Philosophers Win $3.6 Million for Conceptual Engineering

Herman Cappelen (primary investigator),  Øystein Linnebo, and Camilla Serck-Hanssen, all at the University of Oslo, have won a $3.6 million grant for a 5-year project on Conceptual Engineering. The grant is funded by the Research Council of Norway‘s Toppforsk program, which recently announced roughly $120 million worth of grants to 46 projects. The Conceptual Engineering project appears to be the only philosophy project to win one of these grants. It will be hosted by ConceptLab at the University of Oslo.

Professor Cappelen offers a description of the project:

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’. 

Learn more about the project at the ConceptLab site.

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