Projects

ConceptLab is home to several projects in conceptual engineering and allied areas.

Conceptual Engineering and Epistemology (PI: Jennifer Nado)

Epistemology has traditionally been overwhelmingly focused on knowledge, but there are countless other potential ways of carving epistemic space which might yield novel epistemic categories of equal – or even greater – theoretical interest. Particular areas of focus within this project include investigation into the purposes or functions that our current knowledge concept serves, exploration of the applicability of CE to recent epistemological trends such as the study of ‘understanding’, and consideration of the prospects for subdividing ‘knowledge’ into multiple, specially-designed epistemic successor concepts.

Online Communication and Conceptual Engineering (PI: Rachel Sterken)

This project explores ways in which conceptual engineering can help us understand online communication. Can bots makes assertions and perform the speech acts? If the answer is yes, does that require a revisionary attitude towards the concept of communication? Does it require a revisionary metasemantics? The project also explores more specific question, such as how we should understand the concept of ‘fake news’

Pure Externalism (PIs: Herman Cappelen, Max Deutsch)

The back cover of some editions of Naming and Necessity have the blurb: ‘if there’s such a thing as essential reading in philosophy of language, this is it’, and Kripke’s work undoubtedly revolutionized 20th century semantics and metaphysics. The thought underlying this project is that, despite the massive attention it has received, the externalist theory introduced by Kripke (and Burge, and Putnam, and others), remains incomplete and lacking. Looking at the foundational concepts of externalist metasemantics, such as baptism, communicative chain, and deference, it evaluates them and removes or improves them as necessary.

Conceptual Engineering Of Political Concepts (PI: Herman Cappelen)

Recent work by Brennan, Estlund and others raises questions about whether we can do better than democracy. This project is concerned with the more radical thought that the concepts of democracy, legitimacy, and authority are defective. It explores the possibility that after having been passed down over 2,500 years, these concepts have ceased to be meaningful representational devices. The overall aim of the project is to better understand conceptual defectiveness in general and to propose concepts that are better than e.g., democracy: its goal is to construct a new conceptual foundation for political theory. 

Value and Uncertainty (PI: David McCarthy)

The aim of this project is to articulate an extremely general understanding of how utilitarianism and competing views about value should be understood, with applications to topics in epistemology and political philosophy. One of the main ideas is that uncertainty is integral to a full understanding of utilitarianism and its competitors. Even without uncertainty though, value comparisons may be highly incomplete, and the appropriate representation of uncertainty in many contexts may fall well short of a single, standard probability measure. Thus the project aims to do without completeness assumptions, and to allow representations of uncertainty to be vector-valued, covering both imprecise and lexicographic probabilities as special cases. 

Skepticism about the Feasibility and Value of Conceptual Engineering (PI: Max Deutsch)

This project explores various objections to the versions of conceptual engineering that have recently emerged in the literature. Questions are raised both about the feasibility of conceptual engineering and its value. More generally, this project aims to promote increased skepticism about the field. 

Translation Between Different Philosophical Traditions: Concept Construction (PIs: Cappelen and Chaturvedi


Should we translate terms from Non-Western traditions (e.g., Indian and Chinese philosophy) using familiar Western concepts (like knowledgejustificationconsciousness,  freedom, person), or should we construct new concepts to serve as Bridge-Concepts between different traditions? This project explores the second option and aims to outline various strategies for the engineering of Bridge-Concepts, drawing on recent work in Conceptual Engineering.