2.86 Vagueness

Category: Logic and Mathematics

Keywords: vagueness, sorites, truthmaker, realist, realists, borderline, indeterminate, realism, vague, definitely, wright, anti, blackburn, indeterminacy, tall

Number of Articles: 237
Percentage of Total: 0.7%
Rank: 67th

Weighted Number of Articles: 220.6
Percentage of Total: 0.7%
Rank: 76th

Mean Publication Year: 1996.5
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1988.9
Median Publication Year: 1999
Modal Publication Year: 2005

Topic with Most Overlap: Truth (0.062)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Theories and Realism (0.0283)
Topic with Least Overlap: Psychology (7e-05)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Duties (3e-04)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the vaguenesstopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 2005 when 2.1% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 1884 when 0.0% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.86 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.198: Vagueness.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Vaguenesstopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 1.0%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 0.5%. Ethics - 0.2%. Philosophical Review - 0.4%. Analysis - 1.2%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 0.1%. Journal of Philosophy - 0.6%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 0.6%. Philosophy of Science - 0.4%. Noûs - 1.0%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 0.9%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 0.4%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 2003 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 2.4% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 1884 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.0% of the articles.

Figure 2.199: Vagueness articles in each journal.

Table 2.208: Characteristic articles of the vagueness topic.
Table 2.209: Highly cited articles in the vagueness topic.


Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. This is a topic that Bertrand Russell wrote an important paper on many years ago. But that paper made very little impact on the journals at the time, and it is barely visible on the graphs.

Vagueness was a huge topic in the 1990s and early 2000s, driven first by Timothy Williamson’s book Vagueness, and then by the work coming out of the Arché research center at St Andrews. As someone working in that field, it felt like it faded a bit after that time, and the dip in the graph at the very end supports that. I thought there were still plenty of interesting questions here to discuss, but the field seemed to move on.

This was a tricky topic to categorize. I felt it should be philosophy of language, but I really didn’t want to go off my judgments in a field I work in. I’ll talk a bit more about this in chapter 5, but it turned out the model itself had fairly strong views about this topic, and that’s why it is in logic and mathematics.

There are some metaphysics papers scattered in here as well. Some of these are papers on metaphysical vagueness, though since logic journals publish papers on metaphysical vagueness, I don’t feel too bad classifying them as logic and mathematics. But the model also included the small early 2000s topic of truthmakers in here as well. I’m not entirely sure why it did that, other than the fact that the boom in truthmaker discussions happens at roughly the same time as the boom in vagueness discussions, and both of them owe a lot to work by Russell that hadn’t previously troubled the journals. But the truthmaker papers make up a small portion of the topic, and it’s easiest to think of this as just being the vagueness papers.