Humanities seminar on concepts and meaning in philosophy

Conceptual broadening, meaning change, and conventionalism

Date: Fri 21st Apr 2017 9:30am-10:30am

Location: Oorala lecture theatre, Oorala Centre
Contact: Karin von Strokirch 02 67733132

Black and white cartoon from 20th century of man in dinner suit with contraptions around him denoting experiments and automation of lifestyle.Presenter: Sandy Boucher

One notable form of theoretical innovation in the philosophy of biology and philosophy of mind in recent decades has been conceptual broadening – the broadening or extension of a concept to include more phenomena than it had previously been thought to by common sense or received theory. So, for example, we have had proposals for the extended phenotype, the extended organism, extended inheritance, the extended replicator, and extended cognition, to name five. While there has been much discussion around the nature of conceptual change in science in general, there has been less work done, at the meta-theoretical level, on these particular forms of conceptual innovation. I offer a general analysis of the form such proposals take, and, following Dawkins’ pluralist interpretation (at the meta-theoretical level) of his extended phenotype idea, explore the possibility that in most, perhaps all, of these cases there is no fact of the matter about whether the broadening proposals are objectively correct, and the only remaining question is the broadly pragmatic one of whether they conduce to our practical and explanatory purposes.

Sandy Boucher is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of New England. He has published articles in the areas of the philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and metaphilosophy.

Lecture — in the Oorala Centre.
Morning tea follows in the School of Humanities tea room.


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