Herman Wright Cappelen
For more (and more up-to-date) information about me, see my personal homepage
I am a philosopher at the University of Oslo. I have a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, from Oxford. I have PhD in Philosophy from UC Berkeley.
Before moving to Oslo in 2015, I held an Arche Chair at the University of St Andrews for 8 years, and was director of Arche Philosophical Research Centre for 4 years. I still have a part-time position (as Professor of Philosophy) at St Andrews and will be there for 4 weeks each year. Before St Andrews I worked at Oxford University as a University Lecturer (CUF) and a fellow of Somerville College.
Since 2007 Deirdre Wilson and I have directed the Linguistic Agency component of CSMN at the University of Oslo. I am also a Co-Director of ConceptLab and in the period 2016-2021 I am the PI of the 5-year Toppforsk project on Conceptual Engineering.
I am the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Inquiry.
Since 2008 I am a fellow of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
For discussion of my work and related literature see my Google scholar page. Here is an interview in 3am:Magazine where I discuss some of my work. Here is an interview where I discuss my book Philosophy without Intuitions and here is a link to a video recording of a debate between Paul Boghossian and me.
I work in philosophy of language, philosophical methodology, and related areas in epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. My six monographs provide a good overview of what I am interested in:
- Insensitive Semantics (w. E. Lepore, Blackwell 2004) is about the ways in and extent to which meaning and interpretation is context sensitive. It is also about what contexts are and what it is to be in on. The book develops and defends two now influential theories: semantic minimalism and speech act pluralism.
- Language Turned on Itself (w. E. Lepore, Oxford University Press 2007) is about meta-linguistic discourse and various form of quotation – how language can be used to talk about language.
- My third book, Relativism and Monadic Truth (w J. Hawthorne, Oxford University Press 2009) is an argument against relativism about truth and in favor of the view that truth is a monadic property.
- My fourth book, Philosophy without Intuitions (Oxford University Press 2012) is about the nature of philosophy and philosophical methodology. The book argues that contemporary meta-philsophers go wrong by assuming that appeals to intuitions play an important role in philosophy: it is not true that philosophers rely extensively (or even a little bit) on intuitions as evidence. At worst, analytic philosophers are guilty of engaging in somewhat irresponsible use of 'intuition'-vocabulary. While this irresponsibility has had little effect on first order philosophy, it has fundamentally misled meta-philosophers: it has encouraged meta-philosophical pseudo-problems and misleading pictures of what philosophy is.
- My fifth book, The Inessential Indexical (w. J. Dever, Oxford University Press 2014) is an exploration and defense of the view that perspectivality is a philosophically shallow aspect of the world. We argue that there are no such things as essential indexicality, irreducibly de se attitudes, or self-locating attitudes. Our goal is not to show that we need to rethink these phenomena, to explain them in different ways. Our goal is to show that the entire topic is an illusion—there's nothing there.
- My sixth book, Context and Communication: Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy of Language (Oxford University Press, 2016) is the first of four introductions to philosophy of language, all co-authored with Josh Dever. We have set out to write a series of introductions to philosophy of language, each one covering an important topic, each one of which would be a way into the field as a whole. These books aim to provide systematic introductions to important questions, data, theories, and arguments.
- I am one of the editors of The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Methodology (Oxford University Press, 2016)
More recently my interests have turned to a topic I call 'Conceptual Engineering' and I have finished a monograph called Fixing Language: Conceptual Engineering and the Limits of Revision (forthcoming on OUP.) With Alexi Burgess and David Plunkett, I am editing a large anthology for OUP called Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics.
For a full CV and online versions of published papers, see my personal webpage.