The Revisionist’s Rubric: Conceptual Engineering and the Discontinuity Objection

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 61 (8):854-880 (2018)
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Abstract

This paper is about conceptual engineering. Specifically, it discusses a common objection to CE, which I call the Discontinuity Objection. According to the Discontinuity Objection, CE leads to problematic discontinuities in subject and/or inquiry – making it philosophically uninteresting or irrelevant. I argue that a conceptual engineer can dismiss the Discontinuity Objection by showing that the pre-engineering concept persists through the proposed changes. In other words, the Discontinuity Objection does not apply if the proposal involves identity-preserving changes. Two existing views on identity-preserving changes are considered and rejected. I then argue that an identity-preserving conceptual change is one that allows the concept to continue to perform its function. A concept’s function is its job, its point and purpose, its role in a conceptual repertoire. In a slogan: Preserve a concept’s function, and you preserve the concept itself; preserve the concept, and you preserve the subject. The paper concludes by discussing some implications of this view.

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Michael Prinzing
Yale University

Citations of this work

Conspiracy Theories and Evidential Self-Insulation.M. Giulia Napolitano - 2021 - In Sven Bernecker, Amy K. Flowerree & Thomas Grundmann (eds.), The Epistemology of Fake News. Oxford University Press. pp. 82-105.
Conceptual engineering, truth, and efficacy.Jennifer Nado - 2019 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 7):1507-1527.
Verbal disputes and topic continuity.Viktoria Knoll - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.

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