The Philosophy Speaker Series Committee has canceled the talk from Céline Henne (a postdoc at the University of Toronto, title/abstract below signature) due to the CUPE strike.
We hope to be able to welcome Dr. Henne to campus to give her talk as part of the Winter term speaker series line-up – details TBD.
Why Conceptual Engineering Needs Pragmatism
While the burgeoning field of conceptual engineering exhibits many affinities with pragmatism (by asking questions such as, what is the function of the concept of X? how can we revise it so that it better fulfils our needs?), most conceptual engineers are not pragmatists. In this talk, I will explain why conceptual engineering needs pragmatism. I will make both a historical and a normative claim. My historical claim is that classical pragmatists, in developing their theories of meaning, inquiry, and truth, were primarily interested in the evaluation and revision of conceptual devices (general ideas, laws, frameworks, etc.). My normative claim is that pragmatist notions are indeed better-suited to contexts of inquiry in which conceptual devices are evaluated and revised, while more traditional notions in epistemology and semantics are better adapted to contexts of inquiry in which conceptual devices are settled and taken for granted (“the cat is on the mat”, “snow is white”). This gives a good reason to adopt a pragmatist framework in conceptual engineering instead of the traditional notions that occupy centre stage in current discussions. I end by responding to a possible objection (that my proposal only appeals to those who are already sold to pragmatism) by showing the value of adopting pragmatist notions in practice, even if ultimately, one rejects pragmatist semantics (theory of meaning and theory of truth).