How Not to Change the Subject
Sally Haslanger (Philosophy, MIT)
Forthcoming in Shifting Concepts: The Philosophy and Psychology of Conceptual Variation, ed., Teresa Marques and Åsa Wikforss. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
The project of conceptual engineering, conceptual ethics, or conceptual amelioration – I will assume for the purposes of this paper that they are all the same – is highly contested. Some have argued that conceptual engineering – or whatever we call it – is impossible (Cappelen 2018), others embrace it enthusiastically (Burgess and Plunkett 2013). Debates over the possibility of conceptual engineering are confusing, however, because parties to the discussion start with very different accounts of concepts, meaning, content, and background philosophical methodology. There are also important differences in what those engaged in conceptual intervention see themselves as aiming for: Is the goal to introduce new (theoretical) vocabulary or revise the meaning of a (technical) term? Is the goal to promote a widespread linguistic change from the armchair? Is it an effort to change linguistic practices in the context of, and through the efforts of, a social movement?