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An Oblique Epistemic Defence of Conceptual Analysis


School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics

The University of Queensland

St Lucia, 4072, Qld



This article argues, against contemporary experimentalist criticism, that conceptual analysis has epistemic value, with a structure that encourages the development of interesting hypotheses which are of the right form to be valuable in diverse areas of philosophy. The article shows, by analysis of the Gettier programme, that conceptual analysis shares the proofs and refutations form Lakatos identified in mathematics. Upon discovery of a counterexample, this structure aids the search for a replacement hypothesis. The search is guided by heuristics. The heuristics of conceptual analysis are similar to those in other interesting areas of scholarship, and so hypotheses generated by it are of the right form to be applicable to diverse areas. The article shows that the explanationist criterion in epistemology was developed and applied in this way. The epistemic value of conceptual analysis is oblique because it contributes not towards the main purpose of conceptual analysis but towards the reliable development of epistemically valuable hypotheses in philosophy and scholarship.