Conceptual Engineering Between Representational Skepticism and Complacency: Is There a Third Way?

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Conceptual engineering has been linked by Herman Cappelen to a position called “representational skepticism”, described as one’s refusal to uncritically take over the conceptual representations one is handed. This position is contrasted with an uncritical attitude, called “representational complacency”. Arguably, neither position, or a hybrid of the two, is rationally sustainable. This paper therefore proposes an alternative option, called “critical concept conservatism”, stating that having a concept makes it rational (in a suitable sense of “rational”) for one to retain it, unless there are grounds to question it. Critical concept conservatism avoids the drawbacks of skepticism and complacency; plus, it is independently supported by both positive and negative considerations. Furthermore, it complies with the demanding attitude towards conceptual representations that a conceptual engineer would be expected to have.

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Delia Belleri
Uppsala University


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