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Speaker Series: John MacFarlane (Berkeley)

November 10, 2017 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

“How to Resist Epistemicism”

According to epistemicists about vagueness, vague language has a classical, bivalent semantics. So there is a precise height which separates people who are tall from those who are not tall, though we can never know what it is. This view has struck many as preposterous, but it is harder to resist than one might think.  For what seems most hard to accept about it—that our words impose hidden and unknowable semantic boundaries—is also a commitment of alternative, nonclassical semantic theories.  To resist epistemicism, we need two things: an argument that vague terms cannot impose this kind of hidden semantic boundary, and a sketch of a viable alternative—a theory of meaning that does without hidden boundaries.  I will attempt to provide both.

In addition to Berkeley’s Department of Philosophy, John MacFarlane is a member of the Group in Logic and the Methodology of Science and a co-organizer of the Meaning Sciences Club and the Townsend Center Working Group in the History and Philosophy of Logic, Mathematics, and Science. Most of his work is in the philosophy of logic and language. Other research interests include metaphysics and epistemology, the philosophy of mathematics, philosophical logic, the history of logic, Frege, Kant, ancient philosophy (particularly Aristotle), and fiddlosophy. He also enjoys making his own tools.


November 10, 2017
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Luc Bovens
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