On the Relation Between Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics

Ratio 33 (4):281-294 (2020)
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Abstract

In recent years, there has been growing discussion amongst philosophers about “conceptual engineering”. Put roughly, conceptual engineering concerns the assessment and improvement of concepts, or of other devices we use in thought and talk (e.g., words). This often involves attempts to modify our existing concepts (or other representational devices), and/or our practices of using them. This paper explores the relation between conceptual engineering and conceptual ethics, where conceptual ethics is taken to encompass normative and evaluative questions about concepts, words, and other broadly “representational” and/or “inferential” devices we use in thought and talk. We take some of the central questions in conceptual ethics to concern which concepts we should use and what words should mean, and why. We put forward a view of conceptual engineering in terms of the following three activities: conceptual ethics, conceptual innovation, and conceptual implementation. On our view, conceptual engineering can be defined in terms of these three activities, but not in a straightforward, Boolean way. Conceptual engineering, we argue, is made up of mereologically complex activities whose parts fall into the categories associated with each of these three different activities.

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Author Profiles

Alexis Burgess
Pomona College
David Plunkett
Dartmouth College

Citations of this work

Inferentialist Conceptual Engineering.Sigurd Jorem & Guido Löhr - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Meaning and Necessity: A Study in Semantics and Modal Logic.Rudolf Carnap - 1947 - Chicago, IL, USA: University of Chicago Press.
Choosing Normative Concepts.Matti Eklund - 2017 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
The Structure of Appearance.Nelson Goodman - 1951 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
Replacing Truth.Kevin Scharp - 2013 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press UK.

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