Posts Chapter 10 Metaphysical Indeterminacy

Chapter 10 Metaphysical Indeterminacy


We have gone over some examples that are vague, such as Frida being tall, or Ed is thin. In some cases there isn’t a clear line, so we just don’t know. Many theorists hold that often there is no definitely correct answer. Propositions that are karmically perfect are sometimes indeterminate - neither definitely true nor definitely false.

There are metaphysical indeterminacy that dispute the claim that this only applies to vague terms like tall, thin, bald, etc and that we have indeterminacy, not because of some linguistic wording, but the facts of the nonlinguistic world are themselves unsettled.

What is Metaphysical Indeterminacy?

Simply put, it is the indeterminacy rooted in unsettledness in the nonlinguistic world. Others have viewed this as vagueness in the linguistic aspects of how we describe things. An example of this is the ‘liar’ paradox.

​ (1) This sentence is false.

It appears that this is a simple statement that is saying something is the case. Well, it the sentence is false than it is true. If it is true than it is false. Simple logic dictates that the sentence can be both true or false.

The two approaches to metaphysical indeterminacy breaks down as such: First, vagueness in words like tall, thin, bald. Second, in unsettledness of the nonlinguistic world.

Epistemic Indeterminacy

If we were to assume that statements are definitely true or definitely false. What happens if you acquire a fact by luck or chance? A classic example is looking way off in a field and seeing a sheep, you declare that there is a sheep in the field. The reality, is that you saw a rock that looked like a sheep, but behind the rock is a sheep. Since you can’t guarantee yourself against errors than you don’t know that it is definitely true or definitely false.

Examples of Metaphysical Indeterminacy?

Are there clear examples of this sort of thing? Is there good reason for thinking such a thing ever happens? Unsurprisingly, metaphysicians aren’t of one mind about this.

Composition and Metaphysical Indeterminacy

Last chapter the Special Composition Question was discussed, “what are the conditions under which several things compose or form a larger thing made up of those several things?” There were a lot of metaphysical approaches to answering this question. One of those answers was life. But when you think about it, that term is vague. There will be borderline cases on this particular view and this leads to something that is indeterminate.

Future Contingents and Metaphysical Indeterminacy

When bringing time into the mix, you find that there is various views that come up. Presentism, which is that only the present exists - therefore the future is not written, would find indeterminacy in future events.

​ (2) There will be a battle tomorrow.

This may be something planned for tomorrow, but it’s not definitely true that it will happen. It’s indeterminate. “Battle” may be a vague term, but it’s not the reason for the indeterminacy of the statement.

Quantum Physics and Metaphysical Indeterminacy

Not really much to add to this section, but since much of quantum mechanics is not understood than things are viewed in probability that an electron will be located here at a specific time. Of course it’s not guaranteed to be there.

Linguistic and Metaphysical Indeterminacy

The rules of language governing vague terms leave unsettled whether these terms can definitely apply to specific things.

Moral Indeterminacy and Metaphysical Indeterminacy

The example given in the book is that you’re at the park with your two year old daughter and notice a young child wandering nearby lost. Is it permissible to leave your daughter for a short period of time to attend to the lost child? If it is 1/4 of a second? Probably fine. 1/2 second? 10 seconds? 10 minutes?

​ (3) It is morally permissible to divert attention from your daughter for n seconds in order to help this stranger

is neither definitely true nor definitely false. Allies of epistemic vagueness contend that the term “permissible” determines a precise, but unknowable cut off point for n.

Evans’s Argument Against Vague Identity

So what are the reasons for rejecting metaphysical indeterminacy?

Suppose there is something A and something B and it is indeterminate whether A is identical with B. If so, then B has this property: being indeterminately identical with A. But, one thinks, it is not indeterminate whether A is identical with A. If so, then A lacks the property being indeterminately identical with A. So A and B have different properties, and by the Principle of Nonidentity of Discernibles, we may conclude that A and B are not identical

A critique of this particular argument is that things don’t have the property of being indeterminately identical with another.

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