A group philosophers stand at the feet of a hill; Bert draws a line on the floor surrounding the hill and ask: is this the edge of the hill?
William says: “I don’t know, it might be, but how could I know? There has to be an edge somewhere around here, and it might be here for all I know, but who knows?”
Gareth says: “Well, it is indeterminate whether this is it or not. Some questions do not have determinate answers, and this is one of them. Reality is just like that – hills are just like that.”
Arthur says: “Oh, yes, if you want to, it is ok. The hill has to have an edge so it might as well be this one if that is what you want. Whatever, it does not make much a difference, so yeah, fine, this is it.”
Graham says: “No, this is definitely not the edge of the hill. This is a sharp line and hills do not have shap edges. Thus, it is determinate that this is not the edge and we know it.”
Gareth goes far into the valley and draws another line in the ground, then comes back to Graham and states: “I think we can all agree that that line I just drew is definitely not the edge of the hill, right? I do not think we can say the same thing about this line Bert drew here. It must be clear that if we wanted to sharpen – to precify – the edge of the hill, we could end up with a line like Bert’s but there is not way that we could end up with a line like the one I just drew. If we only said that this line is determinately not the edge just like that other line I just drew is also determinately not the edge of the hill, we loose this distinction.”
Graham continues: “Yes, Gareth, it is true that if we wanted to precisify the edge of the hill, we could end up with a line like this, but this does not mean that this line could or might be the edge of the hill. There is some sort of modality involved in precification thus understood, but this is not the usual alethic, epistemic or deontic modalities that you think; it must be a sui-generis sort of modality.”