Synthese 200 (4):1-20 (2022)
AbstractThe metalinguistic approach to conceptual engineering construes disputes between linguistic reformers and linguistic conservatives as metalinguistic disagreements on how best to use particular expressions. As the present paper argues, this approach has various merits. However, it was recently criticised in Cappelen’s seminal Fixing Language. Cappelen raises an important objection against the metalinguistic picture. According to this objection – the Babel objection, as I shall call it – the metalinguistic account cannot accommodate the intuition of disagreement between linguistic conservatives and reformers who are speaking different languages. The objection generalises to metalinguistic approaches to e.g. moral disagreements. This paper discusses the Babel objection and shows how to dispel it.
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