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Reasoning with Loose Concepts

  • Max Black (a1)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S001221730004083X
  • Published online: 01 June 2010
Abstract

A Man whose height is four feet is short; adding one tenthof an inch to a short man's height leaves him short; therefore, a man whose height is four feet and one tenth of an inch is short. Now begin again and argue in the same pattern. A man whose height is four feet and one tenth of an inch is short; adding one tenth of an inch to a short man's height leaves him short; therefore, a man whose height is four feet and two tenths of an inch is short. In this way, it seems, we can reach the absurd result that a man whose height is four feet plus any number of tenths of an inch is short. For, if the first argument is sound, so is the second; and if the second, so is the third; and so on. There appears to be no good reason for stopping at any one point rather than at another; it is hard to see why the chain of arguments should ever be broken. But the conclusion is ridiculous; it is, for example, preposterous to say that a man whose height is seven feet is, nevertheless, short.

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Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie
  • ISSN: 0012-2173
  • EISSN: 1759-0949
  • URL: /core/journals/dialogue-canadian-philosophical-review-revue-canadienne-de-philosophie
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