About this topic
Summary Conceptual analysis is one of the main traditional methods of philosophy, arguably dating back to Plato's early dialogues. The basic idea is that questions like 'What is knowledge?', 'What is justice?', or 'What is truth?' can be answered solely on the basis of one's grasp of the relevant concepts. The ideal result of a conceptual analysis would be a definition or analysis of the relevant X that is typically formulated as a necessary biconditional that states necessary and sufficient conditions for being X. For example, a typical formulation of the classical analysis of knowledge as justified true belief is: S knows that p iff (1) p is true, (2) S believes that p, and (3) S is justified in believing that p. Here, conditions (1) to (3) state individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for knowing that p. The standard procedure for testing such an analysis is by means of counterexamples, typically in the form of hypothetical cases as they are used in thought experiments. A counterexample may speak against the necessity of some of the conditions, or against the sufficiency of the conditions. For example, the classical analysis of knowledge was refuted by Gettier's (1963) famous counterexamples against the sufficiency of conditions (1) to (3). In such a situation, the analysis has to be refined until it is no longer subject to counterexamples, in which case it would constitute a successful conceptual analysis. Almost all of the elements of this traditional conception of conceptual analysis are controversial, but it still continues to guide a considerable amount of philosophical research.
Key works A good statement of the traditional conception of conceptual analysis is Grice's "Postwar Oxford Philosophy" in Grice 1989. Unfortunately, there are not many focussed discussions of the method of conceptual analysis, which often tend to be intertwined with other philosophical issues. Important contributions by some of the main proponents of conceptual analysis in the last few decades are Lewis 1970, Lewis 1994, Strawson 1992, Bealer 1998, Jackson 1998Peacocke 1998Chalmers & Jackson 2001, Goldman 2007, Jenkins 2008, Henderson & Horgan 2011, and Chalmers 2012. Critical discussions that bear on the method of conceptual analysis can be found in Putnam 1970, Putnam 1975, Ramsey 1992, Millikan 1993, Block & Stalnaker 1999, Weinberg et al 2001, Laurence & Margolis 2003, Williamson 2000, Williamson 2007, Kornblith 2007, and Haslanger 2012.
Introductions There is no easy and systematic introduction to conceptual analysis, but the following might be helpful points of entry to the contemporary debate: Grice 1989Strawson 1992Hanna 1998Jackson 1998, Braddon-Mitchell & Nola 2009, Daly 2010, and Kipper 2012.
Related categories

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  1. An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis. [REVIEW]C. P. A. - 1957 - Review of Metaphysics 11 (2):344-344.
  2. Analytic Philosophy as Metaphilosophy.J. J. Acero - 2011 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 30 (1).
  3. Analysis, Language, and Concepts: The Second Paradox of Analysis.Felicia Ackerman - 1990 - Philosophical Perspectives 4:535-543.
  4. Intuitions in Epistemology: Towards a Naturalistic Alternative.Kristoffer Ahlstrom - 2009 - Studia Philosophica Estonica 2 (2):15-34.
    The present paper revisits the main methodological problems with conceptual analysis and considers two attempts to rectify them in terms of prototypes and reflective equilibria, respectively. Finding both wanting for the purposes of epistemological analysis, a naturalistic alternative is then sketched that explores the positive implications of aforementioned problems for the demarcation of the respective roles of intuitions and empirical investigation within three epistemological domains, viz., the evaluation of epistemological hypotheses, the amelioration of epistemic practices, and the construction of a (...)
  5. Review of Colin McGinn, Truth by Analysis: Games, Names, and Philosophy (OUP 2012). [REVIEW]Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij - 2012 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
  6. Reduction, Abstraction, Analysis.Hieke Alexander & Leitgeb Hannes (eds.) - 2009 - Ontos Verlag.
  7. Conceptual Ethics II.David Plunkett Alexis Burgess - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (12):1102-1110.
    Which concepts should we use to think and talk about the world, and to do all of the other things that mental and linguistic representation facilitates? This is the guiding question of the field that we call ‘conceptual ethics’. Conceptual ethics is not often discussed as its own systematic branch of normative theory. A case can nevertheless be made that the field is already quite active, with contributions coming in from areas as diverse as fundamental metaphysics and social/political philosophy. In (...)
  8. Analyzing Analysis.C. Anthony Anderson - 1993 - Philosophical Studies 72 (2-3):199 - 222.
  9. Intuitions.James Andow - unknown
    This is likely to be published in the Jan 2016 issue of Analysis. The notice can be accessed for free by anyone at the following link -- http://analysis.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/anv062?ijkey=BcRDGACTppiH6OT&keytype=ref.
  10. Qualitative Tools and Experimental Philosophy.James Andow - 2016 - Philosophical Psychology 29 (8):1128-1141.
    Experimental philosophy brings empirical methods to philosophy. These methods are used to probe how people think about philosophically interesting things such as knowledge, morality, and freedom. This paper explores the contribution that qualitative methods have to make in this enterprise. I argue that qualitative methods have the potential to make a much greater contribution than they have so far. Along the way, I acknowledge a few types of resistance that proponents of qualitative methods in experimental philosophy might encounter, and provide (...)
  11. Analysis and Metaphysics.G. E. M. Anscombe & P. F. Strawson - 1994 - Philosophical Quarterly 44 (177):528.
  12. The Applications of Conceptual Analysis.Robert Audi - 1983 - Metaphilosophy 14 (2):87–106.
  13. Conceptual Analysis and X-Phi.Mark Balaguer - 2015 - Synthese:1-22.
    This paper does two things. First, it argues for a metaphilosophical view of conceptual analysis questions; in particular, it argues that the facts that settle conceptual-analysis questions are facts about the linguistic intentions of ordinary folk. The second thing this paper does is argue that if this metaphilosophical view is correct, then experimental philosophy is a legitimate methodology to use in trying to answer conceptual-analysis questions.
  14. Conceptual Analysis and Epistemic Progress.Magdalena Balcerak Jackson - 2013 - Synthese 190 (15):3053-3074.
    This essay concerns the question of how we make genuine epistemic progress through conceptual analysis. Our way into this issue will be through consideration of the paradox of analysis. The paradox challenges us to explain how a given statement can make a substantive contribution to our knowledge, even while it purports merely to make explicit what one’s grasp of the concept under scrutiny consists in. The paradox is often treated primarily as a semantic puzzle. However, in “Sect. 1” I argue (...)
  15. Understanding and Philosophical Methodology.Magdalena Balcerak Jackson & Brendan Balcerak Jackson - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 161 (2):185-205.
    According to Conceptualism, philosophy is an independent discipline that can be pursued from the armchair because philosophy seeks truths that can be discovered purely on the basis of our understanding of expressions and the concepts they express. In his recent book, The Philosophy of Philosophy, Timothy Williamson argues that while philosophy can indeed be pursued from the armchair, we should reject any form of Conceptualism. In this paper, we show that Williamson’s arguments against Conceptualism are not successful, and we sketch (...)
  16. Design, Science and Conceptual Analysis.Greg Bamford - 1991 - In Jim Plume (ed.), Architectural Science and Design in Harmony: Proceedings of the joint ANZAScA / ADTRA conference, Sydney, 10-12 July, 1990. School of Architecture, University of NSW.
    Philosophers expend considerable effort on the analysis of concepts, but the value of such work is not widely appreciated. This paper principally analyses some arguments, beliefs, and presuppositions about the nature of design and the relations between design and science common in the literature to illustrate this point, and to contribute to the foundations of design theory.
  17. Connective Conceptual Analysis and Psychology.Konrad Banicki - 2012 - Theory and Psychology 22 (3):310-323.
    Conceptual analysis, like any exclusively theoretical activity, is far from overrated in current psychology. Such a situation can be related both to the contingent influences of contextual and historical character and to the more essential metatheoretical reasons. After a short discussion of the latter it is argued that even within a strictly empirical psychology there are non-trivial tasks that can be attached to well-defined and methodologically reliable, conceptual work. This kind of method, inspired by the ideas of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Peter (...)
  18. A Relativistic Theory of Phenomenological Constitution: A Self-Referential, Transcendental Approach to Conceptual Pathology.Steven James Bartlett - 1970 - Dissertation, Universite de Paris X (Paris-Nanterre) (France)
    A RELATIVISTIC THEORY OF PHENOMENOLOCICAL CONSTITUTION: A SELF-REFERENTIAL, TRANSCENDENTAL APPROACH TO CONCEPTUAL PATHOLOGY. (Vol. I: French; Vol. II: English) -/- Steven James Bartlett -/- Doctoral dissertation director: Paul Ricoeur, Université de Paris Other doctoral committee members: Jean Ladrière and Alphonse de Waehlens, Université Catholique de Louvain Defended publically at the Université Catholique de Louvain, January, 1971. -/- Universite de Paris X (France), 1971. 797pp. -/- The principal objective of the work is to construct an analytically precise methodology which can serve (...)
  19. Philosophical Analysis.J. D. Bastable - 1952 - Philosophical Studies 2:142-143.
  20. From Conceptual Analysis to Serious Metaphysics.M. Beaney - 2001 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 9 (4):521-529.
  21. On Free Will and on the Nature of Philosophy.Hanoch Ben-Yami - 2015 - Iyyun 64:89-96.
  22. The A Priority of Abduction.Stephen Biggs & Jessica M. Wilson - 2016 - Philosophical Studies:1-24.
    Here we challenge the orthodoxy according to which abduction is an a posteriori mode of inference. We start by providing a case study illustrating how abduction can justify a philosophical claim not justifiable by empirical evidence alone. While many grant abduction's epistemic value, nearly all assume that abductive justification is a posteriori, on grounds that our belief in abduction's epistemic value depends on empirical evidence about how the world contingently is. Contra this assumption, we argue, first, that our belief in (...)
  23. Analysis, Description, and the A Priori?Simon Blackburn - 2009 - In Ian Ravenscroft (ed.), Minds, Ethics, and Conditionals: Themes from the Philosophy of Frank Jackson. Oxford University Press. pp. 23.
  24. Critical Notice of Frank Jackson, From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis.Simon Blackburn - 2000 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 78 (1):119 – 124.
    (2000). Critical notice of Frank Jackson, from metaphysics to ethics: A defence of conceptual analysis. Australasian Journal of Philosophy: Vol. 78, No. 1, pp. 119-124. doi: 10.1080/00048400012349401.
  25. Frege on Consistency and Conceptual Analysis.Patricia A. Blanchette - 2007 - Philosophia Mathematica 15 (3):321-346.
    Gottlob Frege famously rejects the methodology for consistency and independence proofs offered by David Hilbert in the latter's Foundations of Geometry. The present essay defends against recent criticism the view that this rejection turns on Frege's understanding of logical entailment, on which the entailment relation is sensitive to the contents of non-logical terminology. The goals are (a) to clarify further Frege's understanding of logic and of the role of conceptual analysis in logical investigation, and (b) to point out the extent (...)
  26. Conceptual Analysis, Dualism, and the Explanatory Gap.Ned Block & Robert Stalnaker - 1999 - Philosophical Review 108 (1):1-46.
    The explanatory gap . Consciousness is a mystery. No one has ever given an account, even a highly speculative, hypothetical, and incomplete account of how a physical thing could have phenomenal states. Suppose that consciousness is identical to a property of the brain, say activity in the pyramidal cells of layer 5 of the cortex involving reverberatory circuits from cortical layer 6 to the thalamus and back to layers 4 and 6,as Crick and Koch have suggested for visual consciousness. .) (...)
  27. Don't Ask, Look! Linguistic Corpora as a Tool for Conceptual Analysis.Roland Bluhm - 2013 - In Migue Hoeltje, Thomas Spitzley & Wolfgang Spohn (eds.), Was dürfen wir glauben? Was sollen wir tun? Sektionsbeiträge des achten internationalen Kongresses der Gesellschaft für Analytische Philosophie e.V. DuEPublico. pp. 7-15.
    Ordinary Language Philosophy has largely fallen out of favour, and with it the belief in the primary importance of analyses of ordinary language for philosophical purposes. Still, in their various endeavours, philosophers not only from analytic but also from other backgrounds refer to the use and meaning of terms of interest in ordinary parlance. In doing so, they most commonly appeal to their own linguistic intuitions. Often, the appeal to individual intuitions is supplemented by reference to dictionaries. In recent times, (...)
  28. The Counterexample Fallacy.D. Bonevac, J. Dever & D. Sosa - 2012 - Mind 120 (480):1143-1158.
    Manley and Wasserman (2008) join the chorus of opposition to the possibility of conditional analysis of dispositions. But that score cannot be settled without more careful attention to the implicit philosophical methodology. Some of the opposition to such an analysis badly overestimates the effect of counterexamples, as if the Gettier example were sufficient to refute the possibility of conjunctive analysis of knowledge. A general objection to a form of analysis must satisfy a number of constraints, and Manley and Wasserman join (...)
  29. Naturalistic Analysis and the a Priori.David Braddon-Mitchell - 2009 - In David Braddon-Mitchell & Robert Nola (eds.), Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism. MIT Press.
  30. Introducing the Canberra Plan.David Braddon-Mitchell & Robert Nola - 2009 - In David Braddon-Mitchell & Robert Nola (eds.), Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism. MIT Press. pp. 1--20.
  31. Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism.David Braddon-Mitchell & Robert Nola (eds.) - 2008 - Bradford.
    Many philosophical naturalists eschew analysis in favor of discovering metaphysical truths from the a posteriori, contending that analysis does not lead to philosophical insight. A countercurrent to this approach seeks to reconcile a certain account of conceptual analysis with philosophical naturalism; prominent and influential proponents of this methodology include the late David Lewis, Frank Jackson, Michael Smith, Philip Pettit, and David Armstrong. Naturalistic analysis is a tool for locating in the scientifically given world objects and properties we quantify over in (...)
  32. Justified Concepts and the Limits of the Conceptual Approach to the A Priori.Darren Bradley - 2011 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 11 (3):267-274.
    Carrie Jenkins (2005, 2008) has developed a theory of the a priori that she claims solves the problem of how justification regarding our concepts can give us justification regarding the world. She claims that concepts themselves can be justified, and that beliefs formed by examining such concepts can be justified a priori. I object that we can have a priori justified beliefs with unjustified concepts if those beliefs have no existential import. I then argue that only beliefs without existential import (...)
  33. Colin McGinn , Truth by Analysis. Games, Names, and Philosophy . Reviewed By.Manuel Bremer - 2013 - Philosophy in Review 33 (5):366-370.
  34. Concept and Analysis.Manuel Bremer - 2013 - Logos.
    The book aims to set out in which respects concepts are properly studied in philosophy, what methodological role the study of concepts has in philoso-phy's study of the world. Many of the considerations in this book nowadays are placed under the headline ‘metaphilosophy’. In contrast to paradigmatic ordinary language philosophy the book endorses a representationalist theory of meaning and concepts, thus agreeing with many of its critics in philosophy and the cognitive sciences. In contrast to many of these critics and (...)
  35. A Critique of David Chalmers' and Frank Jackson's Account of Concepts.Ingo Brigandt - 2013 - ProtoSociology 30:63–88.
    David Chalmers and Frank Jackson have promoted a strong program of conceptual analysis, which accords a significant philosophical role to the a priori analysis of concepts. They found this methodological program on an account of concepts using two-dimensional semantics. This paper argues that Chalmers and Jackson’s account of concepts, and the related approach by David Braddon-Mitchell, is inadequate for natural kind concepts as found in biology. Two-dimensional semantics is metaphysically faulty as an account of the nature of concepts and concept (...)
  36. Explication, Similarity, and Analogy: A Defense and Application of Philosophical Method.Kyle Broom - unknown
    With his 1951 publication of “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”, W.V.O. Quine launched a series of arguments against the idea that analyticity – “truth in virtue of meaning alone” – could be a philosophically explanatory notion. While his rejection represents a significant philosophical stride in its own right, to which many in the contemporary philosophical scene pay verbal respects, the revolutionary consequences of this insight often go ignored today. Much of current professional philosophy in virtually every sub-discipline carries on as though (...)
  37. Essays in Conceptual Analysis.H. Brotman & Antony Flew (eds.) - 1956 - Greenwood Press.
  38. Why Do Conceptual Analysts Disagree?Harold I. Brown - 1999 - Metaphilosophy 30 (1&2):33-59.
  39. Knowledge Ascriptions.Jessica Brown & Mikkel Gerken (eds.) - 2012 - Oxford University Press.
    Knowledge ascriptions are a central topic of research in both philosophy and science. In this collection of new essays on knowledge ascriptions, world class philosophers offer novel approaches to this long standing topic.
  40. Chalmers' “Unholy Stew”: Review of 'Constructing the World' by David Chalmers. [REVIEW]Richard Brown - 2013 - The Philosophers' Magazine 61 (61):115-118.
    This highly technical book is densely packed with arguments and is an important addition to the literature. Even if one ultimately disagrees with Chalmers there is much to be gained in his exhaustive study, and he goes out of his way to show how one can accept limited or modified versions of scrutability. It is impossible for me to do justice to his argumentative rigor and comprehensive coverage of possible views in the space I have here. In the end I (...)
  41. Concepts, Conceptions, Reflective Understanding: Reply to Peacocke.Tyler Burge - 2003 - In Martin Hahn & B. Ramberg (eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge. MIT Press.
  42. Concepts, Definitions, and Meaning.Tyler Burge - 1993 - Metaphilosophy 24 (4):309-25.
  43. Conceptual Ethics I.Alexis Burgess & David Plunkett - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (12):1091-1101.
    Which concepts should we use to think and talk about the world and to do all of the other things that mental and linguistic representation facilitates? This is the guiding question of the field that we call ‘conceptual ethics’. Conceptual ethics is not often discussed as its own systematic branch of normative theory. A case can nevertheless be made that the field is already quite active, with contributions coming in from areas as diverse as fundamental metaphysics and social/political philosophy. In (...)
  44. Conceptual Ethics II.Alexis Burgess & David Plunkett - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (12):1102-1110.
    Which concepts should we use to think and talk about the world, and to do all of the other things that mental and linguistic representation facilitates? This is the guiding question of the field that we call ‘conceptual ethics’. Conceptual ethics is not often discussed as its own systematic branch of normative theory. A case can nevertheless be made that the field is already quite active, with contributions coming in from areas as diverse as fundamental metaphysics and social/political philosophy. In (...)
  45. Philosophical Analysis.James Burnham & Philip Wheelwright - 1932 - Philosophy 7 (28):498-499.
  46. Truth by Analysis: Games, Names, and Philosophy By Colin McGinn. [REVIEW]Tim Button - 2013 - Analysis 73 (3):577-580.
    In Truth by Analysis (2012), Colin McGinn aims to breathe new life into conceptual analysis. Sadly, he fails to defend conceptual analysis, either in principle or by example.
  47. Philosophical Analysis.V. C. C. - 1956 - Review of Metaphysics 10 (2):372-372.
  48. Analyticity and Incorrigibility.Manuel Campos - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66 (3):689-708.
    The traditional point of view on analyticity implies that truth in virtue only of meaning entails a priori acceptability and vice versa. The argument for this claim is based on the idea that meaning as it concerns truth and meaning as it concerns competence are one and the same thing. In this paper I argue that the extensions of these notions do not coincide. I hold that truth in virtue of meaning— truth for semantic reasons—doesn't imply a priori acceptability, and (...)
  49. X-Phi Without Intuitions?Herman Cappelen - forthcoming - In Anthony Robert Booth & Darrell P. Rowbottom (eds.), Intuitions.
    One central purpose of Experimental Philosophy (hereafter, x-phi) is to criticize the alleged reliance on intuitions in contemporary philosophy. In my book Philosophy without Intuitions (hereafter, PWI), I argue that philosophers don’t rely on intuitions. If those arguments are good, experimental philosophy has been engaged in an attack on a strawman. The goal of this paper is to bolster the criticism of x-phi in the light of responses.
  50. Analysis and Metaphysics.Richard Cartwright - 1975 - Reidel.
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