Semantic Indecision


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Linguistic vagueness is a consequence of aggregating many judgments into one. This project applies social choice theory, the branch of economics concerning collective decision making, to account for linguistic vagueness. Vagueness effects like the “sorites paradox” arise from the social choice problems associated with linguistic predicates that aggregate judgments along a number of different criteria. Among other advantages, the use of social choice theory reconciles the representation of vagueness effects with models of language meaning based on classical logic (in contrast to most philosophical accounts), and it provides the resources to explain a variety of linguistic puzzles (in contrast to most linguistic accounts).