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Paul Podosky, "What attitude should we take to conceptual engineering?"
Wednesday 21 Sept 2022 ⋅ 15:30 – 17:00
Eastern Australia Time - Sydney

Philosophy Seminar RoomSimulcast via Zoom: split is made between cautious pessimists and cautious optimists in conceptual engineering. Where the former worries that concepts are hard to engineer because they are, in a very strong sense, “out of our control,” the latter accepts that control is possible but still very hard. However, this doesn’t exhaust the space of possible attitudes. In this paper, I show that when we attend closely to the conditions of our conceptual environment, we will see that the burden of implementation cannot be placed on the shoulders of individuals. But nor can we rely on existing social infrastructure to get our concepts to stick. Thus, when it comes to the normativity of conceptual engineering, our attention is perhaps better focused on cultivating the right conditions for conceptual uptake, rather than taking our chances on a world designed to keep things conceptually as they are. That is, conceptual engineering faces a pre-implementation challenge. Recognising this challenge allows us to be pessimistic optimists. We can be sceptical about the feasibility of conceptual engineering in the present, but hopeful about it in the future – provided that we get our conceptual environment right.

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