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2014-2015 II semestre: The Nature and Scope of Indeterminacy  

Corsi Dottorato II semestre 2014-2015


The Nature and Scope of Indeterminacy



Prof. Elisa Paganini

Dott. Giuliano Torrengo

Dott. Filippo Forcignanò


Credits: 3

Hours: 10

Period: 16 - 17 April 2015


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 (Forcignanò): The ‘Sorites Paradox’ in the Ancient Tought

The aim of the module I is to contextualize the so called ‘Sorites Paradox’ in the Greek ancient thought: Eubulides and the Minor Socratic Schools, the Stoics, and the medical tradition (Galen). Why the Megarians were interested in such a paradox? Did Chrysippus offer a solution? Did he express an epistemicist position, or not (as S. Bobzien thinks)? Why Galen alludes to a soritical argument in his treatise On Medical Experience? These issues will be discussed from a historical and philosophical point of view.         


Bibliography of Module I:

BARNES J. (1982): Medicine, experience and logic, in J. Barnes, J. Brunschwig, M.F. Burnyeat and M. Schofield (eds.), Science and Speculation, Cambridge University Press, pp. 24-68

BOBZIES S. (2002): Chrysippus and the Epistemic Theory of Vagueness, “Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society”, 102/1, pp. 217-238



— Module II (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 II:

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 III (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:

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]

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]


Time schedule of lessons

16 April — Module I (Forcignanò). 10.00 – 13.00

16 April — Module II (Paganini). 14.30 -17.30

17 April — Module III (Torrengo). 10.00 – 13.00

17 April — Overall discussion and assignment of topic and valuator for final papers. 13:00 – 14.00

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