Advertisement

Erkenntnis

pp 1–22 | Cite as

Conceptual Engineering and Ways of Believing

  • Eve KitsikEmail author
Original Research

Abstract

I will argue that those thinking about conceptual engineering should think more about ways of believing. When we talk about what someone “believes”, we could be talking about how they are inclined to act, or what they have put forth as their position on a matter, or what gives rise to a feeling of endorsement when they reflect on the matter. If we further recognize (1) that the contents of our beliefs are at least sometimes framed in certain concepts and (2) that projects of conceptual engineering at least sometimes aim to change our beliefs by changing the concepts they are framed in, the question arises: which beliefs does conceptual engineering target? Is it always “belief” in the same sense? I will argue that it is not, using examples from feminist and mainstream metaphysics. Suppose that revisionary ontologists (such as Trenton Merricks and Peter van Inwagen, interpreted in a Siderian manner) call on us to eliminate the non-joint-carving concept TABLE from our beliefs about the world. They then plausibly have in mind only “belief” in the sense of practically detached reflective assent: they want the concept eliminated from the content of such assent. On the other hand, when feminist metaphysicians of gender (such as Sally Haslanger) call on us to ameliorate the ethically problematic concept WOMAN, they target our “beliefs” in a sense that encompasses both the content of our everyday observations and experiences and what might be called practically engaged reflective assent; but they do not target the practically detached assent.

Notes

Acknowledgements

I have presented previous versions of this paper at the University of Gothenburg (4th meeting of the Nordic Network in Metaphysics) and University of Tartu (analytic philosophy summer camp and the Estonian Annual Philosophy Conference). I thank those audiences for their helpful comments. I also thank Daniel Cohnitz, Matti Eklund, Jonathan Shaheen, Tuomas Tahko, and two anonymous referees for their comments and discussion on this paper, its previous versions and/or related work. This research has been supported by the University of Tartu ASTRA Project PER ASPERA and the Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies (European Union, European Regional Development Fund), and is related to research project IUT20-5 (Estonian Ministry of Education and Research).

References

  1. Ásta. (2018). Categories we live by: The construction of sex, gender, race, and other social categories. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnes, E. (2014). Going beyond the fundamental: Feminism in contemporary metaphysics. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society,114(3), 335–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnes, E. (2017). Realism and social structure. Philosophical Studies,174(10), 2417–2433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barnes, E. (2019). Gender and gender terms. Noûs,00, 1–27.  https://doi.org/10.1111/nous.12279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Belleri, D. (2017). Verbalism and metalinguistic negotiation in ontological disputes. Philosophical Studies,174(9), 2211–2226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burgess, A., & Plunkett, D. (2013). Conceptual ethics I. Philosophy Compass, 8(12), 1091–1101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cappelen, H. (2018). Fixing language: An essay on conceptual engineering. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dorr, C., & Rosen, G. (2002). Composition as a fiction. In R. Gale (Ed.), The Blackwell companion to metaphysics (pp. 151–174). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. Fausto-Sterling, A. (1993). The five sexes: Why male and female are not enough. The Sciences, 33(2), 20–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Haslanger, S. (2000). Gender and race: (What) are they? (What) do we want them to be? Noûs,34(1), 31–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Haslanger, S., & Ásta. (2018). Feminist metaphysics. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (fall 2018 edition). Retrieved December 2, 2019 from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/feminism-metaphysics/.
  12. Hazlett, A. (2013). A luxury of the understanding: On the value of true belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Horgan, T., & Potrč, M. (2008). Austere realism: Contextual semantics meets minimal ontology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jenkins, K. (2016). Amelioration and inclusion: Gender identity and the concept of woman. Ethics,126(2), 394–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Merricks, T. (2001). Objects and persons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mikkola, M. (2015). Doing ontology and doing justice: What feminist philosophy can teach us about meta-metaphysics. Inquiry,58(7–8), 780–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mikkola, M. (2017). On the apparent antagonism between feminist and mainstream metaphysics. Philosophical Studies,174(10), 2435–2448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Saul, J. (2012). Politically significant terms and philosophy of language: Methodological issues. In S. L. Crasnow & A. M. Superson (Eds.), Out from the shadows: Analytical feminist contributions to traditional philosophy (pp. 195–216). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Schaffer, J. (2017). Social construction as grounding; or: Fundamentality for feminists, a reply to Barnes and Mikkola. Philosophical Studies,174(10), 2449–2465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Schwitzgebel, E. (2010). Acting contrary to our professed beliefs or the gulf between occurrent judgment and dispositional belief. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly,91(4), 531–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sider, T. (2011). Writing the book of the world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sider, T. (2017). Substantivity in feminist metaphysics. Philosophical Studies,174(10), 2467–2478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Simion, M. (2018). The ‘should’ in conceptual engineering. Inquiry,61(8), 914–928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Thomasson, A. L. (2017). Metaphysical disputes and metalinguistic negotiation. Analytic Philosophy,58(1), 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Unger, P. (1979a). There are no ordinary things. Synthese,41(2), 117–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Unger, P. (1979b). Why there are no people. Midwest Studies in Philosophy,4(1), 177–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Unger, P. (1980). The problem of the many. Midwest Studies in Philosophy,5(1), 411–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. van Inwagen, P. (1990). Material beings. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy and SemioticsUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia

Personalised recommendations