Conceptual re-engineering: from explication to reflective equilibrium

Brun, Georg (2017). Conceptual re-engineering: from explication to reflective equilibrium. Synthese, 197(3), pp. 925-954. Springer Science+Business Media 10.1007/s11229-017-1596-4

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Carnap and Goodman developed methods of conceptual re-engineering
known respectively as explication and reflective equilibrium. These methods aim at
advancing theories by developing concepts that are simultaneously guided by preexisting
concepts and intended to replace these concepts. This paper shows that
Carnap’s and Goodman’s methods are historically closely related, analyses their structural
interconnections, and argues that there is great systematic potential in interpreting
them as aspects of one method, which ultimately must be conceived as a component
of theory development. The main results are: an adequate method of conceptual reengineering
must focus not on individual concepts but on systems of concepts and
theories; the linear structure of Carnapian explication must be replaced by a process
of mutual adjustments as described by Goodman; Carnap’s condition of similarity can
be analysed into two components, one securing a relation to the specific extensions of
the pre-existing concepts, one regulating the transition to the new system of concepts;
these two criteria of adequacy can be built into Goodman’s account of reflective equilibrium
to ensure that the resulting concepts promote theoretical virtues while being
sufficiently similar to the concepts we started out with.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Philosophy
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Philosophy > Theoretical Philosophy

UniBE Contributor:

Brun, Georg


100 Philosophy
100 Philosophy > 120 Epistemology
100 Philosophy > 160 Logic




Springer Science+Business Media


[42] Schweizerischer Nationalfonds




Georg Brun

Date Deposited:

25 Apr 2018 12:59

Last Modified:

22 Mar 2020 02:20

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Explication Reflective equilibrium Definition Reconstruction Conceptual engineering Carnap Goodman




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