I am currently doing research on the relationship between projects in conceptual engineering and actual, realized, social change.

Of primary interest to me is how, for instance, Haslanger's revisionary accounts of race and gender may help in accomplishing their intentions of ending social oppression. She advocates that we use the word "woman" differently, to reflect the oppression they experience. Are we to assume, however, that a change in our language/conceptual framework will necessitate social change? Why?

I suppose, in other words, what is it that is needed to "bridge the gap" between a change in one's concepts and change in the real world?

  • wishful thinking?
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 12:40
  • 1
    @Mr.Kennedy I suppose that could play a role! I more so want to look at what ways, if any, social developments can enable (and be affected by) projects in conceptual engineering.
    – Mr. Zed
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 14:48
  • status functions?
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 14:55
  • @Mr.Kennedy I read the article. Very interesting. What I found most relevant was Searle's notion that governments, as systems of status functions, collapse when collective intentionality can no longer support them - the public withdraws acceptance of the system of status functions (p. 15-16). I am interested here in how such a change can occur - what is it that directly ties conceptual change to political change, here? Can you recommend anything else to review?
    – Mr. Zed
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 20:49
  • You might like this chapter on "How We Create Desire-independent Reasons For Action" and "The Construction of Social Reality" and "Ontology and Social Power"
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 22:00

1 Answer 1


The relationship between conceptual engineering and social change is based on tightening concepts along certain directions like amoebas, whereby it may be effected that the average citizen avoids certain unwanded aspects of concepts.

Consider that you are in a swimming bath with springboards, and that by analogy, concepts are the springboards of thinking. The bouncing of the springboards makes it possible to effect great leaping figures in the air, before landing in the water. A concept may also contain such resonance possibilities, in many directions simultaneously.

If anybody has something against certain of these conceptual resonances, and has enough authority over mass media (Film industry, TV, newspapers, censorship in the internet), he may manipulate the everyday thinking of the thereof unconscious average citizen, by imbeding this concept in a kind of straightjacket, i.e. by contaminating the concept, or distorting it in a certain direction, like an amoeba.

If a citizen is in this sense continually provided with certain straightjacket-points-of-view, it appears him, as if it were a “thoughtcrime” (George Orwell) to think the opposite of this, i.e. the unconstrained concept. Hence for him, the concept’s resonance force in certain directions has got lost (--> “crimestop”).

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