Sceptical, Complacent, Critical: How Should the Conceptual Engineer Engage with Concepts?
Delia Belleri (LanCog, Centre of Philosophy, University of Lisbon)
15 September 2023, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)
Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa
Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)
Abstract: Conceptual engineering is a method dealing with the assessment and revision of conceptual representations. It operates on the assumption that concepts are often defective and in need of improvement. This assumption can, however, lead to a form of “representational scepticism”. Scepticism is, in turn, depicted by some theorists as if it was the only alternative to uncritical acceptance of our conceptual representations (“representational complacency”). In this talk, I argue that it is not. The conceptual engineer can hold a form of “critical conservatism” about concepts. Critical conservatism emphasizes context-sensitivity, sensitivity to a variety of epistemic and non-epistemic considerations, as well as the exercise of skills that help the thinker evaluate conceptual flaws that can and cannot be tolerated. As such, is it a more nuanced position than representational scepticism, which, however, is still compatible with the conceptual engineer’s expected special sensitivity to conceptual flaws (and ways to fix them).