Traditional Entanglements of Conceptual Engineering: American and Cambridge Pragmatism

July 8, 2021 - July 9, 2021

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University of Toronto, St. George Campus
Università degli Studi di Milano
University of Miami
Royal Holloway University of London
Universität Trier
University of Oslo
Japan Society for The Promotion of Science
Oxford University
University of Manchester
University of Toronto, St. George Campus


Cambridge University
University of Bologna

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Conceptual engineering projects purport to differ from other philosophical projects in the following way: instead of asking “What does ‘X’ (really) mean?” (conceptual analysis) or “What is (the nature of) X?” (empirical or metaphysical inquiry), conceptual engineers shift the focus of discussion towards questions such as, “What is our concept of X for? How should we define or improve our concept of X so that it can better fulfil its function(s)?”. These distinctively functional and normative questions are congenial to the ideas defended by philosophers belonging to the multifaceted tradition of American and Cambridge Pragmatism.

An important point of convergence lies in the treatment of philosophical concepts. Pragmatist philosophers are usually more interested in the genealogy and reconstruction of philosophical concepts than in their analysis or the search for their referents in the world. The pragmatist approach to concepts is embedded in a more broadly functionalist and often antirepresentationalist view of language, which we find at the heart of pragmatists’ philosophies of language, brought to the fore by Richard Rorty, Robert Brandom, and Huw Price. Against the traditional view of language as a primarily representational device, pragmatists emphasize the diversity of vocabularies and of their functions in human lives.

The “pragmatist theme” is occasionally acknowledged by conceptual engineers and explicit reference is sometimes made to pragmatist philosophers (e.g. to Huw Price by Amie Thomasson, to Hilary Putnam by Sally Haslanger and Sarah Sawyer, and to Brandom by Alexis Burgess and David Plunkett). However, the connections between the two approaches remain underexplored. This workshop is devoted to the investigation of these connections. What exactly qualifies (neo)pragmatist approaches to language for conceptual engineering projects? Where do the two movements merge, differ, and potentially enforce or illuminate one another? Which tools from both traditions allow for new answers to questions in each other’s fields of investigation?

In order to attend the online workshop and receive the Zoom link, please register using the registration form before the 6th of July. After that date, directly send an email to one of the organisers.

List of speakers:

Spencer Albert (University of Toronto)

Maria Regina Brioschi (University of Milano)

Neil Gascoigne (Royal Holloway, University of London)

David Hommen (Universität Trier)

Sigurd Jorem (University of Oslo) & Guido Loehr (Radboud University Nijmegen)

Takaaki Matsui (Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo)

Matthieu Queloz (University of Oxford)

Jonas Raab (University of Manchester)

Jared Riggs (University of Toronto) & Elizabeth Cantalamessa (University of Miami)

Matteo Santarelli (University of Bologna)

Matthew Shields (University of Colorado Boulder)

Katja Stepec (independent)

Tullio Viola (Maastricht University)

Oscar Westerblad (University of Cambridge)

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July 6, 2021, 8:00pm CET

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Custom tags:

#Conceptual Engineering, #Pragmatism