Fixing language: an essay on conceptual engineering

Herman Cappelen

Research output: Book/ReportBook

98 Citations (Scopus)


Fixing Language is a book about ways in which language (and other representational devices) can be defective and improved. In all parts of philosophy there are philosophers who criticize the concepts we have and propose ways to improve them. Once one notices this about philosophy, it’s easy to see that revisionist projects occur in a range of other intellectual disciplines and in ordinary life. That fact gives rise to a cluster of questions: How does the process of conceptual amelioration work? What are the limits of revision (how much revision is too much)? How does the process of revision fit into an overall theory of language and communication? This book is an effort to answer those questions. In so doing, it is also an attempt to draw attention to a tradition in twentieth- and twenty-first-century philosophy that isn’t sufficiently recognized as a unified tradition. There’s a straight intellectual line from Frege (e.g. of the Begriffsschrift) and Carnap to a cluster of contemporary work that isn’t typically seen as closely related: much work on gender and race, revisionism about truth, revisionists about moral language, and revisionists in metaphysics and philosophy of mind. These views all have common core commitments: revision is both possible and important. They also face common challenges: how is amelioration done, what assumptions need to be made, e.g., about the nature of concepts, and what are the limits of revision?
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages224
ISBN (Electronic)9780191852404
ISBN (Print)9780198814719
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2018


  • Conceptual engineering
  • Amelioration
  • Metaphilosophy
  • Concepts
  • Frege
  • Carnap
  • Language
  • Communication


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