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What Conceptual Engineering Can Learn from the History of Philosophy of Science: Healthy Externalism and Metasemantic Plasticity

Conceptual engineering wants analytic philosophy to be centered around the assessment and improvement of philosophical concepts. But contemporary debates about conceptual engineering do not engage much with the vast literature on conceptual change that exists in philosophy of science. In this article, I argue that an adequate appreciation of the history of philosophy of science can contribute to discussions about conceptual engineering. Specifically, I show that the evolution of debates over scientific conceptual change arguably demonstrates that, contrary to what is commonly assumed in the literature about conceptual engineering, conceptual change is possible within an externalist metasemantics and that any adequate theory of conceptual change should be metasemantically plastic.