Inferentialist Conceptual Engineering

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Abstract

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, we propose to view what is being engineered as inferential devices, as opposed to representational devices. The objective is not to establish that being or having an inferential role is all there is to meaning or conceptual content. Rather, our agenda is to recommend a shift of focus from the representational features of content to the inferential features of content for the purposes of doing and thinking about conceptual engineering. Inferentialism about conceptual engineering makes better sense of the practice than a representationalist approach: In addition to accounting for the rationality of engaging in conceptual engineering, inferentialism provides a sound interpretation of what is at stake in concrete examples of conceptual engineering.

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Author Profiles

Sigurd Jorem
University of Oslo
Guido Löhr
Eindhoven University of Technology

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