Herman Cappelen, in collaboration with Oystein Linnebo and Camilla Serck-Hanssen, has received a £2.5 million, 5 year grant from the Norwegian Research Council for a project on Conceptual Engineering.
In any inquiry, whether scientific or practical, we use concepts to frame questions about reality. An obvious way in which the inquiry can be successful is by yielding answers to the resulting questions. A far less obvious form of success has to do with asking the “right” questions, formulated using the “right” concepts. It is clear that many great leaps in human insight and understanding have been associated with the forging of “better” concepts, which has enabled us to ask “better” questions: in physics, the differentiation of weight and mass; in mathematics, the Cantorian notion of “size” or number; in economics, the articulation of the present concept of money; in social science the concept of gender, as opposed to sex. These are illustrations of how conceptual progress has been made in the past.
Our project has three parts: one part aims to develop a general theory of conceptual engineering, another focuses on the engineering of formal concepts, and a third is concerned with social/political concepts such as ‘combatant’ and ‘privacy’.
The NFR Project Conceptual Engineering is a part of the ConceptLab. For more information about ConceptLab