexical CV. In §6, we address a challenge posed by Keefe (2007) to the effect that CV entails that any speech report of what has been said by a particular vague utterance, where the context of utterance and the reporting context are relevantly different, will almost always be inaccurate. While this challenge is prima facie effective against Indexical CV it proves to be less effective against Non-Indexical CV. In §7, we look at two tests for context-sensitivity and assess whether they can be employed against CV. These tests, if cogent, reveal that the only workable form of CV is Non-Indexical CV.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Waves in the Philosophy of Language
EditorsS Sawyer
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Print)978-0-230-22436-0, 978-0-230-22437-7
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Publication series

NameNew Waves in Philosophy
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan


  • Contextualism
  • Vagueness
  • Relativism
  • Non-Indexical Contextualism
  • Sorites Paradox


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