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2013-14 II semestre: The Nature and Scope of Indeterminacy  

Corsi Dottorato II semestre 2013-14


The Nature and Scope of Indeterminacy

Instructors: Prof. Clotilde Calabi, Dott. Elisa Paganini, Dott. Giuliano Torrengo

Credits: 6

Hours: 20

Period: May

Assessment: Students who attend the course for credits are expected to write a final paper pages about one of the topic discussed in class, to be agreed with the instructors.

Description of the course

Both in ordinary experience and in scientific reflection, we find various forms of indeterminacy: words are often vague, our perceptions can have a blurred or undetermined content, and facts concerning the future are generally unsettled in the present. The course aims at providing an overview of the main approaches to indeterminacy within the fields of philosophy of language, philosophy of perception, and philosophy of time.

Module I (Prof. Paganini): Indeterminacy and Vagueness

How many hairs does the hairiest bald man have? When does a life start? There is no way to give an answer to these questions. Three possible explanations of this inability are considered and developed by philosophers and they are the bases of the three main theories of vagueness: the epistemic theory of vagueness, the semantic theory of vagueness and the ontic theory of vagueness. An overview of the three theories will be presented.

Bibliography of Module I:

KEEFE R. and SMITH P. (1997), “Introduction: theories of vagueness”, in R. Keefe and P. Smith (eds.), Vagueness: A Reader, MIT Press, Cambridge, pp. 1-57

PAGANINI E. (2008), La vaghezza, Carocci, Roma

SAINSBURY R. M. and WILLIAMSON T. (1997), Sorites, in B. Hale e C. Wright (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Language, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 458-484

Module II (Prof. Calabi): Indeterminacy in Perception

In a watercolour painting executed on wet paper, the edges of the coloured shapes blur. If I view such a painting while wearing my eye glasses, I have a clear impression of a fuzzy representation. Consider now a similar watercolour painting executed on dry paper. This image has sharp edges and viewing it without my glasses, I see it blurrily.  What is the difference between the experience of the watercolour on wet paper and the experience of the watercolour on dry paper and observed without glasses? Is there any difference between the experiences of seeing a fuzzy thing distinctly and seeing a precise thing blurrily? According to Michael Tye,  the difference lies in the fact that in the former situation we have a precise representation of an object that has intrinsically vague boundaries and in the latter we have a representation of an object that does not comment on boundaries enough, or does not comment on them at all. We will assess Tye’s hypothesis and two alternative hypotheses advanced by Kent Bach and Fred Dretske.

Bibliography of Module II:

Bach, K. (1997), “Engineering the Mind. Review of Dretske’s Naturalizing the Mind”, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 58, 459-468.

Boghossian, P. and Velleman, J.D. (1989), “Colour as a Secondary Quality”, Mind, 98, 81-103.

Dretske, F. (2003), “Experience as Representation”, Philosophical Issues, 13, Philosophy of Mind, 67-82.

Tye, M. (2003), Consciousness, Color and Content, MIT Press.

Module III (Prof. Torrengo): Indeterminacy in Time

The present and the past seem to enjoy a kind of historical determination that the future lacks. Philosophers disagree not only on whether the indeterminacy of the future has only an epistemic status or it is ontological, but also on how an ontological indeterminacy should be understood. In this module we will discuss different models of the openness of the future (branching time, divergence, thin red line, metaphysical indeterminacy), and how they relate to other issues in philosophy of time, such as the debate over the privileged status of the present, and the reality of time’s passage.

Bibliography of Module III:

Barnes E. and R. Cameron (2009) “The Open Future: Bivalence, Determinism and Ontology”. Philosophical Studies 146

Belnap N. and Green M. (1994)  “Indeterminism and the Thin Red Line” Philosophical Perspectives [But also in Belnap et al (2001) Facing the Future, OUP]

Borghini A and Torrengo G. (2012) “The Metaphysics of the Thin Red Line”, in F. Correia & A. Iacona (eds.) Around the Tree, Kluwer, Synthese Library

McCall S (1976) “Objective Time Flow”, Philosophy of Science, 43

MacFarlane J. (2003) “Future Contingents and Relative Truth”, Philosophical Quarterly 53: 321-336

Lewis, D.K. (1986) “Against overlap”, Par. 4.2 of Cap. 4 of On the Plurality of Worlds, Oxford, Blackwell [pp.198-209]

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