Herman Wright Cappelen

Professor of Philosophy
Image of Herman Wright Cappelen
Norwegian version of this page
Phone +47-22844833
Visiting address Blindernveien 31 Georg Morgenstiernes hus 0313 OSLO
Postal address Postboks 1020 Blindern 0315 OSLO


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. Before St Andrews I worked at Oxford University and was a fellow of Somerville College.

From 2007 to 2017 Deirdre Wilson and I directed the Linguistic Agency component of  CSMN at the University of Oslo. I am a Co-Director of ConceptLab. 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 (brutt lenke)  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 all areas of systematic philosophy. My eight 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 (w. J. Dever, 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.
  • My seventh book, Fixing Language: An Essay on Conceptual Engineering, was published by OUP early 2018. The book develops an account of how externalists should think of conceptual engineering, argues that all of philosophy involves conceptual engineering, and also shows that conceptual engineering is almost impossibly difficult.
  • My eight book, Puzzles of Reference is co-authored with J. Dever and is the second volume of our series Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy of Language. It is published by OUP in 2018.
  • I am also one of the editors of Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Methodology

Forthcoming work includes a volume on Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics (edited with Alexi Burgess and David Plunkett),  several articles on that topic, a book called Bad Language (co-authored with Josh Dever), and a book tentatively entitled The Nature, Value, and Methods of Philosophy. 

For a full CV and online versions of published papers, see my personal webpage

Tags: Philosophy
Published Feb. 13, 2012 10:31 AM - Last modified Feb. 7, 2020 3:11 PM


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