Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation is composed of the following series of essays on vagueness, ethics, and their intersection:
1. “More or Less Vague” – In this paper, I argue that vagueness admits of degrees and that the standard views of vagueness—vagueness as indeterminacy and epistemicism—cannot satisfactorily accommodate degrees of vagueness.
2. “Relocating Vagueness: A Reply to Merricks” – In this paper, I show that Trenton Merricks recent argument against the “vagueness orthodoxy”—the view that vagueness is a feature of language and thought only—reduces to absurdity.
3. “Is There Moral Vagueness?” – In the first part of this paper, I argue that the consequences of moral vagueness, if it exists, are even more problematic than has been argued. I focus on the consequences of moral vagueness for robust moral realism, arguing that no account of moral vagueness—semantic, epistemic, nor ontic—can be satisfactorily reconciled with robust moral realism.
In the second part of this paper, I argue that it is still an open question whether moral vagueness exists. I employ a series of tests to cast doubt on whether purported moral Sorites series are actually cases of genuine vagueness. Finally, motivated by the destructive power for arguments from vagueness, I propose a Vagueness Last approach to purported cases of vagueness. The tests developed in examining purported cases of moral vagueness become tools for implementing a Vagueness Last approach.
4. “Posthumous Repugnancy” – In this paper I argue that the possibility of posthumous harm entails what I call Posthumous Repugnancy (PR)—that a person whose wellbeing was extremely high while they were alive could incur small posthumous harms over a long enough period of time after death such that they had a life not worth living. I examine several routes by which the posthumous harm proponent might try and escape posthumous repugnancy, showing each to be highly problematic. I draw a general lesson for desire satisfaction theories of wellbeing. Finally, I consider a vagueness-based objection to my arguments. I draw on strategies developed in my paper “Is There Moral Vagueness?” to diffuse that argument.
Kultgen, Benjamin Michael, "Vagueness and Ethics" (2018). Philosophy Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 69.