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Ambiguity and vagueness in political terminology: on coding and referential imprecision

Dowding, Keith and Bosworth, William (2018) Ambiguity and vagueness in political terminology: on coding and referential imprecision. European Journal of Political Theory. ISSN 1474-8851

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1474885118771256


Analytic political philosophy tries to make our political language more precise. But in doing so it risks departing from our natural language and intuitions. This article examines this tension. We argue that the ambiguity and vagueness of our political language can be overcome with coding decisions. While vagueness is a deeper philosophical problem than ambiguity, there are important conceptual similarities. Gareth Evans has formally proved that there can be conflicting yet equally valid precisifications of vague terms. We show that this is the case for complex terms in political philosophy, where each precisification captures part of the sense of the complex term. Vagueness can be overcome by eliminating the terms in certain contexts of analysis. Versions of the subscript gambit can be used to resolve both ambiguity and vagueness.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 The Author(s)
Divisions: Government
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2018 11:24
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2024 01:09

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