Speaker’s reference, stipulation, and a dilemma for conceptual engineers

Philosophical Studies 177 (12):3935-3957 (2020)
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Advocates of conceptual engineering as a method of philosophy face a dilemma: either they are ignorant of how conceptual engineering can be implemented, or else it is trivial to implement but of very little value, representing no new or especially fruitful method of philosophizing. Two key distinctions frame this dilemma and explain its two horns. First, the distinction between speaker’s meaning and reference and semantic meaning and reference reveals a severe implementation problem for one construal of conceptual engineering. Second, the distinction between stipulating meanings and conceptually analyzing allows us to see why, on another construal of what conceptual engineering involves, the practice is neither a new nor neglected philosophical methodology. The article also argues that semantic externalism is not the root of the implementation problem for conceptual engineering, and that the usual rationale for adopting the practice, one that ties its value to the amelioration of “conceptual defects”, is unsound.
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Archival date: 2020-04-08
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