Herman Cappelen investigates ways in which language (and other representational devices) can be defective, and how they can be improved. In all parts of philosophy there are philosophers who criticize the concepts we have and propose ways to improve them. Once one notices this about philosophy, it's easy to see that revisionist projects occur in a range of other intellectual disciplines and in ordinary life. That fact gives rise to a cluster of questions: How does the process of conceptual amelioration work? What are the limits of revision? (How much revision is too much?) How does the process of revision fit into an overall theory of language and communication? Fixing Language aims to answer those questions. In so doing, it aims also to draw attention to a tradition in 20th- and 21st-century philosophy that isn't sufficiently recognized. There's a straight intellectual line from Frege and Carnap to a cluster of contemporary work that isn't typically seen as closely related: much work on gender and race, revisionism about truth, revisionism about moral language, and revisionism in metaphysics and philosophy of mind. These views all have common core commitments: revision is both possible and important. They also face common challenges about the methods, assumptions, and limits of revision.
Herman Cappelen investigates how language and other representational devices can go wrong, and how to fix them. We use language to understand and talk about the world, but what if our language has deficiencies that prevent it from playing that role? How can we revise our concepts, and what are the limits on revision?
I. Introduction to Conceptual Engineering 1: Introduction 2: Illustrations: Conceptual Engineering in Philosophy and Beyond 3: Arguments for the Importance of Conceptual Engineering and Implications for Philosophical Methodology 4: On the Importance of a General Theory and an Overview of the Austerity Framework II. Towards a General Theory, 1: Metasemantic Foundations 5: Metasemantics, Metasemantic Superstructure and Metasemantic base 6: Externalist Conceptual Engineering 7: Corollaries of Externalism: Inscrutability, Lack of Control, and Anti-Luminosity 8: The Illusion of Incoherent / Inconsistent Concepts III. Towards a General Theory, 2: Topic Continuity as the Limits for Revision 9: The Limits of Revision and Topics (Dis)Continuity and Miscommunication 10: Reply to Strawson 1: Continuity of Topic, Samesaying and the Contestation Theory 11: Reply to Strawson 2: Lexical Effects IV. Towards a General Theory, 3: Worldliness and the Varieties of Conceptual Engineering 12: The Worldliness of Conceptual Engineering 13: Varieties of Conceptual Engineering 14: Objections and Replies V. Compare and Contrast: Alternative Accounts of Conceptual Engineering 15: Metalinguistic Negotiation 16: On Appeals to Function 17: Chalmers on the Subscript Gambit 18: Conceptual Engineering Without Bedrock and Without Fixed Points 19: Concluding Remarks: Looking Ahead
... the past few years have seen an explosion of work that is described by its authors as "conceptual engineering"; and Cappelen bears no small share of the responsibility for this. ... I would recommend Fixing Language to anyone interested in meaning and philosophical methodology. This is not only because of the interest of the various ideas Cappelen discusses under the umbrella of the Austerity Framework, but also because of the many acute criticisms of alternative views. * Derek Ball, Mind *Herman Cappelen's Fixing Language is a fascinating book, chock-full of provocative arguments, on what is fast becoming a (the?) central topic in metaphilosophy: conceptual engineering. [ . . . ] It is an important book - one I very highly recommend. It sets the stage for what will be an exciting metaphilosophical debate over the prospects for conceptual engineering in the years to come. * Max Deutsch, Analysis *
Oxford University Press