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Work in progress Epistemology Talk - Sebastiano Moruzzi on Epistemicism and Transmission Failure

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9 Nov 2012 10:30
9 Nov 2012 13:30
Europe/Rome

Sebastiano Moruzzi will present his work in progress on epistemicism (on vagueness) and transmission failure.

Abstract: Epistemicism is the view that vague expressions have sharp extensions, the indeterminacy exhibited by vague expressions is an epistemic matter: we are simply ignorant about the precise boundaries of these extensions. Epistemicism, with its attendant rampant realism, is not the only way to pursue the idea that the source of vagueness is epistemic. Another brand of epistemic theories of vagueness, agnostic theories, diverges from epistemicism in not accepting the rampant realist view. Agnostics think that the image of the series of color-patches as factually determinate is an illusion. The charge of illusion does not rest on the consideration that the series is somewhere factually indeterminate. For the sorites paradox teaches us that the non-existence of a cutoff in the series is incoherent and thus that the idea of boundaryless predicates is false - and being false is incompatible with being factually indeterminate.
The charge of illusion against the epistemicist raised by agnostics rests rather on the idea that epistemicists are committed to unwarranted claims about the series of patches. Take a color spectrum between red and orange. Though we are in a position to know that patches are factually determinate in the clear cases because our ordinary observation-based means provide direct evidence for the truth-value of the relevant judgments, what evidence other than the use of classical logic can epistemicists appeal to for the existence of a cutoff and for the factual determinacy of borderline cases? Epistemicists provide no evidence but the classical reductio of the claim that there is no sharp boundary. So the question is to what extent it is legitimate to increase our knowledge of color-facts just on the basis of some putative valid logical step, when our fundamental means to gain knowledge of colors - i.e. direct observation under normal conditions -prove to be prima facie ineffective. To settle this question we have to ask whether the warrant for believing in the validity of double-negation elimination can be the basis for a warrant for believing in the existence of a cutoff. Having such a warrant entails, by closure, having a warrant for believing that each patch of the series has a determinate color.
The crucial question is then whether the warrant for believing in double negation elimination (the logical step that allows to infer the existence of a cutoff after the reductio reasoning provided by the sorites paradox) can be the basis for believing that each patch of the series has a determinate color. The problem is that we can have a warrant for believing that double negation elimination holds for compound sentences such as the existential statement expressing the existence of the cutoff - i.e. a warrant for believing that the information that the sentence cannot be false suffices to provide information that the sentence is true - only if we already have a warrant for believing that atomic predications have a determined truth-value. But since our ordinary-based means for the utterance of these latter type of sentences do not settle their status, to argue for the existence of a cutoff on the basis of double negation elimination begs the question - i.e. any doubt about the conclusion would not be settled by appeal to double negation elimination. The epistemicist argument for the existence of a cutoff is thus a case of transmission failure.

Paper will be attached later.

Venue: Aula rossa, Dipartimento Discipline delle Comunicazione, via Azzo Gardino 23, Bologna.

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