The Ethics of Conceptualization: A Needs-Based Approach

Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Abstract

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: reasons for concept use, which tell us which concepts to adopt, adhere to, or abandon, thereby shoring up—or undercutting—the reasons for action and belief that guide our deliberations. Traditionally, reasons for concept use have been sought either in timeless rational foundations or in concepts’ inherent virtues, such as precision and consistency. Against this, the book advances two main claims: that we find reasons for concept use in the conceptual needs we discover when we critically distance ourselves from a concept by viewing it from the autoethnographic stance; and that sometimes, concepts that conflict, or exhibit other vices such as vagueness or superficiality, are just what we need. By considering not what concepts are absolutely best, but what concepts we now need, we can reconcile ourselves to the contingency of our concepts, determine the proper place of efforts to tidy up thought, and adjudicate between competing conceptions of things,—even things as contested as liberty or free will. A needs-based approach separates helpful clarification from hobbling tidy-mindedness, and authoritative definition from conceptual gerrymandering.

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Author's Profile

Matthieu Queloz
University of Bern

Citations of this work

Reasons of Love and Conceptual Good-for-Nothings.Matthieu Queloz - forthcoming - In Michael Frauchiger (ed.), Themes from Susan Wolf. De Gruyter.
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.
Debunking Concepts.Matthieu Queloz - 2023 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 47 (1):195-225.

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References found in this work

Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Knowledge and its limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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