The Jowett Society (Friday - Week 3, HT22)

Philosophical Society

In this talk I defend a particular view on a recently popularized philosophical methodology known as conceptual engineering. Conceptual engineering refers to the attempt to improve upon our concepts or natural language terms, as opposed to just analyzing them. It asks, e.g., whether 'knowledge' *should* refer to Gettier cases, rather than whether it *does*. There's substantive disagreement over the feasibility of conceptual engineering, the conditions under which it can be considered successful, the proper characterization of its targets, and much else besides. I'll lay out my own answer to these questions, which I call the 'practical role account' of conceptual engineering. The practical role account attempts to minimize the role of metasemantics in the conceptual engineering enterprise. On the practical role account, the conceptual engineer targets neither concepts nor terms of language, but 'classification procedures' - essentially, recipes for categorizing. Such classification procedures, or perhaps the categories they pick out, each serve a variety of purposes that make up their 'practical role'. The category of free will, for instance, is implicated in the practice of assigning moral blame - this purpose makes up part of its practical role. The goal of the conceptual engineer, I'll argue, is to produce classification procedures which more effectively play these roles. I'll detail the relationship between classification procedures, practical roles, and more familiar categories from the philosophy of language like 'intension' and 'inferential role'. I'll also contrast this account with other available characterizations of conceptual engineering, including Herman Cappelen's semantic approach and the popular 'functionalist' approach endorsed by such authors as Amie Thomasson and Sally Haslanger. 

The meeting will take place on Zoom. Join the meeting here. Meeting ID: 876 9627 2464 Passcode: 0MfExT  

Jowett Society Organising Committee: Stephanie (Xiaoyi Lu)  | Jowett Society Website