In a series of seminars over the next 2 years, CISRUL will engage with scholarly debates in history, philosophy, pedagogy, psychology, literature, linguistics, and legal, social and political theory, on how concepts emerge and develop, intentionally or otherwise, and what the consequences are. To begin with, we propose to engage with conceptual historians who have traced the evolution of concepts like “citizenship” (Koselleck); legal scholars who have considered how concepts become articulated in law and established through jurisprudence; critical discourse analysis of how institutions exert power through creating lexicons; and recent philosophical debates on “conceptual engineering”, understood as the critique and improvement of concepts.

We have invited Aberdeen’s new Regius Chair of Logic, Michael Beaney, to open the series:

Conceptual Empowerment

Interpreting ancient Chinese conceptions of knowing

Thursday 1 July 10-11.30 on MS Teams

A central debate in contemporary epistemology concerns the distinction between knowing-that and knowing-how, roughly, between theoretical (propositional) and practical (action-exemplifying) knowledge. Yet this distinction distorts our understanding of ancient Chinese philosophy (and no doubt many other ’non-Western’ traditions of thought), in which different conceptions, such as of knowing-to and knowing-as, play an important role. Articulating these conceptions can be achieved within the conceptual resources of English-speakers, so they are not in any way alien. At the same time, doing so enriches those conceptual resources, which we can regard as a form of conceptual empowerment. There has been much interest recently in what is called ‘conceptual engineering’ – sharpening our conceptual tools for specific purpose. This, too, can be regarded as a form of conceptual empowerment, which can therefore be regarded as the broader term. I will primarily be concerned in this talk with illustrating the idea of conceptual empowerment in interpreting ancient Chinese philosophy, but the illustration is intended to show its importance much more generally, not least in demonstrating the value of engaging with other forms of thinking with which we may be far less familiar.

The seminar is open to everyone – please do forward to anyone who you think might be interested!

Leave a Reply