“Poisoning the Well: Hermeneutical Injustice through Conceptual Engineering”


Mar. 22, 2024, 3pm to 5pm

Office/Remote Location

Room 210


Cat Saint-Croix, Department of Philosophy, UMN Twin Cities — To "poison the well" is to pollute a source of life and community—spoiling a safe, essential resource. This talk identifies two ways conceptual engineering can be used to poison the well, each bringing about epistemic injustice. Both results—corruption and creep—can spoil conceptual resources. Hermeneutical corruption is the adulteration of a concept by some element that renders it harmful to populations for whom it was previously beneficial. The right-wing re-engineering of “queer” to incorporate “groomer” throughout 2022 and 2023 is a clear example of this tactic. The more familiar category of concept creep, by contrast, is the expansion of a concept in a way that dilutes the original meaning. This tactic was employed in the re-engineering of “critical race theory” that took place in 2019-2022. Often, these tactics go hand-in-hand.

This talk explores the interrelation of these concepts, their connection with conceptual engineering, and the epistemic injustice they can inflict. In particular, I argue, far from being difficult or impossible to implement—as proponents of the "implementation problem" argue—conceptual engineering is common, subtle, and potentially dangerous.



Admission Information

Open to the public

Contact Information

UNLV Department of Philosophy
Nicole Moore

External Sponsor

UNLV Department of Philosophy


Open to All