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Not everything is black and white. Our daily lives are full of vagueness or fuzziness. Language is the most obvious example--for instance, when we describe someone as tall, it is as though there is a particular height beyond which a person can be considered 'tall'. Likewise the terms 'blond' or 'overweight' in common usage. We often think in discontinuous categories when we are considering something continuous.
In this book, Van Deemter cuts across various disciplines in considering the nature and importance of vagueness. He looks at the principles of measurement, and how we choose categories; the vagueness lurking behind what seems at first sight crisp concepts such as that of the biological 'species'; uncertainties in grammar and the impact of vagueness on the programmes of Chomsky and Montague; vagueness and mathematical logic; computers, vague descriptions, and Natural Language Generation in AI (a new class of programs will allow computers to handle descriptions such as 'the man in the yellow shirt').
Van Deemter shows why vagueness is in various circumstances both unavoidable and useful, and how we are increasingly able to handle fuzziness in mathematical logic and computer science.
1: Introduction: False Clarity
Part I: Vagueness, where one leasts expects it
2: Sex and similarity: On the Fiction of Species
3: Measurements that Matter
4: Identity and Gradual Change
5: Vagueness in Numbers and Maths
Part II: Theories of Vagueness
6: The Linguistics of Vagueness
7: Reasoning with Vague Information
8: Parrying a Paradox
9: Degrees of Truth
Part III: Working Models of Vagueness
10: Artificial Intelligence
11: When to be Vague: Computers as Authors
12: The Explusion from Boole's Paradise
Epilogue: Guaranteed Correct
Kees van Deemter is a Reader in Computing Science at the University of Aberdeen. He works in computational linguistics, the area of artificial intelligence where computer science meets linguistics and his main areas of expertise are computational semantics and natural language generation. He has previously authored 90 research publications in philosophical logic, artificial intelligence and computational linguistics.
"Engaging and approachable book."
- John Gilbey, Times Higher Education Supplement