Russell and Vagueness


  • Nadine Faulkner Somerville College, Oxford University



In this paper I present the philosophical backdrop to Russell's 1923 "Vagueness" paper. I argue that his view of vagueness in 1923 is the result of a rise in the importance of symbolism in his thinking coupled with a new interest in psychology. I show how these new interests are related to concerns he had with his theory of judgment as well as his logicist project. I attend to the two major complaints against his view of vagueness: that all language is vague and his purported conflation of vagueness with generality. I lastly show how Russell's view is distinct from modern approaches to vagueness in so far as he is not concerned with truth-value gaps but instead sees vagueness as applying primarily to what is cognitive and as a transitory position between ignorance and knowledge.