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Conceptual Engineering: The Master Argument

In Herman Cappelen, David Plunkett & Alexis Burgess (eds.), Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2020)

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  1. Conceptual Engineering and the Politics of Implementation.Matthieu Queloz & Friedemann Bieber - 2021 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (3):670-691.
    Conceptual engineering is thought to face an ‘implementation challenge’: the challenge of securing uptake of engineered concepts. But is the fact that implementation is challenging really a defect to be overcome? What kind of picture of political life would be implied by making engineering easy to implement? We contend that the ambition to obviate the implementation challenge goes against the very idea of liberal democratic politics. On the picture we draw, the implementation challenge can be overcome by institutionalizing control over (...)
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  • The Points of Concepts: Their Types, Tensions, and Connections.Matthieu Queloz - 2019 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 49 (8):1122-1145.
    In the literature seeking to explain concepts in terms of their point, talk of ‘the point’ of concepts remains under-theorised. I propose a typology of points which distinguishes practical, evaluative, animating, and inferential points. This allows us to resolve tensions such as that between the ambition of explanations in terms of the points of concepts to be informative and the claim that mastering concepts requires grasping their point; and it allows us to exploit connections between types of points to understand (...)
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  • Conceptual Change and Conceptual Engineering: The Case of Colour Concepts.Lieven Decock - 2021 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 64 (1-2):168-185.
    I analyse conceptual change and conceptual engineering in the special case of colour concepts. The case raises the prospects of conceptual engineering because a precise standard for measuring the amelioration of the structure of concepts is available. On the other hand, the study highlights the problems with controlling conceptual engineering pointed out by Cappelen. I argue that in the case of conceptual change of colour concepts varying degrees of optimization, design and control are possible. I submit that this observation can (...)
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  • Work is Meaningful If There Are Good Reasons to Do It: A Revisionary Conceptual Analysis of ‘Meaningful Work’.Jens Jørund Tyssedal - forthcoming - Journal of Business Ethics:1-12.
    Meaningful work is an important ideal, but it seems hard to give an adequate account of meaningful work. In this article, I conduct a revisionary conceptual analysis of ‘meaningful work’, i.e. a conceptual analysis that aims at finding a better and more useful way to use this term. I argue for a distinction between cases where work itself is meaningful and cases where other sources of meaning are found at work. The term ‘meaningful work’ is most useful for the former (...)
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  • Responsible AI Through Conceptual Engineering.Johannes Himmelreich & Sebastian Köhler - 2022 - Philosophy and Technology 35 (3):1-30.
    The advent of intelligent artificial systems has sparked a dispute about the question of who is responsible when such a system causes a harmful outcome. This paper champions the idea that this dispute should be approached as a conceptual engineering problem. Towards this claim, the paper first argues that the dispute about the responsibility gap problem is in part a conceptual dispute about the content of responsibility and related concepts. The paper then argues that the way forward is to evaluate (...)
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  • Frameworks, Models, and Case Studies: A New Methodology for Studying Conceptual Change in Science and Philosophy.Matteo De Benedetto - 2022 - Dissertation, Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
    This thesis focuses on models of conceptual change in science and philosophy. In particular, I developed a new bootstrapping methodology for studying conceptual change, centered around the formalization of several popular models of conceptual change and the collective assessment of their improved formal versions via nine evaluative dimensions. Among the models of conceptual change treated in the thesis are Carnap’s explication, Lakatos’ concept-stretching, Toulmin’s conceptual populations, Waismann’s open texture, Mark Wilson’s patches and facades, Sneed’s structuralism, and Paul Thagard’s conceptual revolutions. (...)
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  • Meaning change and changing meaning.Allison Koslow - 2022 - Synthese 200 (2):1-26.
    Is conceptual engineering feasible? Answering that question requires a theory of semantic change, which is sometimes thought elusive. Fortunately, much is known about semantic change as it occurs in the wild. While usage is chaotic and complex, changes in a word’s use can produce changes in its meaning. There are several under-appreciated empirical constraints on how meanings change that stem from the following observation: word use finely reflects equilibrium between various communicative pressures. Much of the relevant work in linguistics has (...)
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  • Identity of Dynamic Meanings.Pavel Arazim - 2022 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 22 (64):69-90.
    Inferentialism has brought important insights into the nature of meanings. It breaks with the representationalist tradition that sees meanings as constituted primarily by representing some extra-linguistic reality. Yet the break with tradition should be pursued further. Inferentialists still regard meanings as static, and they still do not entirely abandon the idea of fully determined meaning. Following Davidon’s ideas about meanings as constituted only in the course of a specific conversation, I propose a dynamic account of what meanings are. They are (...)
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  • Science and values in the biodiversity-ecosystem function debate.David M. Frank - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (2):1-22.
    This paper explores interactions between ecological science and conservation values in the biodiversity-ecosystem function debate of the 1990–2000s. The scientific debate concerned the interpretation of observed correlations between species richness and ecosystem properties like primary productivity in experimental ecosystems. The debate over the causal or explanatory role of species richness was presumed to have implications for conservation policy, and the use of such research to support policy recommendations generated hostility between rival groups of ecologists. I argue that the debate was (...)
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  • Verbal Disputes and Topic Continuity.Viktoria Knoll - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Changing concepts comes with a risk of creating merely verbal disputes. Accounts of topic continuity (such as Herman Cappelen’s) are supposed to solve this problem. As this paper shows, however, no existing solution avoids the danger of mere verbalness. On the contrary, accounts of topic continuity in fact increase the danger of overlooking merely verbal disputes between pre- and post-ameliorators. Ultimately, this paper suggests accepting the danger of mere verbalness resulting from a change in topic as a downside of conceptual (...)
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  • Why Conceptual Engineers Should Not Worry About Topics.Steffen Koch - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-21.
    This paper argues for explanatory eliminativism about topics relative to the domain of conceptual engineering. It has become usual to think that topics serve an important explanatory role in theories of conceptual engineering, namely, to determine the limits of revision. I argue, first, that such limits can be understood either as the normative limits pertaining to the justification of conceptual engineering, as the metaphysical limits pertaining to the identity of the concepts in question, or as the terminological limits pertaining to (...)
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  • Still the same dilemma for conceptual engineers: reply to Koch.Max Deutsch - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (11):3659-3670.
    Steffen Koch raises several objections to my critique of conceptual engineering. Here, I reply to these objections, arguing that Koch fails to adequately defend the “standard rationale” for conceptual engineering, and that the dilemma I have posed for “conceptual re-engineering”, a dilemma that presents this practice as either infeasible or else trivial, survives Koch’s objections unscathed. I conclude that conceptual engineering, both in terms of its conception and rationale, remains problematic.
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  • What Should Conceptual Engineering Be All About?Isaac Manuel Gustavo - 2021 - Philosophia Philosophical Quarterly of Israel:1–13.
    Conceptual engineering is commonly characterized as the method for assessing and improving our representational devices. Little has been said, however, on how best to construe these representational devices—in other words, on what conceptual engineering should be all about. This paper tackles this problem with a basic strategy: First, by presenting a taxonomy of the different possible subject matters for conceptual engineering; then, by comparatively assessing them and selecting the most conducive one with a view to making conceptual engineering an actionable (...)
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  • Weberian Ideal Type Construction as Concept Replacement.Raphael Riel - forthcoming - European Journal of Philosophy.
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  • Experimental Philosophy and the Method of Cases.Joachim Horvath & Steffen Koch - 2021 - Philosophy Compass 16 (1):e12716.
    In this paper, we first briefly survey the main responses to the challenge that experimental philosophy poses to the method of cases, given the common assumption that the latter is crucially based on intuitive judgments about cases. Second, we discuss two of the most popular responses in more detail: the expertise defense and the mischaracterization objection. Our take on the expertise defense is that the available empirical data do not support the claim that professional philosophers enjoy relevant expertise in their (...)
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  • Legal Philosophy and the Study of Legal Reasoning.Torben Spaak - 2021 - Belgrade Law Review 69 (4).
    In this short paper, I argue that legal philosophers ought to focus more than they have done so far on problems of legal reasoning. Not only is this a field with many philosophically interesting questions to consider, but it is also, in my estimation, the field in which legal philosophers can contribute the most to both the study and the practice of law. For even though reasoning and interpretation are at the center of what legal practitioners and legal scholars do, (...)
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  • Reflective Intuitions About the Causal Theory of Perception Across Sensory Modalities.R. Roberts, K. Allen & Kelly Schmidtke - 2021 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 12.
    Many philosophers believe that there is a causal condition on perception, and that this condition is a conceptual truth about perception. A highly influential argument for this claim is based on intuitive responses to Gricean style thought experiments. Do the folk share the intuitions of philosophers? Roberts et al. presented participants with two kinds of cases: Blocker cases and Non-Blocker cases. They found that a substantial minority agreed that seeing occurs in the Non-Blocker cases, and that in the Blocker cases (...)
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  • When Clarity and Consistency Conflicts with Empirical Adequacy: Conceptual Engineering, Anthropology, and Evans-Pritchard’s Ethnography.C. M. Djordjevic - 2021 - Synthese 198 (10):9611-9637.
    In recent analytic philosophy, there is a growing interest in the project of conceptual engineering. This paper examines two ways this project might be applied to scientific research, specifically anthropological research. It argues that both of them are harmful to this research. Specifically, it argues that a reliance on the axiological standards of analytic philosophy conflicts with the goal of empirical adequacy. Section one proffers two forms that the engineering project might take when applied to the science. Section two proffers (...)
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  • Revision, Endorsement and the Analysis of Meaning.Paul-Mikhail Catapang Podosky & Kai Tanter - 2020 - Analysis 80 (4):693-704.
    Recently there has been much philosophical interest in the analysis of concepts to determine whether they should be removed, revised, or replaced. Enquiry of this kind is referred to as conceptual engineering or conceptual ethics. We will call it revisionary conceptual analysis. It standardly involves describing the meaning of a concept, evaluating whether it serves its purposes, and prescribing what it should mean. However, this stands in tension with prescriptivism, a metasemantic view which holds that all meaning claims are prescriptions. (...)
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  • Reflective Intuitions About the Causal Theory of Perception Across Sensory Modalities.Pendaran Roberts, Keith Allen & Kelly Schmidtke - 2021 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 12 (2):257-277.
    Many philosophers believe that there is a causal condition on perception, and that this condition is a conceptual truth about perception. A highly influential argument for this claim is based on intuitive responses to Gricean-style thought experiments. Do the folk share the intuitions of philosophers? Roberts et al. presented participants with two kinds of cases: Blocker cases and Non-Blocker cases. They found that a substantial minority agreed that seeing occurs in the Non-Blocker cases, and that in the Blocker cases significantly (...)
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  • Epistemic Injustice and Deepened Disagreement.T. J. Lagewaard - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (5):1571-1592.
    Sometimes ordinary disagreements become deep as a result of epistemic injustice. The paper explores a hitherto unnoticed connection between two phenomena that have received ample attention in recent social epistemology: deep disagreement and epistemic injustice. When epistemic injustice comes into play in a regular disagreement, this can lead to higher-order disagreement about what counts as evidence concerning the original disagreement, which deepens the disagreement. After considering a common definition of deep disagreement, it is proposed that the depth of disagreements is (...)
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  • Construction and Continuity: Conceptual Engineering Without Conceptual Change.Henry Jackman - 2020 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 63 (9-10):909-918.
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  • Conceptual Engineering, Topics, Metasemantics, and Lack of Control.Herman Cappelen - 2020 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (5):594-605.
    Conceptual engineering is now a central topic in contemporary philosophy. Just 4-5 years ago it wasn’t. People were then engaged in the engineering of various philosophical concepts (in various sub-disciplines), but typically not self-consciously so. Qua philosophical method, conceptual engineering was under-explored, often ignored, and poorly understood. In my lifetime, I have never seen interest in a philosophical topic grow with such explosive intensity. The sociology behind this is fascinating and no doubt immensely complex (and an excellent case study for (...)
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  • Conceptual Engineering and the Implementation Problem.Sigurd Jorem - 2021 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 64 (1-2):186-211.
    Conceptual engineers seek to revise or replace the devices we use to speak and think. If this amounts to an effort to change what natural language expressions mean, conceptual engineers will have a hard time. It is largely unfeasible to change the meaning of e.g. ‘cause’ in English. Conceptual engineers may therefore seem unable to make the changes they aim to make. This is what I call ‘the implementation problem’. In this paper, I argue that the implementation problem dissolves if (...)
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  • There is no dilemma for conceptual engineering. Reply to Max Deutsch.Steffen Koch - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (7):2279-2291.
    Max Deutsch has recently argued that conceptual engineering is stuck in a dilemma. If it is construed as the activity of revising the semantic meanings of existing terms, then it faces an unsurmountable implementation problem. If, on the other hand, it is construed as the activity of introducing new technical terms, then it becomes trivial. According to Deutsch, this conclusion need not worry us, however, for conceptual engineering is ill-motivated to begin with. This paper responds to Deutsch by arguing, first, (...)
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