No Intuitions No Relativism


Richard Marshall interviews Herman Cappelen in 3:AM Magazine:

Herman Cappelen is mounting a fierce defence of his armchair against the crazyist gang over at X-phi – although he doesn’t want his counter-attack to be just about X-phi. He expects it to run and run. He writes about when language talks about language. He thinks analytic relativism a mistake and that truth is monadic. He thinks talk of possible worlds is the path to many errors. He thinks Kripke original, deep and almost entirely true. He thinks Lewis original deep and almost entirely false (but dangerously seductive because his errors are hidden). All in all this is one groovaciously pugnacious philosophical dude.

3:AM: What made you become a philosopher? Was it something you always felt affinities with, or was it something you came to from elsewhere?

Herman Cappelen: I’ve always felt an affinity with philosophy. Put a bit pretentiously, philosophers think deeper and wider than anyone else and that’s intellectually liberating, satisfying, and of course endlessly frustrating at the same time. When thinking philosophically comes natural to you, then what’s puzzling and slightly bizarre is to not do philosophy. Whatever topic you’re thinking about, you’re never more than two to three ‘Why?’s away from a philosophical question. I’m always puzzled when someone lacks the curiosity to ask those two to three why-questions. Anyone who’s intellectually curious will care about the foundations of what they’re doing and those foundations are invariably, in part, philosophical. So I’m one of those who don’t think philosophising requires much of an explanation, excuse, or justification – lack of philosophical curiosity always strikes me as a pretty reliable sign of intellectual shallowness.

I was also lucky to be around good philosophers while growing up. As a teenager in Norway,Arne Naess was an inspiring role model and as an undergraduate at Balliol in Oxford, I hadJonathan Barnes as tutor for most of my courses. Barnes was an important influence – though I remember asking him whether it was worth going on with philosophy professionally and he said, ‘Only if there’s absolutely nothing else you can see yourself doing and you think you can do it better than anyone else’. I worked hard to ignore that advice or put severe restrictions on the domain of ‘anyone.’ That said, I think he was right.