Philosophical Conceptual Analysis as an Experimental Method

In Thomas Gamerschlag, Doris Gerland, Rainer Osswald & Wiebke Petersen (eds.), Meaning, Frames, and Conceptual Representation. Düsseldorf University Press. pp. 267-292 (2015)
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Abstract

Philosophical conceptual analysis is an experimental method. Focusing on this helps to justify it from the skepticism of experimental philosophers who follow Weinberg, Nichols & Stich. To explore the experimental aspect of philosophical conceptual analysis, I consider a simpler instance of the same activity: everyday linguistic interpretation. I argue that this, too, is experimental in nature. And in both conceptual analysis and linguistic interpretation, the intuitions considered problematic by experimental philosophers are necessary but epistemically irrelevant. They are like variables introduced into mathematical proofs which drop out before the solution. Or better, they are like the hypotheses that drive science, which do not themselves need to be true. In other words, it does not matter whether or not intuitions are accurate as descriptions of the natural kinds that undergird philosophical concepts; the aims of conceptual analysis can still be met

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Michael T. Stuart
University of York

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