**truthseeker****Member**Offline

- Registered: 7/01/2015
- Posts: 28

The phenomenon of vagueness can be exhibited by the sorites paradox. Consider the following argument:

(1) A million grains of sand is a heap.

(2) A heap minus one grain is still a heap.

Therefore,

(C) one grain of sand is a heap.

(C) contradicts the obvious truth that one grain of sand is not a heap. To avoid (C) one must deny the validity of the argument, or deny (1) or (2). (1) is obvious. Furthermore the argument seems valid by the principle of mathematical induction.

Can we deny (2)? If (2) is false then there has to be some exact number of grains which define a heap. But it would seem "heap" is a vague predicate, or concept: it cannot be defined exactly.

Seemingly true principles and propositions imply a contradiction. Accordingly we have a paradox. And similar paradoxes can be developed for many other vague predicates, such as "bald," "rich," "red," and so on.

Vagueness raises interesting philosophical questions. Is there a resolution to the sorites paradox? How should we reason with vague terms or concepts? Is vagueness just a defect of our language or thought, or is there vagueness in reality itself?

The notion of vagueness is also relevant to some political issues. Consider arguments over abortion hinging on where the cutoff is between a cluster of cells and a person, and the transgender advocate's slogan that gender exists on a spectrum.

I hope I have made it tolerably clear what I mean by "vagueness" and you have a sense of some philosophical issues raised by it. This preface having been given, I pose two questions: **What would a Thomistic account of vagueness be?How would a Thomist resolve the sorites paradox?**

*Last edited by truthseeker (4/30/2017 8:50 am)*

**Dennis****Member**Offline

- Registered: 6/26/2015
- Posts: 341

Hi truthseeker,

I don't have the Thomistic solution to the Sorites paradox, but here's what I think about it. The term 'heap' is a linguistic primitive, natural language is always vague and indeterminate, where being specific is almost always an exception than the rule. The vice versa is true for when we're doing logic. Must we always consider that everything that we say must be translatable into formal logic? People say the damnest things, this paradox reminds me of the liar paradox, why must we accept that every instance of natural language needs to be adequately translated into specifics?

What would be wrong in saying that the 'heap' is just a linguistic primitive?

## truthseeker wrote:

Consider arguments over abortion hinging on where the cutoff is between a cluster of cells and a person, and the transgender advocate's slogan that gender exists on a spectrum.

However, I do think that this question is more reasonable than the first to answer, and is epistemic in nature. I wonder what replies could be given.