Amelioration vs. Perversion

In Teresa Marques & Åsa Wikforss (eds.), Shifting Concepts: The Philosophy and Psychology of Conceptual Variability. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2020)
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Abstract

Words change meaning, usually in unpredictable ways. But some words’ meanings are revised intentionally. Revisionary projects are normally put forward in the service of some purpose – some serve specific goals of inquiry, and others serve ethical, political or social aims. Revisionist projects can ameliorate meanings, but they can also pervert. In this paper, I want to draw attention to the dangers of meaning perversions, and argue that the self-declared goodness of a revisionist project doesn’t suffice to avoid meaning perversions. The road to Hell, or to horrors on Earth, is paved with good intentions. Finally and more importantly, I want to demarcate what meaning perversions are. This, I hope, can help us assess the moral and political legitimacy of revisionary projects.

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Teresa Marques
Universitat de Barcelona

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