Conceptual engineering and the implementation problem

Abstract

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 we expand our view of how conceptual engineers could implement the products of their work. I describe four implementation options: Standing Meaning, Meaning Modulation, Speaker-Meaning and Different Language. I query the feasibility and worth of pursuing these options. Unless each option fails because it is unfeasible or not worthwhile, conceptual engineers do not face an implementation problem worth worrying about. I argue that some of the options are feasible and worthwhile, and therefore, that conceptual engineers do not face an implementation problem worth worrying about.

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Sigurd Jorem
University of Oslo

References found in this work

Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Logical Foundations of Probability.Rudolf Carnap - 1950 - Chicago, IL, USA: Chicago University of Chicago Press.

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