About this topic
Summary ‘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.
Key works The label 'conceptual engineering' was coined by Richard Creath in his Creath 1990. Like Creath, 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 2013Burgess & Plunkett 2013 approach more broadly what they call 'conceptual ethics'. The first monograph on conceptual engineering is Cappelen 2018.
Introductions Good introductory texts to conceptual engineering are Isaac et al 2022 and Cappelen & Plunkett 2019. See also 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.There is a virtual conceptual engineering network that hosts a lecture series and provides ressources on conceptual engineering: https://www.conceptualengineering.xyz/Here is also a link to a an ongoing YouTube channel on conceptual engineering where you can find many recorded talks on the topic: https://youtube.com/c/ConceptualEngineering
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  1. Conceptual Engineering Using Large Language Models.Bradley Allen - manuscript
    We describe a method, based on Jennifer Nado's definition of classification procedures as targets of conceptual engineering, that implements such procedures using a large language model. We then apply this method using data from the Wikidata knowledge graph to evaluate concept definitions from two paradigmatic conceptual engineering projects: the International Astronomical Union's redefinition of PLANET and Haslanger's ameliorative analysis of WOMAN. We discuss implications of this work for the theory and practice of conceptual engineering. The code and data can be (...)
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  2. Defectiveness of formal concepts.Carolin Antos - manuscript
    It is often assumed that concepts from the formal sciences, such as mathematics and logic, have to be treated differently from concepts from non-formal sciences. This is especially relevant in cases of concept defectiveness, as in the empirical sciences defectiveness is an essential component of lager disruptive or transformative processes such as concept change or concept fragmentation. However, it is still unclear what role defectiveness plays for concepts in the formal sciences. On the one hand, a common view sees formal (...)
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  3. Conceptual Construction in Epistemology.Thomas Grundmann - manuscript
    Standard Analytic Epistemology typically relies on conceptual analysis of folk epistemic terms such as ‘knowledge’ or ‘justification’. A cross-cultural and cross-linguistic perspective on this method leads to the worry that there might not be universally shared epistemic concepts, and that different languages might use folk notions that have different extensions. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that our epistemic common-sense terms pick out what is epistemically most significant or valuable. In my paper, I take these issues as a starting (...)
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  4. On the possibility of heavy duty conceptual engineering.Steffen Koch & Jakob Ohlhorst - manuscript
    Conceptual engineering is the process of assessing and improving our conceptual repertoire. Some authors have claimed that introducing or revising concepts through conceptual engineering can go as far as expanding the realm of thinkable thoughts and thus enable us to form beliefs, hypotheses, wishes, or desires that we are currently unable to form. We call this kind of conceptual engineering heavy-duty conceptual engineering. As exciting as the idea of heavy-duty conceptual engineering sounds, it has never been developed or defended. In (...)
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  5. Conceptual Engineering Should be Empirical.Ethan Landes - manuscript
    Conceptual engineering is a philosophical method that aims to design and spread conceptual and linguistic devices to cause meaningful changes in the world. So far, however, conceptual engineers have struggled to successfully spread the conceptual and linguistic entities they have designed to their target communities. This paper argues that conceptual engineering is far more likely to succeed if it incorporates empirical data and empirical methods. Because the causal factors influencing successful propagation of linguistic or conceptual devices are as complicated and (...)
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  6. Conceptual Revision in Action.Ethan Landes & Kevin Reuter - manuscript
    Conceptual engineering is the practice of revising concepts to improve how people talk and think. Its ability to improve talk and thought ultimately hinges on the successful dissemination of desired conceptual changes. Unfortunately, the field has been slow to develop methods to directly test what barriers stand in the way of propagation and what methods will most effectively propagate desired conceptual change. In order to test such questions, this paper introduces the masked time-lagged method. The masked time-lagged method tests people's (...)
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  7. Bessere Begriffe? Zur Möglichkeit des Fortschritts durch Begriffsgestaltung.Cyrill Mamin - manuscript
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  8. Realism and Social Kinds in Conceptual Amelioration.Cyrill Mamin - manuscript
    I outline and defend a limited realism in socio-political conceptual amelioration (RSCA). RSCA claims that, in some cases, socio-political concepts are ameliorated to represent parts of a concept-independent reality more accurately. My main aim is to dissolve a seeming dilemma for RSCA: Whereas social kinds are mind-dependent (i.e. depending on human thought and action), realism implies that the kinds represented are ontologically independent of the concepts representing them. To dissolve this dilemma, I suggest considering two different roles concepts play concerning (...)
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  9. Local Conceptual Engineering in a Linguistic Subgroup and the Implementation Problem.Takaaki Matsui - manuscript
    In this paper, I examine Max Deutsch’s dilemma for the implementation of newly engineered concepts. In the debate over this dilemma, the goal of conceptual engineering tends to be set either too high or too low. As a result, implementation tends to be seen as either very unlikely to succeed or too easily achievable. This paper aims to offer a way out of this dilemma. I argue that the success conditions for implementation can be better understood if we distinguish between (...)
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  10. Lexical Negotiations.Ryan Miller - manuscript
    The use of lexical signs like ‘knowledge’ has consequences. Not only do they have direct psychological resonances, but people ascribe beliefs and act based on their semantics. This paper proposes that such consequences are up for negotiation, and introduces a formal framework from financial theory to suggest constraints on those negotiations and implications of those constraints. The upshot is that changing language will be easier sometimes than others, and philosophers’ projects of linguistic change should be aware of those conditions.
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  11. Concepts as shared regulative ideals.Laura Schroeter & Francois Schroeter - manuscript
    What is it to share the same concept? The question is an important one since sharing the same concept explains our ability to non-accidentally coordinate on the same topic over time and between individuals. Moreover, concept identity grounds key logical relations among thought contents such as samesaying, contradiction, validity, and entailment. Finally, an account of concept identity is crucial to explaining and justifying epistemic efforts to better understand the precise contents of our thoughts. The key question, then, is what psychological (...)
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  12. The New Philosopher-Kings: Conceptual Engineering and Social Authority.Nick Smyth - manuscript
    Many philosophers have recently become interested in conceptual engineering, or the activity of producing better conceptual schemes in human populations. But few, if any, are asking the question: what would it mean for actual human agents to possess the social authority to modify a conceptual scheme in this way? This paper argues for a deontological approach to conceptual engineering, wherein we have to secure social authority qua engineers before attempting to modify social concepts. I show that the dominant, consequentialist conception (...)
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  13. Intuitions about cases as evidence (for how we should think).James Andow - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Much recent work on philosophical methodology has focused on whether we should accept evidence: the claim that philosophers use intuitive judgments about cases as evidence for/against philosophical theories. This paper outlines a new way of thinking about the philosophical method of appealing to cases such that evidence is true but not as it is typically understood. The idea proposed is that, when philosophers appeal to cases, they are engaged in a project of conceptual engineering and that, within that project, intuitions (...)
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  14. Meanings Without Species.Josh Armstrong - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    In this paper, I critically assess Mark Richard’s interesting and important development of the claim that linguistic meanings can be fruitfully analogized with biological species. I argue that linguistic meanings qua cluster of interpretative presuppositions need not and often do not display the population-level independence and reproductive isolation that is characteristic of the biological species concept. After developing these problems in some detail, I close with a discussion of their implications for the picture that Richard paints concerning the dangers of (...)
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  15. Downplaying the change of subject objection to conceptual engineering.Delia Belleri - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Conceptual engineering projects have been criticized for creating discontinuities of subject-matter and, as a result, discontinuities in inquiries: call this the Change of Subject objection. In this paper, I explore a way of dealing with the objection that clarifies its scope and eventually downplays it. First, two strategies aimed at saving subject-continuity are examined and found wanting: Herman Cappelen’s appeal to topics, and the account in terms of concept function. Second, the idea is introduced that one can begin an object-level (...)
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  16. On Pluralism and Conceptual Engineering: Introduction and Overview.Delia Belleri - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-19.
    Pluralism is relevant to conceptual engineering in many ways. First of all, we face the issue of pluralism when trying to characterise the very object(s) of conceptual engineering. Is it just concepts? Could concepts be pluralistically conceived for the purposes of conceptual engineering? Or rather, is it concepts and other representational devices as well? Second, one may wonder whether concepts have only one function in our mental life (representation) or, rather, a plurality of functions (including non-representational ones). Third, it is (...)
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  17. What is the Point of Persistent Disputes? The meta-analytic answer.Alexandre Billon & Philippe Vellozzo - forthcoming - Dialectica.
    Many philosophers regard the persistence of philosophical disputes as symptomatic of overly ambitious, ill-founded intellectual projects. There are indeed strong reasons to believe that persistent disputes in philosophy (and more generally in the discourse at large) are pointless. We call this the pessimistic view of the nature of philosophical disputes. In order to respond to the pessimistic view, we articulate the supporting reasons and provide a precise formulation in terms of the idea that the best explanation of persistent disputes entails (...)
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  18. Pragmatism, skepticism, and over-compatibilism: on Michael Hannon’s What’s the Point of Knowledge?Georgi Gardiner - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Function-first approaches illuminate phenomena by investigating their functional roles. I first describe virtues of this approach. By foregrounding normal instances of knowledge, for example, function-first theorising offers a much-needed corrective to epistemology's counterexample-driven momentum towards increasingly byzantine, marginal cases. And epistemic practices are shaped by human limitations, needs, vices, and power relations. These non-ideal, naturalistic forces of embodied sociality form the roots of function-first theorising, which creates a fecund foundation for social epistemology. Secondly, I consider an objection to function-first theorising. (...)
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  19. Rational Conceptual Conflict and the Implementation Problem.Adam F. Gibbons - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Conceptual engineers endeavor to improve our concepts. But their endeavors face serious practical difficulties. One such difficulty – rational conceptual conflict - concerns the degree to which agents are incentivized to impede the efforts of conceptual engineers, especially in many of the contexts within which conceptual engineering is viewed as a worthwhile pursuit. Under such conditions, the already difficult task of conceptual engineering becomes even more difficult. Consequently, if they want to increase their chances of success, conceptual engineers should pay (...)
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  20. Conceptual engineering for analytic theology.Patrick Greenough, Jean Gové & Ian Church - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-34.
    Conceptual engineering is the method (or methods) via which we can assess and improve our concepts. Can conceptual engineering be usefully employed within analytic theology? Given that analytic theology and analytic philosophy effectively share the same philosophical toolkit then if conceptual engineering works well in philosophy then it ought to work well in analytic theology too. This will be our working hypothesis. To make good on this hypothesis, we first address two challenges. The first challenge makes conceptual engineering look to (...)
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  21. Conceptual Construction: Why the Content of Our Folk Terms Has Only Limited Significance.Thomas Grundmann - forthcoming - In Masaharu Mizumoto & Stephen Stich (eds.), Ethno-Epistemology.
    Standard Analytic Epistemology typically relies on conceptual analysis of folk epistemic terms such as ‘knowledge’ or ‘justification’. A cross-cultural and cross-linguistic perspective on this method leads to the worry that there might not be universally shared epistemic concepts, and that different languages might use folk notions that have different extensions. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that our epistemic common-sense terms pick out what is epistemically most significant or valuable. In my paper, I take these issues as a starting (...)
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  22. Implementing conceptual engineering: lessons from social movements.Carme Isern-Mas - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Communication strategies to shape public opinion can be applied to the philosophical program of conceptual engineering. I propose to look for answers to the implementation challenge for conceptual engineering on similar challenges that arise in other contexts, such as that of social movements. I claim that conceptual engineering is successfully practiced in other areas with direct consequences on the political landscape, and that we can apply to philosophy what we might learn from those successful practices. With that end in mind, (...)
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  23. Inferentialist Conceptual Engineering.Sigurd Jorem & Guido Löhr - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    On a representationalist view, conceptual engineering is the practice of changing the extensions and intensions of the devices we use to speak and think. But if this view holds true, conceptual engineering has a bad rationale. Extensions and intensions are not the sorts of things that are better or worse as such. A representationalist account of conceptual engineering thus falls prey to the objection that the practice has a bad rationale. To account for the assumption that conceptual engineering is worthwhile, (...)
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  24. Linguistic Imposters.Denis Kazankov & Edison Yi - forthcoming - The Philosophical Quarterly.
    There is a widespread phenomenon that we call linguistic imposters. Linguistic imposters are systematic misuses of expressions that misusers mistake with their conventional usages because of misunderstanding their meaning. Our paper aims to provide an initial framework for theorizing about linguistic imposters that will lay the foundation for future philosophical research about them. We focus on the misuses of the expressions 'grooming' and 'critical race theory' as our central examples of linguistic imposters. We show that linguistic imposters present a distinctive (...)
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  25. Topics, Disputes and 'Going Meta'.Viktoria Knoll - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-29.
    On a naive view of conceptual engineering, conceptual engineers simply aim at engineering concepts. This picture has recently come under attack. Sarah Sawyer (2018, 2020) and Derek Ball (2020) present two rather different, yet equally unorthodox, accounts of conceptual engineering, which they take to be superior to the naive picture. This paper casts doubts on the superiority of their respective accounts. By elaborating on the explanatory potential of “going meta”, the paper defends the naive view against Sawyer’s and Ball’s rival (...)
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  26. Verbal disputes and topic continuity.Viktoria Knoll - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Changing concepts comes with a risk of creating merely verbal disputes. Accounts of topic continuity (such as Herman Cappelen’s) are supposed to solve this problem. As this paper shows, however, no existing solution avoids the danger of mere verbalness. On the contrary, accounts of topic continuity in fact increase the danger of overlooking merely verbal disputes between pre- and post-ameliorators. Ultimately, this paper suggests accepting the danger of mere verbalness resulting from a change in topic as a downside of conceptual (...)
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  27. How words matter. A psycholinguistic argument for meaning revision.Steffen Koch - forthcoming - Mind and Language:1-17.
    Linguistic interventions aim to change our linguistic practices. A commonly discussed type of linguistic intervention is meaning revision, which seeks to associate existing words with new or revised meanings. But why does retaining old words matter so much? Why not instead introduce new words to express the newly defined meanings? Drawing on relevant psycholinguistic research, this paper develops an empirically motivated, general, and practically useful pro tanto reason to retain rather than replace the original word during the process of conceptual (...)
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  28. Verbal Disagreement and Semantic Plans.Alexander W. Kocurek - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-34.
    I develop an expressivist account of verbal disagreements as practical disagreements over how to use words rather than factual disagreements over what words actually mean. This account enjoys several advantages over others in the literature: it can be implemented in a neo-Stalnakerian possible worlds framework; it accounts for cases where speakers are undecided on how exactly to interpret an expression; it avoids appeals to fraught notions like subject matter, charitable interpretation, and joint-carving; and it naturally extends to an analysis of (...)
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  29. What Topic Continuity Problem?Alexander W. Kocurek - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    A common objection to the very idea of conceptual engineering is the topic continuity problem: whenever one tries to “reengineer” a concept, one only shifts attention away from one concept to another. Put differently, there is no such thing as conceptual revision: there’s only conceptual replacement. Here, I show that topic continuity is compatible with conceptual replacement. Whether the topic is preserved in an act of conceptual replacement simply depends on what is being replaced (a conceptual tool or a conceptual (...)
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  30. How Language Teaches and Misleads: "Coronavirus" and "Social Distancing" as Case Studies.Ethan Landes - forthcoming - In Manuel Gustavo Isaac, Kevin Scharp & Steffen Koch (eds.), New Perspectives on Conceptual Engineering. Synthese Library.
    The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic offers a unique case study for understanding conceptual and linguistic propagation. In early 2020, scientists, politicians, journalists, and other public figures had to, with great urgency, propagate several public health-related concepts and terms to every person they could. This paper examines the propagation of coronavirus and social distancing and develops a framework for understanding how the language used to express a notion can help or hinder propagation. I argue that anyone designing a representational device (...)
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  31. Ordinary Language Philosophy and Ideal Language Philosophy.Sebastian Lutz - forthcoming - In Marcus Rossberg (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Analytic Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    According to ordinary language philosophy (OLP), philosophical problems can be solved by investigating ordinary language, often because the problems stem from its misuse. According to ideal language philosophy (ILP), on the other hand, philosophical problems exist because ordinary language is flawed and has to be improved or replaced by constructed languages that do not exhibit these flaws. OLP and ILP together make up linguistic philosophy, the view that philosophical problems are problems of language. Linguistic philosophy is opposed to what may (...)
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  32. Sameness of Subject Matter in Conceptual Amelioration.Cyrill Mamin - forthcoming - Perspectiva Filosófica.
    Projects of conceptual engineering that aim to ameliorate concepts face the challenge of topic continuity. In some instances of conceptual amelioration, a particularly strong kind of continuity is needed: Sameness of subject matter. This paper examines how sameness of subject matter can be maintained in conceptual amelioration. It starts from a view that sees concepts as ways of thinking, implying that to change a concept is to replace it. At first sight, this view seems incompatible with maintaining sameness of subject (...)
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  33. Change Your Way of Thinking: A Neo-Fregean View on Conceptual Engineering.Cyrill Mamin - forthcoming - Studia Philosophica.
    The Neo-Fregean view individuates concepts at the level of Fregean senses. It is an internalist view according to which concepts can be described as ways of thinking that imply classifications and epistemic/normative inferences. In this paper, I argue that the Neo-Fregean view of concepts adequately characterises the targets of conceptual engineering (CE), which I depict as the activity of purposefully changing our concepts in order to change classifications and/or concept-implicit inferences. I discuss and reject rival views that either reduce the (...)
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  34. Representing or shaping reality? What 'class' can teach about 'woman'.Teresa Marques - forthcoming - In Manuel Gustavo Isaac, Kevin Scharp & Steffen Koch (eds.), New Perspectives on Conceptual Engineering. Synthese Library.
    Haslanger (2000) has argued that we should ameliorate concepts of race or gender to better capture existing structural inequalities. Her analysis was criticized by Simion (2018a), who argued that a concept should be ameliorated only if doing so preserves epistemic accuracy. But, as I argue, this criticism misses Haslanger's target. In response, Podosky (2018) and McKenna (2018b) have argued that conceptual revisions need not preserve "epistemic accuracy" since concepts can "shape reality", not just represent it. Here I argue that social (...)
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  35. Topic Continuity in Conceptual Engineering and Beyond.Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-27.
    One important activity in conceptual ethics and conceptual engineering involves proposing to associate a new semantics with an existing word. Many philosophers think that one important way to evaluate such a proposal concerns whether it preserves the “topic” picked out by the existing word, and several have offered competing proposals concerning what is required to preserve topic. Our paper is focused on the conceptual ethics question of how conceptual engineers should use the term ‘topic continuity’. We provide and defend a (...)
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  36. Conceptual engineering via experimental philosophy.Jennifer Nado - forthcoming - Tandf: Inquiry:1-21.
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  37. Engineering Social Concepts: Labels and the Science of Categorization.Eleonore Neufeld - forthcoming - In Sally Haslanger, Karen Jones, Greg Restall, Francois Schroeter & Laura Schroeter (eds.), Mind, Language, and Social Hierarchy: Constructing a Shared Social World. Oxford University Press.
    One of the core insights from Eleanor Rosch’s work on categorization is that human categorization isn’t arbitrary. Instead, two psychological principles constrain possible systems of classification for all human cultures. According to these principles, the task of a category system is to provide maximum information with the least cognitive effort, and the perceived world provides us with structured rather than arbitrary features. In this paper, I show that Rosch's insights give us important resources for making progress on the 'feasibility question' (...)
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  38. Engineering Social Concepts: Feasibility and Causal Models.Eleonore Neufeld - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    How feasible are conceptual engineering projects of social concepts that aim for the engineered concept to be widely adopted in ordinary everyday life? Predominant frameworks on the psychology of concepts that shape work on stereotyping, bias, and machine learning have grim implications for the prospects of conceptual engineers: conceptual engineering efforts are ineffective in promoting certain social-conceptual changes. Specifically, since conceptual components that give rise to problematic social stereotypes are sensitive to statistical structures of the environment, purely conceptual change won’t (...)
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  39. Engineering virtue: constructionist virtue ethics.Jakob Ohlhorst - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Virtue ethics is traditionally a conservative project. It analyses the virtues that humanity has been relying on since antiquity. This conservatism unduly limits the potential of virtue ethics to contribute to moral progress. Instead, we should pay more attention to constructionist virtue ethics with the help of conceptual engineering. I will argue that revising and ameliorating the virtue concepts which a community uses directly and indirectly leads to a change of the virtues that exist in this community. By revising and (...)
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  40. Conceptual engineering, speaker-meaning and philosophy.Mark Pinder - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    We sometimes seek to change and improve our conceptual repertoire in some way. This is called ‘conceptual engineering’. In recent work, I have defended the ‘Speaker-Meaning Picture’ of conceptual engineering. Independently, while critiquing the conceptual engineering literature, Max Deutsch has argued against understanding conceptual engineering in terms of speaker-meaning. Deutsch’s critique targets what he calls the ‘standard account’ of conceptual engineering and its role in philosophy. In my contribution to this symposium, I also object to the ‘standard account’. I then (...)
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  41. Ideology and normativity: constraints on conceptual engineering.Paul-Mikhail Catapang Podosky - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-15.
    ABSTRACTWhere do the boundaries of the ‘should’ in conceptual engineering lie? Mona Simion suggests that the right kind of reason for a...
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  42. The Ethics of Conceptualization: A Needs-Based Approach.Matthieu Queloz - forthcoming - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Philosophy strives to give us a firmer hold on our concepts. But what about their hold on us? Why place ourselves under the sway of a concept and grant it the authority to shape our thought and conduct? Another conceptualization would carry different implications. What makes one way of thinking better than another? This book develops a framework for concept appraisal. Its guiding idea is that to question the authority of concepts is to ask for reasons of a special kind: (...)
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  43. Law as a Test of Conceptual Strength.Matthieu Queloz - forthcoming - In Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco, Daniel Peixoto Murata & Julieta A. Rabanos (eds.), Bernard Williams on Law and Jurisprudence: From Agency and Responsibility to Methodology. Oxford: Hart.
    In ‘What Has Philosophy to Learn from Tort Law?’, Bernard Williams reaffirms J. L. Austin’s suggestion that philosophy might learn from tort law ‘the difference between practical reality and philosophical frivolity’. Yet while Austin regarded tort law as just another repository of time-tested concepts, on a par with common sense as represented by a dictionary, Williams argues that ‘the use of certain ideas in the law does more to show that those ideas have strength than is done by the mere (...)
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  44. Virtues, Rights, or Consequences? Mapping the Way for Conceptual Ethics.Matthieu Queloz - forthcoming - Studia Philosophica.
    Are there virtues that constitutively involve using certain concepts? Does it make sense to speak of rights or duties to use certain concepts? And do consequentialist approaches to concepts necessarily have to reproduce the difficulties that plague utilitarianism? These are fundamental orientating questions for the emerging field of conceptual ethics, which invites us to reflect critically about which concepts to use. In this article, I map out and explore the ways in which conceptual ethics might take its cue from virtue-ethical, (...)
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  45. Reasons of Love and Conceptual Good-for-Nothings.Matthieu Queloz - forthcoming - In Michael Frauchiger & Markus Stepanians (eds.), Themes from Susan Wolf. Berlin: De Gruyter.
    What reasons do we have to use certain concepts and conceptions rather than others? Approaching that question in a methodologically humanistic rather than Platonic spirit, one might seek “reasons for concept use” in how well concepts serve the contingent human concerns of those who live by them. But appealing to the instrumentality of concepts in meeting our concerns invites the worry that this yields the wrong kind of reasons, especially if the relevant concerns are nonmoral ones. Drawing on Susan Wolf’s (...)
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  46. Williams’s Debt to Wittgenstein.Matthieu Queloz & Nikhil Krishnan - forthcoming - In Marcel van Ackeren & Matthieu Queloz (eds.), Bernard Williams on Philosophy and History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    This chapter argues that several aspects of Bernard Williams’s style, methodology, and metaphilosophy can be read as evolving dialectically out of Wittgenstein’s own. After considering Wittgenstein as a stylistic influence on Williams, especially as regards ideals of clarity, precision, and depth, Williams’s methodological debt to Wittgenstein is examined, in particular his anthropological interest in thick concepts and their point. The chapter then turns to Williams’s explicit association, in the 1990s, with a certain form of Wittgensteinianism, which he called ‘Left Wittgensteinianism’. (...)
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  47. Meaning Change.Indrek Reiland - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    The linguistic meaning of a word in a language is what fully competent speakers of the language have a grasp of merely in virtue of their semantic competence. The meanings of words sometimes change over time. 'Meat' used to mean 'solid food', but now means 'animal flesh eaten as food'. This type of meaning change comes with change of topic, what we’re talking about. Many people interested in conceptual engineering have claimed that there is also meaning change where topic is (...)
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  48. Conspiracy theories are not theories: Time to rename conspiracy theories.Kevin Reuter & Lucien Baumgartner - forthcoming - In Manuel Gustavo Isaac, Steffen Koch & Kevin Scharp (eds.), New Perspectives on Conceptual Engineering. Springer.
    This paper presents the results of two corpus studies investigating the discourse surrounding conspiracy theories and genuine theories. The results of these studies show that conspiracy theories lack the epistemic and scientific standing characteristic of theories more generally. Instead, our findings indicate that conspiracy theories are spread in a manner that resembles the dissemination of rumors and falsehoods. Based on these empirical results, we argue that it is time for both re-engineering conspiracy theory and for relabeling "conspiracy theory". We propose (...)
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  49. Concept Pluralism in Conceptual Engineering.Sarah Sawyer - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1.
    In this paper, I argue that an adequate meta-semantic framework capable of accommodating the range of projects currently identified as projects in conceptual engineering must be sensitive to the fact that concepts (and hence projects relating to them) fall into distinct kinds. Concepts can vary, I will argue, with respect to their direction of determination, their modal range, and their temporal range. Acknowledging such variations yields a preliminary taxonomy of concepts and generates a meta-semantic framework that allows us both to (...)
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  50. Kinds of Kinds: Normativity, Scope and Implementation in Conceptual Engineering.Sarah Sawyer - forthcoming - In Manuel Gustavo Isaac, Kevin Scharp & Steffen Koch (eds.), New Perspectives on Conceptual Engineering. Synthese Library.
    In this paper I distinguish three kinds of kinds: traditional philosophical kinds such as truth, knowledge, and causation; natural science kinds such as spin, charge and mass; and social kinds such as class, poverty, and marriage. The three-fold taxonomy I work with represents an idealised abstraction from the wide variety of kinds that there are and the messy phenomena that underlie them. However, the kinds I identify are discrete, and the three-fold taxonomy is useful when it comes to understanding claims (...)
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