•  1122
    A Guided Tour Of Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics
    In Herman Cappelen, David Plunkett & Alexis Burgess (eds.), Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics, Oxford University Press. pp. 1-26. 2020.
  •  527
    Conceptual Engineering: The Master Argument
    In Herman Cappelen, David Plunkett & Alexis Burgess (eds.), Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    I call the activity of assessing and developing improvements of our representational devices ‘conceptual engineering’.¹ The aim of this chapter is to present an argument for why conceptual engineering is important for all parts of philosophy (and, more generally, all inquiry). Section I of the chapter provides some background and defines key terms. Section II presents the argument. Section III responds to seven objections. The replies also serve to develop the argument and clarify what conce…Read more
  •  392
    _Insensitive Semantics_ is an overview of and contribution to the debates about how to accommodate context sensitivity within a theory of human communication, investigating the effects of context on communicative interaction and, as a corollary, what a context of utterance is and what it is to be in one. Provides detailed and wide-ranging overviews of the central positions and arguments surrounding contextualism Addresses broad and varied aspects of the distinction between the semantic and non-s…Read more
  •  362
    Locations and binding
    Analysis 67 (2): 95-105. 2007.
    It is natural to think that the relationship between ‘rain’ and the location of rain is different from the relationship between ‘dance’ and the location of dancing. Utterances of (1) are typically interpreted as, in some sense, being about a location in which it rains. (2) is, typically, not interpreted as being about a location in which the dancing takes place
  •  324
    Believing in Words
    with Josh Dever
    Synthese 127 (3). 2001.
    The semantic puzzles posed by propositional attitude contexts have, since Frege, been understood primarily in terms of certain substitution puzzles. We will take as paradigmatic of such substitution puzzles cases in which two coreferential proper names cannot be intersubstituted salva veritate in the context of an attitude verb. Thus, for example, the following sentences differ in truth value: (1) Lois Lane believes Superman can fly. (2) Lois Lane believes Clark Kent can fly. despite the fact th…Read more
  •  310
    Relativism and Monadic Truth
    Oxford University Press UK. 2009.
    Cappelen and Hawthorne present a powerful critique of fashionable relativist accounts of truth, and the foundational ideas in semantics on which the new relativism draws. They argue compellingly that the contents of thought and talk are propositions that instantiate the fundamental monadic properties of truth and falsity
  •  302
    Reply to Lasersohn, MacFarlane, and Richard (review)
    Philosophical Studies 156 (3): 417-419. 2011.
    Reply to Lasersohn, MacFarlane, and Richard.
  •  292
    In this article, we present three basic elements of a neoDavidsonian semantics. The first element is the denial that semantic content is identical to the content conveyed by an utterance; second, the adoption of a minimal semantics as the most natural way to develop a semantic theory for natural language, and third, speech act pluralism, understood as the best way to account for when two utterances say the same thing. These elements taken together give an account of one of the central concerns o…Read more
  •  285
    The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Methodology (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2016.
    This is the most comprehensive book ever published on philosophical methodology. A team of thirty-eight of the world's leading philosophers present original essays on various aspects of how philosophy should be and is done. The first part is devoted to broad traditions and approaches to philosophical methodology. The entries in the second part address topics in philosophical methodology, such as intuitions, conceptual analysis, and transcendental arguments. The third part of the book is devoted …Read more
  •  278
    Philosophy Without Intuitions
    Oxford University Press UK. 2012.
    The standard view of philosophical methodology is that philosophers rely on intuitions as evidence. Herman Cappelen argues that this claim is false: it is not true that philosophers rely extensively 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 p…Read more
  •  262
    Conceptual Engineering, Topics, Metasemantics, and Lack of Control
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (5): 594-605. 2020.
    Conceptual engineering is now a central topic in contemporary philosophy. Just 4-5 years ago it wasn’t. People were then engaged in the engineering of various philosophical concepts (in various sub-disciplines), but typically not self-consciously so. Qua philosophical method, conceptual engineering was under-explored, often ignored, and poorly understood. In my lifetime, I have never seen interest in a philosophical topic grow with such explosive intensity. The sociology behind this is fascinat…Read more
  •  258
    Varieties of Quotation
    Mind 106 (423): 429-450. 1997.
    There are at least four varieties of quotation, including pure, direct, indirect and mixed. A theory of quotation, we argue, should give a unified account of these varieties of quotation. Mixed quotes such as 'Alice said that life is 'difficult to understand'', in which an utterance is directly and indirectly quoted concurrently, is an often overlooked variety of quotation. We show that the leading theories of pure, direct, and indirect quotation are unable to account for mixed quotation and the…Read more
  •  258
    Against Assertion
    In Jessica Brown & Herman Cappelen (eds.), Assertion: New Philosophical Essays, Oxford University Press. 2011.
    The view defended in this paper - I call it the No-Assertion view - rejects the assumption that it is theoretically useful to single out a subset of sayings as assertions: (v) Sayings are governed by variable norms, come with variable commitments and have variable causes and effects. What philosophers have tried to capture by the term 'assertion' is largely a philosophers' invention. It fails to pick out an act-type that we engage in and it is not a category we need in order to explain any signi…Read more
  •  255
    A semantic theory T for a language L should assign content to utterances of sentences of L. One common assumption is that T will assign p to some S of L just in case in uttering S a speaker A says that p. We will argue that this assumption is mistaken.
  •  241
    Content Relativism and Semantic Blindness
    In Manuel Garcia-Carpintero & Max Koelbel (eds.), Relative Truth, Oxford University Press. pp. 265-86. 2008.
    For some relativists some of the time the evidence for their view is a puzzling data pattern: On the one hand, there's evidence that the terms in question exhibit some kind of content stability across contexts. On the other hand, there's evidence that their contents vary from one context of use to another. The challenge is to reconcile these two sets of data. Truth relativists claim that their theory can do so better than contextualism and invariantism. Truth relativists, in effect, use an argum…Read more
  •  224
    X-Phi Without Intuitions?
    In Anthony Robert Booth & Darrell P. Rowbottom (eds.), Intuitions, Oxford University Press. 2014.
    One central purpose of Experimental Philosophy (hereafter, x-phi) is to criticize the alleged reliance on intuitions in contemporary philosophy. In my book Philosophy without Intuitions (hereafter, PWI), I argue that philosophers don’t rely on intuitions. If those arguments are good, experimental philosophy has been engaged in an attack on a strawman. The goal of this paper is to bolster the criticism of x-phi in the light of responses
  •  206
    Indexicality, binding, anaphora and a priori truth
    Analysis 62 (4): 271-281. 2002.
    Indexicals are linguistic expressions whose meaning remain stable while their reference shifts from utterance to utterance. Paradigmatic cases in English are ‘I’, ‘here’, and ‘now’. Recently, a number of authors have argued that various constructions in our language harbor hidden indexicals. We say 'hidden' because these indexicals are unpronounced, even though they are alleged to be real linguistic components. Constructions taken by some authors to be associated, or to ‘co-habit’, with hidden i…Read more
  •  191
    Assertion: New Philosophical Essays (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2011.
    Assertion is a fundamental feature of language. This volume will be the place to look for anyone interested in current work on the topic.
  •  183
    Herman Cappelen investigates how language and other representational devices can go wrong, and how to fix them. We use language to understand and talk about the world, but what if our language has deficiencies that prevent it from playing that role? How can we revise our concepts, and what are the limits on revision?
  •  174
    Précis of Insensitive Semantics (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (2). 2006.
    Insensitive Semantics (I) has three components: It defends a positive theory; it presents a methodology for how to distinguish semantic context sensitivity from other kinds of context sensitivity; and finally, it includes chapters critical of other contributors on these issues. In this Précis, we outline each component, but before doing so a few brief ‘big picture’ remarks about the positions defended in IS are in order
  •  168
    Relevance Theory and Shared Content
    In Noel Burton-Roberts (ed.), Pragmatics, Palgrave-macmillan. pp. 115--135. 2007.
    Speakers share content when they make the same assertion (claim, conjecture, proposal, etc). They also share content when they propose (entertain, discuss, etc.) the same hypothesis, theory, and thought. And again when they evaluate whether what each says (thinks, claims, suggests, etc.) is true, false, interesting, obscene, original or offensive. Content sharing, so understood, is the very foundation of communication. Relevance Theory (RT), however, implies that content sharing is impossible; o…Read more
  •  161
    Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2019.
    Conceptual engineering and conceptual ethics are branches of philosophy concerned with questions about how to assess and ameliorate our representational devices (such as concepts and words). It's a part of philosophy concerned with questions about which concepts we should use (and why), how concepts can be improved, when concepts should be abandoned, and how proposals for amelioration can be implemented. Central parts of the history of philosophy have engaged with these issues, but the focus of …Read more
  •  153
    Nonsense and illusions of thought
    Philosophical Perspectives 27 (1): 22-50. 2013.
    This paper addresses four issues: 1. What is nonsense? 2. Is nonsense possible? 3. Is nonsense actual? 4. Why do the answers to (1)–(3) matter, if at all? These are my answers: 1. A sentence (or an utterance of one) is nonsense if it fails to have or express content (more on ‘express’, ‘have’, and ‘content’ below). This is a version of a view that can be found in Carnap (1959), Ayer (1936), and, maybe, the early Wittgenstein (1922). The notion I propose abstracts away from their favored (but wro…Read more
  •  151
    A Tall Tale: In Defense of Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism
    In Gerhard Preyer & Georg Peter (eds.), Contextualism in Philosophy: Knowledge, Meaning, and Truth, Oxford University Press. pp. 197-220. 2005.
    In Insensitive Semantics (2004), we argue for two theses – Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism. In this paper, we outline our defense against two objections often raised against Semantic Minimalism. To get to that defense, we first need some stage setting. To that end, we begin with five stage setting sections. These lead to the first objection, viz., that it might follow from our view that comparative adjectives are context insensitive. We defend our view against that objection (not, a…Read more
  •  148
    There’s an interesting debate in moral and political philosophy about the nature of, and relationship between, ideal and non-ideal theory. In this paper we discuss whether an analogous distinction can be drawn in philosophy of language. Our conclusion is negative: Even if you think that distinction can be put to work within moral and political philosophy, there’s no useful way to extend it to work that has been done in the philosophy of language.
  •  145
    Using, Mentioning and Quoting: A Reply to Saka
    Mind 108 (432): 741-750. 1999.
    Paul Saka, in a recent paper, declares that we can use, mention, or quote an expression. Whether a speaker is using or mentioning an expression, on a given occasion, depends on his intentions. An exhibited expression is used, if the exhibiter intends to direct his audience’s attention to the expression’s extension. It is mentioned, if he intends to draw his audience’s attention to something associated with the exhibited token other than its extension. This includes, but is not limited to, an ort…Read more
  •  141
    Cappelen and Dever present a forceful challenge to the standard view that perspective, and in particular the perspective of the first person, is a philosophically deep aspect of the world. Their goal is not to show that we need to explain indexical and other perspectival phenomena in different ways, but to show that the entire topic is an illusion
  •  137
    Context shifting arguments
    Philosophical Perspectives 17 (1). 2003.
    Context Shifting Arguments (CSA) ask us to consider two utterances of an unambiguous, non-vague, non-elliptic sentence S. If the consensus intuition is that what’s said, or expressed or the truth-conditions, and so possibly the truthvalues, of these utterances differ, then CSA concludes S is context sensitive. Consider, for example, simultaneous utterances of ‘I am wearing a hat’, one by Stephen, one by Jason. Intuitively, these utterances can vary in truth-value contingent upon who is speaking …Read more
  •  133
    Empathy and transformative experience without the first person point of view
    with Josh Dever
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 60 (3): 315-336. 2017.
    In her very interesting ‘First-personal modes of presentation and the problem of empathy’, L. A. Paul argues that the phenomenon of empathy gives us reason to care about the first person point of view: that as theorists we can only understand, and as humans only evince, empathy by appealing to that point of view. We are skeptics about the importance of the first person point of view, although not about empathy. The goal of this paper is to see if we can account for empathy without the ideology o…Read more
  •  132
    The Creative Interpreter: Content Relativism and Assertion
    Philosophical Perspectives 22 (1). 2008.
    Philosophers of language and linguists tend to think of the interpreter as an essentially non-creative participant in the communicative process. There’s no room, in traditional theories, for the view that correctness of interpretation depends in some essential way on the interpreter. As a result, there’s no room for the possibility that while P is the correct interpretation of an utterance, u, for one interpreter, P* is the correct interpretation of that utterance for another interpreter. Recent…Read more