Sigurd Jorem - "Conceptual Engineering and The Implementation Problem"


It is widely believed that what our words mean is partly determined by factors beyond our control, such as what experts believe, what the actual world is like, what the most natural meaning candidate is, and causal chains initiated by past baptisms. If conceptual engineers want to change what our words mean, they face the problem that we are not in control over these factors. However, changing the meaning of an expression is always changing the meaning an expression has in a language, and different languages have different properties. Some of those properties, including the number of speakers, make a metasemantic difference. This has peculiar consequences when we consider ways of spelling out the significance of succeeding in implementation. In addition, it is not obvious that the aforementioned factors determine any meaning we could use words to express when speaking a language, or only something like the standing meaning of expressions. In this talk, I argue that it is not necessary for conceptual engineers to change the standing meaning of a natural language expression, such as what 'cause' means in English, in order to succeed in implementing the products of their work. I suggest other ways of having a desirable impact on the way people speak that seem metasemantically feasible.

Published Mar. 4, 2019 10:16 AM - Last modified Mar. 27, 2019 10:06 AM