Helsinki 2016


You can read or download the abstracts of the papers to be presented at the conference here.


Registration for the conference

The conference is open to the public and there is no registration fee. The organizers are unfortunately unable to aid in the travel arrangements or accommodation of participants. If you wish to attend, please send an e-mail to by September 14th, 2016.


Programme of the “Conceptual Change in History” conference at University of Helsinki, September 22-24, 2016

Thursday 22.9. 13:00-19:00
University main building, Small hall (4050). Fabianinkatu 33, 00170 Helsinki.

13.00 Opening of the conference

13.10-14.10 Keynote lecture
Theodore Arabatzis (University of Athens): Conceptual Change and Philosophical History of Science
Chair: Yafeng Shan

14.10-15.40 Session 1
Chair: Magdalena Kmak
Gennaro Imbriano: Crisis as a concept of movement
Timo Pankakoski: Hans Freyer and Conceptual History
Friedrich von Petersdorff: Conceptual Change in History and in Historiography

16.05-17.05 Session 2
Chair: Ilkka Lähteenmäki
Kevin Matthew Jones: Conceptualisations of mental health
Katariina Parhi: The Necessary Illusion: Criminal responsibility and conceptual change

18.00-19.00 Keynote lecture
Paul Thagard (University of Waterloo): Conceptual Change in the Brain Revolution
Chair: Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen

Friday 23.9. 9:00-17:45
House of Science and Letters, room 505. Kirkkokatu 6, 00170 Helsinki.

9.00-10.00 Keynote lecture
Benjamin Straumann (New York University): A Novel Concept: Normative Constitutionalism in the History of Political Thought
Chair: Kaius Tuori

10.15-11.15 Session 3
Chair: Magdalena Kmak
Martin Clark: Conceptual change and international law
Rotem Giladi: Moments of Resilience: Race in International Law

12.45-13.45 Keynote lecture
Jaakko Husa (University of Lapland): Rule of Law – an Empty Conceptual Vessel?
Chair: Ville Erkkilä

13.45-15.15 Session 4
Chair: Katariina Parhi
Thibault Racovski: A phylomemetic approach to conceptual change: the case of scientific research on evolutionary novelty between 1965 and 2015
Corinne Bloch-Mullins: Concepts as Forward-looking: Rethinking the Question of Referential Stability
Yafeng Shan: Conceptual Change and the Nature of Scientific Concept

16.00-17.30 Session 5
Chair: Georg Gangl
Kaius Tuori: Imperial Concepts: Legal heritage and imposition in the European settler states
David M. Kretz: Translational Action at the End of a World
Carlos Amunátegui Perelló: Race and Nation. On ius sanguinis and the origins of a racist national perspective

Saturday 24.9. 9:00-15:45
House of Science and Letters, room 505. Kirkkokatu 6, 00170 Helsinki.

9.00-10.00 Keynote lecture
Sinai Rusinek (Van Leer Jerusalem Institute): Concepts, co-texts, contexts and the Digital Humanities
Chair: Irene Goudarouli

10.15-11.45 Session 6
Chair: Kaius Tuori
Petri Koikkalainen: On the historically changing significance of ‘polity’ to ‘political science’
Kari Väyrynen: ‘Living experience’ (Erlebnis) – from a philosophical to commercial concept
Ville Erkkilä: Rechtsgewissen – The conceptual change of conscience

12.45-14.15 Session 7
Chair: Ville Erkkilä
Jari Kaukua and Vili Lähteenmäki: Standards of Conceptual Change
Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen: Continuity in Discontinuity: The Concept of Element in History
Irene Goudarouli: Historicizing Scientific Concepts: Conceptual History meets History & Philosophy of Science

14.45-15.45 Session 8
Chair: Kaius Tuori
Charles W. Romney: A Computational Cambridge School: Identifying Conceptual Change and Legal Languages with Vector Space Models
Mikko Kainulainen and Natan Elgabsi: Concepts of history and historians’ responsibilities


Some practical information about the “Conceptual Change in History” conference at University of Helsinki, September 22-24, 2016

Event location
The sessions of the conference are held at the University main building (Small hall (4050), Fabianinkatu 33, 00170 Helsinki) and the House of Science and Letters (room 505, Kirkkokatu 6, 00170 Helsinki).

Possible accommodation nearby
* Glo Hotel Kluuvi, Hotel Haven, Hotel Lilla Roberts, Hotel Fabian (upscale)
* Cumulus Kaisaniemi, Holiday Inn Helsinki City Centre, Hotel Seurahuone Helsinki, Hotel Arthur, Sokos Hotel Helsinki (midpriced)
* Omenahotelli Helsinki Yrjönkatu / Lönnrotinkatu / Eerikinkatu, Eurohostel (budget)

* You can get from Helsinki-Vantaa airport to Helsinki City Centre either by taxi (the fare is approximately 40-50 euros), by train, or by bus.
* You can find the timetable of the airport train here.
* The buses take you to the Central Railway station. You can either take the city bus number 615, which costs 5,50 € (cash (the driver doesn’t have to accept bills larger than 20 euros) or Travel Card only), or the Finnair bus, which costs 6,30 € (cash (bills larger than 20 euros not necessarily accepted), credit cards).
* The metro station nearest to the event location is called Helsingin yliopisto.


Conceptual Change in History
University of Helsinki, September 22-24, 2016

Organised by the Oulu Centre for Theoretical and Philosophical Studies of History and the research project “Reinventing the foundations of the European Legal Culture 1934-1964”.

Keynote speakers:
Theodore Arabatzis (University of Athens)
Jaakko Husa (University of Lapland)
Sinai Rusinek (Van Leer Jerusalem Institute)
Benjamin Straumann (New York University)
Paul Thagard (University of Waterloo)

It is often suggested that historiography deals with change in time. If nothing ever changed, it would hardly make sense to do historical research. The nature of conceptual change has been an object of acute interest in recent years in the history and philosophy of science, cognitive science, Begriffsgeschichte, the history of ideas, legal history and other fields. Although a seemingly simple notion, the term ‘conceptual change’ hides a complex set of questions and problems.

First, ‘conceptual change’ may be seen to imply a number of different claims. It could mean a change of a particular concept or a replacement of that concept by another. It could also refer to the emergence of an entirely new concept. On the other hand, the reappearance, circulation and mutable application of alleged ´perennial´ concepts in historical writing would seem to undermine the idea of any abrupt ´change´ in conceptualizing history. Concepts operate within their intellectual context, where issues such as tradition have an impact within conceptual change and permanence. Especially in normative contexts such as law and legal tradition, concepts and their interrelationship take on a formative and constructive character.

One is consequently entitled to ask what ‘change’ is in history. Ultimately it is a question of how historians have understood invariance, change and replacement in their texts. It may appear that invariance is the prerequisite of variance. When we speak about a change of X, something would need to stay unchanged. If there is no invariance whatsoever, the case would appear to be that of a replacement of X, rather than of a change. The problem becomes visible when one tries to understand the emergence of an entirely new concept. Does it presuppose discontinuity with respect to the tradition that precedes it? Or does it rather imply continuity, as Collingwood suggested: “Any process involving an historical change from P1 to P2 leaves an unconverted residues of P1 incapsulated within an historical state of things which superficially is altogether P2” (An Autobiography, 2002, 141)?

Third, how should the concept of concept be understood in the context of historiography? That is, what is the anatomy of this tool of representation? On the one hand, many different philosophical traditions have put forward theories of concept, but often their notions appear unsuitable for describing changes in history. On the other, many schools of history deal with concepts, but they often define them only vaguely or assume implicitly. Thus it is necessary to ask, for example, what the relation of concepts to language is and whether they should be seen as atomistic units or as composable to smaller elements. In addition, contributions from educational science, neurobiology and cultural studies challenge historians to rethink whether concepts should be perceived as mental or social entities. Sociolegal studies have challenged the normative value and permanence of concepts and examined the way that change in political, intellectual and legal contexts is reflected in conceptual change.

We invite contributions on the topic of Conceptual Change in History from both junior and senior scholars and from various fields. The papers may deal with the semantic problems of conceptual change: How should change, stability, replacement and emergence of concepts in history be understood? What kind of theory of concepts does historiography require? Contributions may also address the question of the modelling of conceptual change. What are the mechanisms of conceptual change and how can they be presented? What is the relationship between concepts and normative orders and such as law and legal culture? In addition, papers may describe specific cases of conceptual change in history, which illuminate some philosophical, legal and theoretical aspects of conceptual change.

The three-day conference hosts presentations by keynote speakers and additionally invites submission for plenary papers. Please email submissions to Heta Björklund ( by March 31, 2016. The maximum length of abstracts is 300 words.

The language of the meeting is English. There is no registration fee. The organizers are unfortunately unable to aid in the travel arrangements or accommodation of participants.