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Herman Wright Cappelen (born 1967) is a Norwegian philosopher. He is professor of philosophy at the University of Oslo and (one fifth time) at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.[1] He works primarily on philosophy of language and philosophical methodology and related areas in epistemology, philosophy of mind, and metaphysics. In 2013, he became editor of the journal Inquiry.[2] Cappelen is the son of author and publisher Peder Wright Cappelen and actress Kari Simonsen.



Cappelen received a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Oxford, Balliol College, in 1989. In 1996, Cappelen received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. The title of his dissertation was "The Metaphysics of Words and the Semantics of Quotation". His advisors were Charles Chihara, Stephen Neale, and John Searle.

Academic careerEdit

Since 2015, Cappelen has been Professor at the University of Oslo, where he co-directs CSMN's ConceptLab.[3] He is running, with Øystein Linnebo and Camilla Serck-Hanssen, a project on conceptual engineering funded by a Toppforsk award from the Research Council of Norway. Prior to that, he was, since 2007, Professor and Arché chair at the University of St Andrews. He has previously held positions at Somerville College, Oxford, University of Oslo, and Vassar College. He has been the Director of the Arché Philosophical Research Centre[4] and was co-investigator of two research projects funded by longterm AHRC grants: "Contextualism and Relativism" and "Intuitions and Philosophical Methodology". Cappelen was one of the original applicants for the research center Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (Norwegian Centre of Excellence) at the University of Oslo. Cappelen has been a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters since 2008.


Cappelen's most influential work is the 2004 book, Insensitive Semantics (written with Ernie Lepore). The book defends a minimal role for context in semantics and advocates speech act pluralism. It is one of the most cited works in philosophy within the last 10 years.

Cappelen has argued that the role of intuition in Western analytic philosophy is overstated. His 2012 book, Philosophy without Intuitions, argues that intuition plays a minor role - or no role at all - in most modern philosophy, and the fear that intuition is widespread has been damaging.[5] His claim that the role of intuitions is overstated is controversial, and has been hotly debated.[6]

Along with Josh Dever, Cappelen has argued that the notion of perspective is unimportant for the philosophy of language, thought, and action. Their 2013 book The Inessential Indexical argues that the phenomena which, for example, John Perry and David Lewis think show the importance of indexical representation of the self and time can be accounted for using resources already available in the philosophy of language and thought.[7]

Cappelen has also authored, or co-authored, important books on the debate between contextualists and relativists (Relativism and Monadic Truth, with John Hawthorne), and on quotation (Language Turned on Itself with Ernest Lepore).[8][9] Some of his papers co-written with Ernie Lepore are collected in Liberating Content.[10] He is currently writing a series of philosophy of language textbooks with Josh Dever, the first of which, Context and Communication was released in 2016.[11] In 2018, his monograph Fixing Language: An Essay On Conceptual Engineering was released.[12] It surveys both historical and contemporary work on conceptual engineering, and presents a theory of its nature and limitations.



  • Fixing Language: An Essay On Conceptual Engineering, Oxford University Press, 2018, ISBN 9780198814719 [2]
  • The Inessential Indexical: On the Philosophical Insignificance of Perspective and the First Person (with Josh Dever), Oxford University Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-19-968674-2 [3]
  • Philosophy without Intuitions, Oxford University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-19-964486-5 [4]
  • Relativism and Monadic Truth (with John Hawthorne), Oxford University Press, 2009, 978-0-19-956055-4 [5]
  • Language Turned on Itself: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Metalinguistic Discourse (with Ernest Lepore), Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-923119-5 [6]
  • Insensitive Semantics: A Defense of Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism (with Ernest Lepore), Wiley-Blackwell, 2004, ISBN 978-1-4051-2675-5 [7]

Edited Volumes:


  • Puzzles of Reference (with Josh Dever), Oxford University Press, 2018 ISBN 9780198799849
  • Context and Communication (with Josh Dever), Oxford University Press, 2016, ISBN 9780198733065

Collection of Papers:

  • Liberating Content (with Ernie Lepore), Oxford University Press, 2015, ISBN 9780199641338


External linksEdit