Conceptual Engineering: A Systematic Unified Framework

Manuel Gustavo Isaac

Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation
University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

We use concepts all the time to make sense of reality. The quality of our cognition thereby crucially depends on that of our conceptual schemes and repertoires, so that: the better our concepts are, the better our cognitive activities will be. Conceptual engineering is the fast-moving research field [3,5,6] that means to provide a method to assess, criticize, and improve any of our concepts working as such cognitive devices [4,5,10,13] [see also 18,20], that is: to identify conceptual deficiencies, elaborate ameliorative strategies, and prescribe normative guidelines as to whether and how to use a concept (vs.\ to describe how it works as a matter of fact) [1,4,5,19,20]. The aim of the SUFCE tutorial is to provide a systematic overview of conceptual engineering, to be divided into three sessions:

  • S1: Research Program The first session of the tutorial will introduce the overall research program of conceptual engineering: its starting point, its main goal and objectives, along with its most pressing challenges [6]. A typology of its main variants will be presented, [e.g. 3,5,17] and the standard objections against them will be critically analyzed, [e.g. 12] [cf. 18,20].

  • S2 Theoretical Foundations The second session of the tutorial will then consist in laying down the foundations of conceptual engineering by developing the theories of cognition (viz.\ `cognitive engineering') [10,11,15] and concepts [14,16,21] that are needed to effectively implement conceptual engineering as a widely applicable method for the cognitive optimization of our conceptual devices.

  • S3: Methodological Framework Finally, the third session of the tutorial will deliver a method of conceptual engineering constructed as a fully recast Carnapian method of explication [1] [cf.~7,8], upgraded with other complementary template procedural methods for re-engineering concepts (namely, that of `conceptual modeling' [13], `levels of abstraction' [9], and `reflective equilibrium' [2]).

    Basic knowledge in philosophy language, mind and cognition, as well as interest in meta-philosophical issues are expected. Further material will be available in due course. At least one-quarter of each session will be devoted to discussion (Q\&A).

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  • Back to the 6th Universal Logic School !