On the explanatory value of the concept conception distinction

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Abstract
The distinction between concept and conception has been widely debated in political philosophy, whereas in the philosophy of psychology is frequently used, but rarely focused on. This paper aims at filling in this lacuna. I claim that far from being explanatorily idle, the distinction makes it possible to provide an adequate description of phenomena such as genuine disagreement, and concept contestation, which would otherwise remain implausibly puzzling. I illustrate and assess three accounts of the concept-conception distinction. Finally I propose a social externalist account, which relies on deference to experts, and builds on Tyler Burge’s ideas of many decades ago. The debate on concepts and conceptions thus shows a connection with the increasing research work on experts and expertise in psychology and social epistemology.
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Archival date: 2022-07-13
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