Conceptual Engineering, Metasemantic Externalism and Speaker-Meaning

Pinder, Mark (2021). Conceptual Engineering, Metasemantic Externalism and Speaker-Meaning. Mind, 130(517) pp. 141–163.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/mind/fzz069

Abstract

What is the relationship between conceptual engineering and metasemantic externalism? Sally Haslanger has argued that metasemantic externalism justifies the seemingly counterintuitive consequences of her proposed conceptual revisions. But according to Herman Cappelen, metasemantic externalism makes conceptual engineering effectively impossible in practice. After raising objections to Haslanger’s and Cappelen’s views, I argue for a very different picture, on which metasemantic externalism bears very little on conceptual engineering. I argue that, while metasemantic externalism principally operates at the level of semantic-meaning, we should understand conceptual engineering to largely operate at the level of speaker-meaning. This ‘Speaker-Meaning Picture’ has two key benefits. Firstly, it makes conceptual engineering often easy in practice. Secondly, it suggests a new, normative response to the well-known objection that conceptual engineering serves only to change the subject.

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