Edited by Steffen Koch (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
‘Conceptual Engineering’ is both the name of a philosophical method and the name of an increasingly popular field of metaphilosophical research. Although the method of conceptual engineering has arguably been practiced throughout the history of philosophy, it has not been until recently that conceptual engineering became the object of metaphilosophical research. The key idea of conceptual engineering is to take a normative approach to traditional philosophical questions: Instead of asking what our current concepts of say, knowledge, race or gender, do mean, conceptual engineers ask what these concepts should mean. The underlying assumption is that our actual concepts are not necessarily ideal and that improving them is an important desideratum of philosophy. The contemporary metaphilosophical debate about conceptual engineering involves questions regarding its normative foundations, its actual feasibility, its coherence with semantic externalism and its proper limits.
Many contemporary authors in the field link their work to Rudolf Carnap’s method of explication (Carnap 1950), which is a kind of conceptual engineering designed for the purposes of science. Brun 2016 contains a very helpful discussion of Carnapian explications. Another important starting point for current discussions about conceptual engineering is Sally Haslanger's so called 'ameliorative analysis', introduced in Haslanger 2000 and further developed in Haslanger 2012. Burgess & Plunkett 2013, Burgess & Plunkett 2013 approach more broadly what they call 'conceptual ethics'. The first monograph on conceptual engineering is Cappelen 2018.
As of yet, there are no introductory texts on conceptual engineering, but most of the work is fairly comprehensible. See the first two chapters of Cappelen 2018, Burgess & Plunkett 2013 and Burgess & Plunkett 2013 for helpful characterizations of the basic goals of conceptual engineering as well as a list of example cases. See Brun 2016 for a good introduction and discussion of Carnapian explications as a method of doing philosophy.
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