Concept Analysis as Empirical Method

  • Bas Levering Universiteit Utrecht


Although there is not much support anymore for a clear cut distinction between object-language and meta-language, the view is generally accepted that the outcomes of concept analysis concern knowledge of the structures of language and not knowledge of reality. So it is rather risky to present concept analysis as an empirical method. Rules about language use, however, play an important part in what people do and how they behave and thus inform about specific parts of social reality. The so-called ‘thick concepts’ provide a special access to the way people interact. In this article, several examples of the analysis of ‘thick concepts’ are presented. In some cases, outcomes of concept analysis turn out to be strictly language and cultural bound; in other cases, conceptual knowledge appears to transcend those boundaries. The fact that empirical research is often nothing else than a form of language analysis calls for a tuning of conceptual-analytic and empirical research.