Carnap meets Foucault: conceptual engineering and genealogical investigations

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What is the relevance of historical, and in particular genealogical, investigations for projects of conceptual engineering? I address this question by bringing together two prominent authors in each of these traditions: Foucault for genealogy, and Carnap for conceptual engineering. I argue that Foucaultian genealogy is a suitable approach to address a specific lacuna in Carnap’s articulation of explication, namely, insufficient attention for the preliminary stage of clarifying the explicandum. Moreover, the focus on practices in Foucaultian genealogies facilitates a reflection on the functions of the concept to be explicated, which is crucial for the fruitfulness of the explication as a whole. I start by canvassing a number of commonalities between Carnap and Foucault, as they were both influenced by Kant and Nietzsche; they shared a number of philosophical commitments such as a rejection of metaphysics and a tolerant meta-normative stance. I then discuss the lacuna in Carnapian explication, and argue that Foucaultian genealogy provides the right level of detail to remedy this lacuna. I close with a discussion of a concrete example, the concept of marriage, and conclude that this combination of Carnapian explication with Foucaultian genealogy is an illustration of the relevance of historical analysis for conceptual engineering.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Dec 2020


FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme771074


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