Skip to content
Professor CAPPELEN, Herman
Chair Professor
Department of Philosophy
School of Humanities
The University of Hong Kong  
Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, Room 10.10
About me

Professor Herman Cappelen is a philosopher. He currently works as a Chair Professor of philosophy at the University of Hong Kong. Before moving to Hong Kong, he worked at the Universities of Oslo, St Andrews, and Oxford. Since 2008, he has been an elected fellow of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. And since the same year, he has been an elected member of the Academia Europaea.

Professor Cappelen is also the Director of AI&Humanity-Lab@HKU, and co-director ConceptLab Hong Kong.

He is serving as the Editor-in-Chief of Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy. His current research focus is on the philosophy of AI, Conceptual Engineering, and the connections between those two. However, his philosophical interests are broad – they cover more or less all areas of systematic philosophy.

His ten monographs provide a good overview of the kinds of issues he has been, and is still interested in, including:

  • Making AI Intelligible (w. Josh Dever, OUP 2021, Open Access) is a book about how to use externalist theories in metasemantics to interpret and communicate with AI.
  • Fixing Language: An Essay on Conceptual Engineering (OUP 2018, Open Access) 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.
    Josh Dever and himself have written a series of three introductory books to philosophy of language. The series is called Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy of Language. The three books are called: Context and Communication (OUP 2016), Puzzles of Reference, (OUP 2018), and Bad Language, (OUP 2019).
  • The Inessential Indexical (w. J. Dever, OUP 2014) is an exploration and defence of the view that perspectivality is a philosophically shallow aspect of the world. The authors argue that there are no such things as essential indexicality, irreducibly de se attitudes, or self-locating attitudes.
  • Philosophy without Intuitions (OUP 2012) is about the nature of philosophy and philosophical methodology.
  • Relativism and Monadic Truth (w J. Hawthorne, OUP 2009) is an argument against relativism about truth and in favor of the view that truth is a monadic property.
  • Language Turned on Itself (w. E. Lepore, OUP 2007) is about meta-linguistic discourse and various form of quotation: how language can be used to talk about language.
  • 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.
Research Interests
The philosophical foundations of explainable AI; The social importance of explainable AI; The connections between AI and Philosophy; The nature of interpretable AI; Communication between humans and AI; and The metaphysics of virtual reality