Acceptable Contradictions: Pragmatics or Semantics?
A Reply to Cobreros et al.
Sam Alxatib · Peter Pagin · Uli Sauerland
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
Abstract Naive speakers find some logical contradictions acceptable, specifi-
cally borderline contradictions involving vague predicates such as Joe is and
isn’t tall. In a recent paper, Cobreros et al. (J Philos Logic, 2012) suggest a
pragmatic account of the acceptability of borderline contradictions. We show,
however, that the pragmatic account predicts the wrong truth conditions for
some examples with disjunction. As a remedy, we propose a semantic analysis
instead. The analysis is close to a variant of fuzzy logic, but conjunction and
disjunction are interpreted as intensional operators.
Keywords Contradiction · Vagueness · Fuzzy logic · Pragmatics ·
Natural language · Conjunction
The phenomenon of vagueness has many facets. One important aspect is the
existence of borderline cases. We focus on one fact that is particularly interest-
ing from an empirical, linguistic perspective: In some cases, sentences that
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
U. Sauerland (
Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Germany
J Philos Logic (201 ) 42:6 –6 419 3
Received: 21 June 2011 / Accepted: 10 July 2012 / Published online: 1 20125 August