Is conceptual vagueness an asset? Arguments from philosophy of science applied to the concept of resilience
Is conceptual vagueness an asset or a liability? By weighing arguments from philosophy of science and applying them to the concept of resilience, I address this question. I first sketch the wide spectrum of resilience concepts that ranges from concise concepts to the vague perspective of “resilience thinking”. Subsequently, I set out the methodological arguments in favor and against conceptual vagueness. While traditional philosophy of science emphasizes precision and conceptual clarity as precondition for empirical science, alternative views highlight vagueness as fuel for creative and pragmatic problem-solving. Reviewing this discussion, I argue that a trade-off between vagueness and precision exists, which is to be solved differently depending on the research context. In some contexts research benefits from conceptual vagueness while in others it depends on precision. Assessing the specific example of “resilience thinking” in detail, I propose a restructuring of the conceptual framework which explicitly distinguishes descriptive, evaluative and transformative aspects.
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