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Record My Mind: Banal Records of a Pedestrian Life

Suffering and evil overwhelm me and I stew in my own juice. 

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

2/08/2005 08:20:00 pm - Heaps of Happy-Face Solutions

My immediate thought after reading this
review of Liars and Heaps: New Essays On Paradox a few nights ago was to co-author a paper on the Sorites paradox with Mark, a thought that has occurred to me before. It's also something that I brought up to him in the past. He was my supervisor when I wrote my Honours thesis on this topic and approached it from an angle he developed. One of my examiners had actually said that the thesis has the potential to become an original and potentially publishable (after major revisions and additions) article on the Sorites paradox. But then again, everything is publishable after major revisions and additions...

Executing this thought means I have to keep up with the literature from the past few years. Too time and energy consuming. Even worse would be the writing.

But I digress. What made that thought reappear in my mind was reading the following passage in the review:

Here is another point about the lack of meta-considerations. Some theorists have claimed, both with respect to the sorites paradox and with respect to the liar paradox, that a solution of the kind apparently normally sought cannot be had. Tarski said, (in)famously, that the liar paradox arises because our language is inconsistent. Michael Dummett has argued that the use of vague (or essentially vague) predicates is “intrinsically inconsistent” and that there can be no “coherent logic” of vague expressions”. More recently, Stephen Schiffer has argued that few, if any, genuine philosophical paradoxes have “happy-face solutions”, where a happy-face solution involves identifying the odd-guy-out and showing why this “now-undisguised-masquerader” seemed so plausible in the first place, doing so in such a way that the misleading impression is explained away. He prominently discusses the sorites paradox as one paradox that lacks a happy-face solution. Whether or not this type of skepticism is in the end justified, there appears to be a good question of what warrants the belief that the paradoxes have the kinds of solutions normally sought. But questions like this are absent from the papers in the present volume.

I'm convinced that Mark can make a substantial contribution to the Sorites paradox by presenting his solution in the context of raising and answering this question: What counts as a solution to the Sorites paradox?

Most the articles I read for my thesis was based on the existence of a happy-face solution to the paradox. But why should this be so? As the review suggests, current research on the Sorites paradox seems to still suffer from this bias.

In the unlikely event (maybe years) that I get my act together, I've suggested to Mark to co-author a paper on the Sorites paradox together with me. I'll write and he edit.

Sigh, this is one of those unresolved intellectual endeavours I've wanted to resolve and that I dream about resolving but that I know I'm unlikely to resolve anytime soon. Argh!

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