The Authority of Pragmatic Conceptual Analysis


This paper defends Pragmatic Conceptual Analysis , a proposed empirical methodology for explicating philosophical concepts. This methodology attributes to our shared concepts whatever application conditions they would need to have in order best to continue delivering benefits in the ways they have regularly delivered benefits in the past. In the first stage of my argument I argue that Pragmatic Conceptual Analysis has what I call normative authority : we have practical and epistemic reason to adopt the explications that it delivers even if we think doing so requires stipulative revisions in the meanings of our concepts. I then use this normative authority to argue that Pragmatic Conceptual Analysis also has what I call descriptive authority : when we understand concept-meaning in the way we ought to understand it (in the way licensed by the normative authority of Pragmatic Conceptual Analysis) we see that, rather than being revisionary, Pragmatic Conceptual Analysis is a semantically conservative tool that uncovers (what we should think of as being) the meanings our concepts already have



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Justin Fisher
Southern Methodist University

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