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11:30-12:45 Session 2: Keynote I

Keynote 1

Location: UniS, A-122
Concepts and Conceptual Inquiry

ABSTRACT. Advocates of conceptual engineering typically describe it as a normative methodology that involves the assessment and improvement of our concepts, and contrast it with the (merely) descriptive methodology of conceptual analysis. Conceptual engineering is said to concern itself not with the concepts we happen to have, but with the concepts we ought to have. But there are those who disagree. It has been suggested both that conceptual engineering is simply a form of conceptual analysis, and that conceptual analysis is in some sense already a normative rather than a merely descriptive endeavour. In this talk, I distinguish two different understandings of concepts. The first, evident in the work of Carnap, treats concepts as reflections of actual use whose purpose is not to represent mind-independent facts but to serve our practical goals. The second, evident in the work of Frege and in the anti-individualist tradition, treats concepts as normative representational ideals that we may grasp incompletely. I suggest that disagreement over the nature of conceptual engineering, and over its relation to conceptual analysis, is ultimately grounded in this historically-rooted disagreement over the nature of concepts.

14:00-15:30 Session 3A: Experiments


Location: UniS, A-122
Conceptual Revision in Action

ABSTRACT. Conceptual engineering is the practice of revising people's concepts to improve how they think. Conceptual engineering is fundamentally purpose-driven, and so it only succeeds if it manages to revise people’s concepts, if such is even possible. This paper presents first-of-its-kind experimental research directly testing the possibility of conceptual revision using DINOSAUR and PLANET by exploiting the disconnect between scientists’ and folk’s concepts. Using a masked time-lagged design, we successfully revised PLANET but not DINOSAUR in participants, demonstrating some of the difficulties conceptual engineers face. Nonetheless, this paper provides conceptual engineers with the tools to finally tackle the implementation challenge head-on.

Experimental Inquiry of the Folk Conception of Critical Thinking

ABSTRACT. In the digital age we live in, critical thinking has never been more important, in all aspects of our lives. So much so that the expression has become part of everyday language. But one may wonder if the way the term is used (especially in training) really corresponds with the way philosophers have conceptualized it. To clarify this concept (as part of a conceptual re-engineering project), we conducted a study aiming at studying folk conceptions of critical thinking of French-speaking participants. Our results show that participants link the notion of critical thinking to skepticism (understood as challenging the claims of others, not being gullible or naïve, and resisting those who would deceive them) and that they generally feel that they think more critically than others. Moreover, we have been able to demonstrate the differences between academic definitions of critical thinking and folk conceptions.

14:00-15:30 Session 3B: History: ancient philosophy

History: ancient philosophy

Location: UniS, B-102
Aristotle on Tradition

ABSTRACT. How can concepts survive progress they were instrumental in facilitating and how does their content change in the process? Attention to Aristotle’s concept of tradition brings into view an original answer to this problem. My overall claim is that we should think of tradition as inherently progressive, rather than conservative. Contemporary conservatism may have claimed tradition as its own, but the dichotomy of tradition vs. progress that motivates the take-over is not baked into the nature of tradition itself. My paper shows that Aristotle develops and relies on a concept of tradition that prioritizes the act of passing things forward for the sake of development, rather than the conservation of specific traditional contents. Tradition is not opposed to progress but crucial to it, because it ensures trust in progress among successive generations. To make this claim, I examine two concepts of tradition that Aristotle articulates in the Sophistical Refutations.

Platonic Forms as Fregean Concepts

ABSTRACT. In my talk, I argue that Platonic Forms are more finely individuated than properties and that it is therefore misleading to identify Forms with properties. Forms should rather be understood as concepts in the Fregean sense. I start from the discussion of the unity of virtues in the Protagoras. Socrates here supports the unity of the virtues. In the literature, this “unity thesis” is interpreted in the sense that the virtues justice, courage, piety, temperance and wisdom are necessarily coexemplified. The necessary coexemplification of the virtues corresponds to the necessary coextensivity of the corresponding concepts [just], [courageous], [pious], [temperate] and [wise]. First, I will explain why the identity of two properties Fness and Gness follows from the necessary coextensivity of the corresponding concepts [F] and [G]. Then, by means of the discussion of the so-called highest Forms (megista genê) in the Sophist, I will show that the identity of the corresponding Forms does not follow from the necessary coextensivity of the concepts. Forms are thus more finely individuated than properties and should not be identified with them.

16:00-17:30 Session 4A: Normative concepts

Normative concepts

Location: UniS, A-122
Psst! Analysis beyond Extension

ABSTRACT. The concepts «cur» (Köter) and «dog» are different despite their identical extension. Thus, conceptual analyses limited to extension fall short. For example, the conceptual analysis «cur iff dog» correctly analyses the extension of «cur» but ignores its normativity. Its normativity is due to the fact that «cur», unlike «dog», additionally expresses a negative attitude towards dogs.

Comprehensive analyses that go beyond extension can be investigated using speech acts inspired by Moore’s paradox. Consider: - It’s raining. But I don’t believe it’s raining. - Rocky is a cur. But I don’t have a negative attitude towards dogs. Both speech acts are moore-paradoxical because they deny part of what they express, be it a belief or a positive or negative attitude.

The talk will explore how such speech acts can be used to analyse any kind of concept - descriptive concepts, concepts without extension (e.g., «psst!»), as well as normative concepts (e.g., the moral «ought»).

The Causal Theory of Slurs

ABSTRACT. Language can be used in highly destructive ways. One such way is the usage of slurs. These are expressions that are used to refer to the members of a given group, the target group, in a derogatory way. As a consequence, slurs primarily have two functions. First, they can be used to offend the members of the target group. Second, slurs can be used to create or reinforce negative attitudes towards them. In this talk, I will put forward and systematically develop a new explanation of the derogatory force of slurs, taking as a starting point a causal account of their referential properties. The basic idea is that the reference of both slurs and their neutral counterparts is determined by a network of communicational chains that are grounded in the target group. However, unlike their neutral counterparts, slurs have been grounded in the target group primarily by speakers who have negative attitudes towards its members. I contend that such a causal theory of slurs has the potential to account for both the referential properties of slurs and their main practical properties.

16:00-17:30 Session 4B: History: symposium

History: symposium

Location: UniS, B-102
To ontologize or not to ontologize Faith, that is the Question. Some Case Studies from Early Modern Switzerland

ABSTRACT. As is well known, the term ‘ontology’ is not a term that can be found where one naturally thinks one would find it (e.g. in the Greek ancient philosophy of Parmenides, Plato or Aristotle). Ontology is a neologism that first appears in little Switzerland (St. Gallen 1606), and would later be diffused worldwide. This need emerged in some early modern Protestant Reformed areas in which metaphysics had been banned for a list of confessional reasons (e.g. Martin Luther’s interdict against metaphysics and the anti-metaphysical account of Humanism). Why did the need to rename ‘ontology’ the ancient science of ‘first philosophy’ or ‘metaphysics’ emerge? What does this debate have to do with theology? Paraphrasing Shakespeare, one can say "to ontologize or not to ontologize (faith and theology). That was the question". Switzerland between the 16th and 17th century was, in this regard, a laboratory for modernity. Some early modern Swiss case studies will be presented.

Für eine Ausgabe des Kommentars zur Metaphysik von Johannes Vogler (1610-1676)

ABSTRACT. Mit meinem Vortrag möchte ich die laufenden Arbeiten an einem Werk vorstellen, dessen Edition ich gerade vorbereite: den Kommentar zur Metaphysik des Jesuiten Johannes Vogler (1610-1676), der in den Jahren 1645-48 und dann wieder von 1649 bis 1652 als Professor der Philosophie am Luzerner Gymnasium tätig war. Hier verfasste er eine Reihe von Kommentaren zu Aristoteles' Werk, insgesamt 10 Titel, die in Charles Lohrs Aristotelica Helvetica gesammelt sind. Von keinem dieser Kommentare besteht gegenwärtig eine Ausgabe, sie liegen alle noch als Manuskript vor. Voglers Kurs in Metaphysik ist aus mindestens zwei Gründen interessant: 1) er spielte eine Rolle in jenem Prozess der Wissensvermittlung von den Universitäten zu den klösterlichen Kreisen in der Schweiz; 2) er ist ein genuin philosophisches Werk, das die philosophische Kultur und die philosophischen Probleme seiner Zeit gut darstellt.

17:30-18:15 Session 5A: Philosophy of science

Philosophy of science

Location: UniS, A-122
Validity, coordination, and the problem of nomic measurement: from conceptual redundancy to methodological integration

ABSTRACT. The problem of nomic measurement highlights that answers to the questions “What counts as a measurement of X?” and “What is X?” often seem to presuppose one another in scientific practice. In this talk, I will focus on the historical emergence of two parallel traditions addressing this problem, one centered around the methodological concept of validity, the other around the epistemological notion of coordination. I will make three claims. First, this conceptual redundancy – i.e., two different concepts referring to the same epistemic problem – is explained by how disciplinary-specific issues and practices shaped the discourse. Second, well before this conceptual branching occurred, scientists such as Ohm and Fechner were already knowingly dealing with the problem of nomic measurement. Third, this branching led to the development of two different approaches to the problem of nomic measurement, modelled on the structure of the attributes taken as paradigmatic targets of quantitative measurement in different scientific disciplines.

17:30-18:15 Session 5B: Empirical concepts
Location: UniS, B-102
Empirical concepts: their meaning and its emergence

ABSTRACT. This paper presents a detailed, novel account of the emergence of the meaning of empirical concepts. Acquiring experience and empirical concepts is shown to be the result of multifaceted, cognitive processes, which require both material realization and conceptual interpretation. Generally speaking, the meaning of empirical concepts consists of several distinct components, but it includes at least a structuring and an abstracting component. These two meaning components are abstract entities, which can be justifiably interpreted as real objects. On this basis, I address the subject of emergence. The primary claim is that the abstracting meaning component (but not the structuring one) emerges from its underlying empirical processes: it both depends on and transcends these processes. This conception of empirical concepts with emergent abstracting meaning components involves an interpretation that avoids the problematic extremes of both empiricism and Platonism.