Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

The concept of 'conceptual engineering' may be understood as "a philosophical methodology that focuses on the assessment and revision of conceptual representations" (see also David Chalmers, What is Conceptual Engineering and What Should it Be?) In some senses, this might be thought of as the creation of categories and taxonomies, though there is more involved. We can also think of it as the creation of modules. In education research and some social sciences, the construction of theories is largely a form of conceptual engineering. This paper offers a fascinating look at some of the mechanics underlying conceptual engineering and in particular the ways different approaches can result in multiple models for the same domain. We can, for example, think of concepts as performing "specific causal or explanatory functions in higher cognitive processes, such as abstraction, categorization, induction, and so on." or we can think of them as a device for "changing the rules that speakers use to evaluate the truth of certain propositions." The paper surveys a variety of different types of pluralism in conceptual engineering (pluralism about function, pluralism about goals, etc.). Image: Christophe, Coatanea & Bernard.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Oct 17, 2021 11:09 a.m.