ConceptLab’s purpose is to foster collaborative research on “conceptual engineering” – the critique and improvement of concepts. We investigate concepts from across philosophy and beyond. The center’s remit thus covers all areas of philosophy: theoretical, practical, and historical.

 We organise seminars and talks, collaborate with other philosophical research centres around the world and we will host research projects (as members of the group get them).

 All our events are open to everyone.

 The group is led by Herman Wright CappelenØystein Linnebo and Camilla Serck-Hanssen.


About Conceptual Engineering.



Call for Applications – ConceptLab Visiting Fellowships 2018/19

ConceptLab at the University of Oslo is extending a call for International and Norway-based candidates to apply for the position of Visiting Fellow for up to 3 months.  The deadline for this new round of visiting fellowships applications for 2018-19 is 31 October  2018   Collaborative Fellowships The Collaborative Visiting Fellowship scheme for 2018-19 is …

Linguistic Meaning: Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics, CFA

The Queen’s College, University of Oxford, in collaboration with ConceptLab, Oslo. We invite submissions of long abstracts (1000-1500 words) for presentation at a conference on three facets of linguistic meaning: 1. Metaphysics of meaning and metasemantics 2. Epistemology of meaning and linguistic understanding 3. Ethical and ideological dimensions of meaning, and conceptual engineering. Submissions may …

The Foundations Of Conceptual Engineering: Schedule

September 14th-15th, 2018 Friday 9:00-6:40, Saturday 9:30-5:30 New York University, Department of Philosophy 5 Washington Place, New York, NY 10003   Friday    time speaker title 9.00 Welcome 9.10–10.10 David Chalmers What is Conceptual Engineering and What Should It Be? 10.15-11.15 Matti Eklund Radical Conceptual Engineering coffee 11.45-12.45 Sally Haslanger Concepts, Capacities and Social Functions …




ConceptLab runs a variety of events, from visiting speaker seminars to workshops and larger conferences, as well as various in-house courses and seminars for its members. On this page you will find information about these events.

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Upcoming Talks


Talk by Per-Erik Milam “Non-Moral Blame”

Time and place: Oct. 23, 2018 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM, Gm 652, University of Oslo

Talk by Bernhard Nickel: The division of ideological labor

Time and place: Oct. 30, 2018 10:15 AM – 12:00 PMGM 652, University of Oslo


Talk by Stephan Krämer: “Difference-Making in Truthmaker Semantics”

Time and place: Nov. 13, 2018 10:15 AM – 12:00 PMGM 652

Abstract: It is a familiar idea that some contributions to an outcome seem to be difference-making whereas others may not. The distinction has been put to theoretical uses especially in the debate on causation, and it has typically been explicated in terms of counterfactuals. In it simplest form, the idea is that an event c made a difference to an event e just in case if c hadn’t occurred, then e wouldn’t have occurred. The relevance counterfactuals are in turn usually given an interpretation in terms of possible worlds, namely as concerning what happens in the nearest alternative possible worlds where the putative difference-maker does not exist. The talk will explore some natural ways to understand the idea of difference-making in terms of possible (or indeed impossible) truthmakers, and discuss both what distinctive benefits such an approach may offer, and what distinctive challenges it may face.


Talk by Kim Phillips Pedersen

Time and place: Nov. 20, 2018 10:15 AM – 12:00 PMGM 652, University of Oslo


Workshop: Linguistic Meaning: Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics, in Oxford

Time and place: Apr. 25, 2019 – Apr. 27, 2019, Oxford


Past Talks

Talk by Shaun Nichols: “Referential ambiguity and discretion”

Time and place: Jan. 30, 2018 10:15 AM12:00 PM, GM 652, University of Oslo

ABSTACT: Eliminativist debates exhibit a familiar pattern in the history of philosophy. Eliminativists maintain that K doesn’t exist (where K might be morality, race, belief, etc.) because K is given its content by a false theory. This position is opposed by preservationists who say, in effect, Ks aren’t what we thought they were. Some philosophers maintain that the theory of reference will settle the issue between eliminativists and preservationists. In this talk, I’ll argue that (at least) two conventions regarding reference are available to speakers.  This affords an interpretive flexibility which allows us to make sense of the apparent disagreement between eliminativists and preservationists by charitably interpreting them as assuming different reference conventions.  In addition, once we allow that there are different reference conventions available, I suggest that we can take advantage of this in deciding which reference convention to use in a conversation.

Talk by Stephen Finlay: Defining Normativity

Time and place: Feb. 13, 2018 10:15 AM12:00 PM, GM 652, University of Oslo
ABSTRACT: This talk seeks to clarify debate over the nature, existence, extension, and analyzability of normativity, by investigating whether different philosophers’ claims are about the same subject or (as argued by Derek Parfit) they are using the terms ‘normative’ and ‘normativity’ with different meanings.  While I suggest the term may be multiply ambiguous, I also find reasons for optimism about a common subject-matter for metanormative theory.  This is supported by sketching a special hybrid view of normative judgment, perspectivism, that occupies a position between cognitivism and noncognitivism, naturalism and nonnaturalism, objectivism and subjectivism.  I explore three main fissures: between (i) the “normativity” of language/thought versus that of facts and properties, (ii) abstract versus substantive, and (iii) formal versus robust normativity.

Talk by Hannes Leitgeb

Time and place: Mar. 7, 2018, GM 652

Workshop: Engineering logical concepts

Time and place: Mar. 8, 2018Mar. 9, 2018, University of Oslo

Talk by Fenner Tanswell: Conceptual Engineering for Mathematical Concepts

Time and place: Apr. 17, 2018 10:15 AM12:00 PM, GM 652

ABSTRACT: In this paper I investigate how conceptual engineering applies to mathematical concepts in particular. I begin with a discussion of Waismann’s notion of open texture, and compare it to Shapiro’s modern usage of the term. Next I set out the position taken by Lakatos which sees mathematical concepts as dynamic and open to improvement and development, arguing that Waismann’s open texture applies to mathematical concepts too. With the perspective of mathematics as open-textured, I make the case that this allows us to deploy the tools of conceptual engineering in mathematics. I will examine Cappelen’s recent argument that there are no conceptual safe spaces and consider whether mathematics constitutes a counterexample. I argue that it does not, drawing on Haslanger’s distinction between manifest and operative concepts, and applying this in a novel way to set-theoretic foundations. I then set out some of the questions that need to be engaged with to establish mathematics as involving a kind of conceptual engineering. I finish with a case study of how the tools of conceptual engineering will give us a way to progress in the debate between advocates of the Universe view and the Multiverse view in set theory.

Talk by Annalisa Coliva: Is numerical cognition cognition of natural numbers?

Time and place: Apr. 24, 2018 10:15 AM, GM 652

ABSTRACT: In this paper we take issue with what we call the “Standard View” in cognitive studies on numerical cognition.  According to the standard view, there is no distinction in kind between what we call “adult putatively-arithmetical resources” and the system of intellectual resources actually involved in mathematical theories. Moreover, adult putatively-arithmetical resources are considered continuous with what we call “basic putatively-arithmetical resources”. We first criticize this latter thesis, by claiming that these resources aren’t based on numerical representations. We then criticize the former thesis by showing how counting and even more complex abilities, characteristically possessed by most adult human beings, do not suffice for having the concept of a natural number. We close by expounding on the significance of these findings in the context of conceptual engineering and with some recommendations for future empirical research in this area.

Talk by Dan López de Sa: On So-Called Metalinguistic Negotiations

ABSTRACT: Recently, many philosophers, including David Chalmers (2011), David Plunket (2015), and Amie Thomasson (2017), have argued that there are many significantverbal disputes to be had in metaphysics (and philosophy)—as well as elsewhere. And this is because disputes about ‘art’, ‘person’, ‘consciousness’, ‘freedom’, ‘good’, or ‘knowledge’ as well as ‘torture’, ‘democracy’, ‘marriage’, or ‘woman’ can be significant. These words do matter, in the appropriate sense. This is a very important insight into the nature of the disagreement that these significant verbal disputes manifest.

In this paper, we want to distinguish this insight from a common related claim concerning the expression of such disagreement in language. To wit: that many of the disputes in question are to be seen as so-called “metalinguistic negotiations” (Plunkett & Sundell 2013). Not every negotiation about words—not every verbal dispute that expresses a disagreement about how a word should be used—qualifies as a metalinguistic negotiation in their sense.  Whether there exist cases of metalinguistic negotiation proper is, however, an interesting claim in itself, but also something linguistically controversial. This controversy one can simply avoid when vindicating the significance of verbal disputes.

Time and place: May 8, 2018 10:15 AM12:00 PM, University of Oslo, GM 652

Talk by Michael Beaney: Interpretative Analysis And Conceptual Creativity

Time and place: May 15, 2018 10:00 AM12:00 PM, GM 652, University of Oslo

Talk by Jean-Yves Beziau

Time and place: May 18, 2018 3:00 PM – 4:00 PMUniversity of Oslo, GM 652

Talk by Sarah Sawyer: “Talk and Thought”

Time and place: May 25, 2018 10.15 AM – 12.00 PM, University of Oslo, GM 652

ABSTRACT: It is commonplace, although not uniform, to talk of linguistic meanings and concepts as if they were either identical or at least so closely related as not to warrant explicit separation. I will outline a view of language and thought that clearly distinguishes the two. I suggest that they track different phenomena and have different explanatory roles. This has implications for a proper understanding of meaning change, conceptual engineering, normativity and truth.

 Talks by Vera Flocke and Patrick Greenough

Time and place:  June 5, 2018 10:15 AM – 12:00 PMGM 652

 Talk by Eliot Michaelson: Meaning Restrictions

Time and place: June 12, 2018 10:15 AM – 12:00 PMGM 652

ABSTRACT: Rarely do we utter ‘every F’ to talk about absolutely every F, or ‘some G’ to talk about any G whatsoever. Yet it hardly seems plausible that we typically have in mind the sorts of ultra-specific restrictions that linguists and philosophers have posited are to be found in the logical form of quantifier phrases. The present essay will explore whether there is some viable way of explaining how we can mean restricted quantifiers when we utter sentences containing quantifier phrases like these. I will argue that the most viable option is to accept that quantified thoughts are very often vague, and that it is such vague thoughts that we typically express by means of sentences containing quantifier phrases.

Talk by Gabriel Rabin: Conceptually Engineering Grounding

ABSTRACT: The grounding revolution in metaphysics has arrived. But philosophers use ‘ground’ in many, and sometimes contradictory, ways. Paradoxes and verbal disputes loom. The area is ripe for conceptual engineering. I examine some features of the grounding literature, the roles ground is supposed to play, and recent skepticism about grounding. Particular attention will be paid to the metaphysics of mind. I draw lessons about how we should, and should not, think about grounding. The conclusion is relatively modest: We should not give up grounding. But we should aim for less.

Time and place: June 12, 2018, afternoonGM 652

Talk by Massimo Renzi

Time and place: Oct. 2, 2018 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM, GM 652, University of Oslo

Talk by Andreas Brekke Carlsson

Time and place: Oct. 9, 2018 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM, GM 652, University of Oslo

Talk by Mark Steiner (Hebrew University), “How to get more out of mathematics than we put in”

Time and place: Oct. 11, 2018 2:15 PM – 4:00 PM, GM 652, University of Oslo