Department of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy

Laurence Goldstein (University of Kent) - “The Sorites: Clambering out of the Bog”

Fri, April 20, 2012 | WAG 316

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


The Sorites is a beautifully simple paradox concerning vagueness, yet it has defied solution for over 2,000 years. Most of the words that we use to describe things are vague -- for example, Bill Gates is wealthy, but there seems to be no sharp boundary for the word 'wealthy', no clear borderline separating the wealthy from the non-wealthy, or the baby from the infant, the red from the orange etc. Consider a series of one thousand objects, the first of which is red, the last orange. Yet the color of each object is indistinguishable from that of its neighbors. So at what point in the series does the transition from 'red' to 'not red' occur if there is no sharp borderline for 'red'? The approach taken in this paper draws on experimental work and proposes a solution that does justice to the idea that there are no sharp boundaries for the correct application of vague predicates.

Short biography:

Laurence Goldstein (PhD University of St. Andrews) is Professor of Philosophy and Head of the School of European Culture and Languages at the University of Kent. He works mainly in the area of paradoxes, the philosophy of logic and language and the philosophy of Wittgenstein. Among his most recent publications on paradox are ‘A Consistent Way with Paradox’, Philosophical Studies (2009); ‘Stephen Clark, the Laws of Logic and the Sorites’, Philosophy (2009); ‘Fibonacci, Yablo and the Cassationist Approach to Paradox’, Mind (2006). His work on Wittgenstein includes ‘Wittgenstein and Situation Comedy’, Philosophia (2009), a book, Clear and Queer Thinking: Wittgenstein’s Development and His Relevance to Modern Thought (Duckworth 1999), and a play (1999) that mischievously re-creates Wittgenstein’s Ph.D. viva. Professor Goldstein has co-authored a text on the philosophy of logic, Logic: Key Concepts in Philosophy (Continuum 2005), and is currently writing a book, The Liar, the Bald Man and the Hangman. He was also advisory editor for the 2005 Monist issue on the Philosophy of Humor and generally enjoys working at the intersection of philosophy and various other disciplines.

Bookmark and Share