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02/14/2014

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 Michael Kremer

Eric: As I know you know (from Facebook correspondence), David Lewis defends Evans's argument (in a way he claims to be vindicated by correspondence with Evans) in his paper "Vague Identity: Evans Misunderstood." As Lewis reconstructs Evans's argument, it is not an argument against the claim that there are vague identities. According to Lewis, Evans is "taking for granted that there are vague identity statements," and "that a proof to the contrary cannot be right." On Lewis's reading the argument is against the conjunction of two theses: there are vague identity statements and that (this is due to the fact that) the world itself is vague. (Lewis: "what is in trouble is the value-objects view combined with the view that vague identity yields identity statements with indeterminate truth value.")

According to Lewis, "On this interpretation, every bit of what Evans says fits into place." Now Lewis is trying to defend Evans against a different criticism than the one you have made here (I take your criticism to be essentially, begging the question, with both the use of (3) and the appeal to classical negation principles). The question is whether we can fill in the details of an argument in which the moves you question can be defended a la Lewis. I am not sure, but I might try, if I have a bit more time. I'm going to stop now and think about it.

But I'll just add that on your final "funny" and showing and saying, I don't really get it. Quantification is not vagueness, is it? If I say "Some days I have a drink before dinner" what I have said is determinately true or false (true, in this case). I have not said anything vague. It is of course the case that I have left it indeterminate on which days I have a drink before dinner. But so?

That would be true even if I had just used disjunction. If I had said "I will post a comment on this post either tomorrow or the next day" would you say that I had thereby said something determinable and not determinate, so that I would have managed to say something vague (in the sense of "vague" at issue in Evans's article)?

Anyway, I will give a little more thought to the Lewisian idea I gestured at above and if I find I can do something with it I will try. I do warn that I have other things I should be doing right now... so even if I post something more, I probably won't be able to go multiple rounds.

Eric Schliesser

Dear Michael,
First, thank you for taking the time to respond and to insist that I re-read Lewis now. I am mulling his piece. (I am pretty sure that in the post I was not making the standard criticism that Lewis debunks. But it is possible I failed to grasp Evans' main point.) [I should also say that as a scholar, I am pretty dubious about post-hoc reports about purported intentions by authors.]
Second, I am wondering, why must (as Lewis claims) the "vague-objects view" say "that a name like 'Princeton' rigidly denotes a certain vague object"? [In teaching Evans' piece, I had trouble getting my head around his use of names, so maybe I am really confused over something.] It strikes me the vague-objects view ought to deny this.
Third, you have understood my main criticisms. (But note that I also pointed out that there were hidden assumptions about language/world mapping that seem open to challenge.)
Finally, on my final funny, I may have been trying to be too clever on Evans' behalf.

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