Currently, I am visiting UC, Berkeley as part of my Ph.D. studies. I have been here since August and will leave in December – it is a very short period to establish more profound research ties, but enough to gain inspiration and new perspectives on my Ph.D. project on curiosity. Alva Noë is my faculty sponsor and he has organized a research group, or rather, a research community with Ph.D.’s, postdoc’s, and visiting researchers who are all somehow connected to him.
I do social sciences. By “social” we usually mean a kind of commonplace, something obvious, a premise to think about humans (who are always culturally and socially in-formed) and the (social and cultural) world. Consequently, the “Social” is taken for granted, considered as something very powerful that lays on somewhere in-between individual minds, or that is graspable through the observation of (inter)actions and discourses. Even within subfields that are based on microdescriptive experiences (for instance, according to the works of Goffman or those of Garfinkel), the aim is always already to hunt for some networks of relationships. Inspired by Laurence Kaufmann’s program and interested in the Nature of the We, I have decided to turn the “Social” into an issue by bracketing the assumption of my field and by coming to philosophy, and more specifically to phenomenology, where “social” and, in a minimal way, “intersubjectivity”, are still debated.
Arguably, one of the main challenges to open societies amounts to keeping the freedom of the individual and the social bond between the individuals in balance. Next week, an interdisciplinary conference in Munich will provide ample space for discussions on the topic Solidarity in Open Societies.
The phenomenological tradition treats ego as an extremely complex notion, which is related to temporal dimension, passivity, first-person perspective, and so on. I shall explore these rich insights of the phenomenological tradition (mainly Husserl) on the ego. Undoubtedly, one of the most important contributions of Husserl’s phenomenology is the thorough analysis of the ego. Since Ideas I, where the pure ego is introduced in phenomenology, Husserl continuously develops and deepens his analysis of ego. Then, in Ideas II, he introduces the personal ego and relates it with the pure ego. Finally, he differentiates the ego into two egos, namely primal-ego (Ur-ich) and pre-ego (Vor-ich) in his later period.
In spite of the increasing attention that the we-perspective and shared experiences have gained across different disciplines, the interpersonal foundations of shared experiences have remained, somewhat surprisingly, considerably unexplored in the philosophical literature. The fact that influential accounts of agency address shared agency as a follow-up topic, i.e., mainly against the backdrop of already worked-out accounts of individual agency, seems to have led to a double lacuna: firstly, of varieties of sharing different from shared intentions, and, secondly, of how certain forms of shared agency may build upon more elementary forms of interpersonal engagements, such as joint attention and affective sharing.
“A presupposition of the empirical and philosophical ‘problem of other minds’ is what’s come to be termed the ‘unobservability thesis’—the thesis that the other’s mind is fundamentally unobservable. In contradiction to this, at times throughout Husserl’s corpus he seems to suggest that in Einfühlung (empathy) we can observe the other’s mind directly and immediately. In my work I’ve tried to unravel precisely what Husserl might have meant behind this rather enigmatic claim, and if it is justified. One can also wonder, if it is the case that we can actually and literally see the others mind reliably, what flow on effects does this have for psychological science?
For the 7th year in a row, CFS organized a week long summer school on phenomenology in mid-August. Keynote presentations were given by Giovanna Colombetti, John Drummond, Shaun Gallagher, Søren Overgaard and Dan Zahavi, who each were responsible for one day of the program. The event was well attended with 100 PhD students and young researchers from around 30 different countries.
Very often, affective sharing is regarded as a special feature of a more general form of collective intentionality which is already in place. For instance, it has been argued in the literature that sharing feeling is based on sharing a concern. In contrast to this view, I wish to address the question to what extent affective sharing may also embody a primitive form of we-consciousness of its own.
You can hear more about this issue in a few weeks’ time at Collective Intentionality X (The Hague, August 30 – September 2, 2016). There I am going to present some of my ideas under the topic ‘Spontaneous Affective Sharing.’
Last month, an article on mysticism and schizophrenia by Josef Parnas and myself was published in Consciousness & Cognition. The article had been long in the making and we were happy to finally see it in print.
As we put it in the abstract, mysticism and schizophrenia are different categories of human existence and experience. Nonetheless, they exhibit important phenomenological affinities, which, however, remain largely unaddressed. In this study, we explore structural analogies between key features of mysticism and major clinical-phenomenological aspects of the schizophrenia spectrum disorders—i.e. attitudes, the nature of experience, and the ‘other’, mystical or psychotic reality. Not only do these features gravitate around the issue of the basic dimensions of consciousness, they crucially seem to implicate and presuppose a specific alteration of the very structure of consciousness. This finding has bearings for the understanding of consciousness and its psychopathological distortions.
Beginning of June I came to the CFS, in order to work with other phenomenologists. My stay here was also part of my sabbatical at the Free University Berlin, and my plan was to concentrate on my monograph on the “Sense of Appropriateness”, that I had begun to work on already four years ago, but which was always interrupted by my usual teaching, grading, and administrative workload. I thought a time, away from my office desk in Berlin, would give me the necessary focus to delve into this project.