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Jason Zarri
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Hi Marcus, To me your post seems to presuppose too sharp of a distinction between what is empirically verifiable (and hence what counts as 'determinate') and what isn't--surely we could construct a sorities-series for the increasing exactness and fruitfulness of physics. Any view that rejects some form of epistemicism (and I'm not saying by any means that I accept it) has to face up to the dread problem of higher-order vagueness. To me it seems like a choose-your-poison- kind of a situation, and though Williamson's view is problematic, it isn't necessarily false (in an epistemic sense of 'necessarily'). Also, isn't math precise despite not making any empirical predictions; and doesn't physics inherit whatever precision it has from its incorporation of math? But even if it is true, it doesn't help conceptual analysis (in your sense): As I understand Williamson's view, the extension of a predicate supervenes may supervene both on usage and external factors, but of course for vague terms we can't *know* the sharp cutoffs of their extensions because otherwise they wouldn't be vague. And if we can't know that in principle--which is what their vagueness consists in--trying to determine their exact bounds a priori is futile. So trying to give a conceptual analysis of a genuinely vague term such as BALD would end in failure. But then conceptual analysts could just deny that the concepts that interest them are vague. (Does COMPOSITION, for instance, admit for borderline cases?) But in any case, I think we more sound reasons for rejecting that sort of conceptual analysis: First, whatever the correct account of vagueness may be (and perhaps we lump together distinct phenomena when we use that term) it requires it we have cognitive access to mental representations which, by themselves, have necessary and sufficient criteria of application, and since at least the work of Eleanor Rosch that this is false. Second, the kind of conceptual analysis you discuss has had an illustrious history of failures--I can't think of any non-trivial, uncontroversial analysis of any concept of philosophical importance. We might disagree (as philosophers and those in academia generally are wont to do) about why that is so, but if anyone thinks I'm wrong I'd be interested to see what they have to offer as an example of a successful analysis. Finally, in case anyone is interested, I posted a parody of that sort of conceptual analysis on my own blog here:
John Scott Ryan has an entire book critiquing Rand's philosophy, with two chapters devoted to her ethics, available online for free here:
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Aug 11, 2012