Conceptual re-engineering: from explication to reflective equilibrium

Synthese 197 (3):925-954 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Carnap and Goodman developed methods of conceptual re-engineering known respectively as explication and reflective equilibrium. These methods aim at advancing theories by developing concepts that are simultaneously guided by pre-existing concepts and intended to replace these concepts. This paper shows that Carnap’s and Goodman’s methods are historically closely related, analyses their structural interconnections, and argues that there is great systematic potential in interpreting them as aspects of one method, which ultimately must be conceived as a component of theory development. The main results are: an adequate method of conceptual re-engineering must focus not on individual concepts but on systems of concepts and theories; the linear structure of Carnapian explication must be replaced by a process of mutual adjustments as described by Goodman; Carnap’s condition of similarity can be analysed into two components, one securing a relation to the specific extensions of the pre-existing concepts, one regulating the transition to the new system of concepts; these two criteria of adequacy can be built into Goodman’s account of reflective equilibrium to ensure that the resulting concepts promote theoretical virtues while being sufficiently similar to the concepts we started out with.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 89,764

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Reflective Equilibrium Without Intuitions?Georg Brun - 2014 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (2):237-252.
Simple Concepts.Pavel Materna - 2013 - Acta Analytica 28 (3):295-319.
Reflective equilibrium and moral objectivity.Sem de Maagt - 2017 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 60 (5):443-465.
Carnap's ideal of explication and naturalism.Pierre Wagner (ed.) - 2012 - New York, NY: Palgrave-Macmillan.
In defense of reflective equilibrium.Kenneth Walden - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 166 (2):243-256.
Rudolf Carnap: Philosophy of Science as Engineering Explications.Christopher F. French - 2015 - In Uskali Mäki, Stephanie Ruphy, Gerhard Schurz & Ioannis Votsis (eds.), Recent Developments in the Philosophy of Science: EPSA13 Helsinki. Springer. pp. 293-303.
Concepts.Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Concepts and Cognitive Science.Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis - 1999 - In Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.), Concepts: Core Readings. MIT Press. pp. 3-81.
Goodman, Nelson.Axel Mueller - 2007 - In Noretta Koertge (ed.), The New Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Charles Scribner's Sons/MacMillan. pp. 148-152.


Added to PP

282 (#63,744)

6 months
25 (#95,728)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Georg Brun
University of Bern

Citations of this work

Which Concept of Concept for Conceptual Engineering?Manuel Gustavo Https://Orcidorg Isaac - 2023 - Erkenntnis: An International Journal of Scientific Philosophy 88 (5):2145-2169.
Who is a Conspiracy Theorist?Melina Tsapos - 2023 - Social Epistemology 38 (4):454-463.
What Ought a Fruitful Explicatum to be?Mark Pinder - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (2):913-932.

View all 27 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.Noam Chomsky - 1965 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Two Dogmas of Empiricism.W. Quine - 1951 - [Longmans, Green].

View all 102 references / Add more references