Negotiating “women”: metalinguistic negotiations across languages

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


The metalinguistic approach to conceptual engineering construes disputes between (what I shall call) linguistic reformers and linguistic conservatives as metalinguistic disagreements on how best to use particular expressions. As the present paper argues, this approach has various merits. However, it was recently criticised in Cappelen’s seminal Fixing Language (2018). Cappelen raises an important objection against the metalinguistic picture. According to this objection – the Babel objection, as I shall call it – the metalinguistic account cannot accommodate the intuition of disagreement between linguistic conservatives and reformers who are speaking different languages. The objection generalises to metalinguistic approaches to e.g. moral disagreements. This paper discusses the Babel objection and shows how to dispel it.


Original languageEnglish
Article number309
Journal Synthese <Dordrecht> : an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

External IDs

Scopus 85134494013
Mendeley 3de6753c-4ade-36ea-8c6a-4f197c796f90
ORCID /0000-0001-7550-6100/work/142248473


ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Conceptual engineering, Conceptual ethics, Metalinguistic disputes, Metalinguistic negotiations, Verbal disputes