Last autumn I did a predoctoral research stay at the Center for Subjectivity Research (University of Copenhagen). My main goal was to introduce myself to contemporary issues in the field of collective intentionality and social ontology, and especially in the philosophy of collective and group action. While unfolding this task, the almost daily discussions with Olle Blomberg ‒ who is a post-doctoral fellow working on intentional joint action at CFS ‒ were of decisive importance. Besides doing research with respect to collective agency, I had the opportunity to take part in the activities hosted by the CFS (seminars, lectures, conferences, etc.), the result being one of the most stimulating research experiences I have ever had.
The Ego is not monolithic, but complex phenomena. It contains inner complexity. Husserl encounters this complexity in terms of temporality in his later manuscripts. Against this background, he works out the ultimate inseparable nature of ego and non-ego. However, this is different from the encounter with the world as a non-ego. So far I had interpreted that the primal ego is the only condition for the possibility of appearance. In fact, in a passage in some research manuscripts, Husserl himself also stated that the primal-ego is the innermost. However, we can find the following very strange expression in the manuscript of the same period. “The streaming is always in advance, but also the I is in advance”. I have attempted to interpret these statements in terms of precedence of the primal ego.
Can there be experience without self-consciousness? – In analytic philosophy of mind, this question is usually affirmed. It is argued that experience is the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness, the problem that deserves the most attention, while self-consciousness is thought to be a comparably easy problem to solve. In my recent book “The Pre-Reflective Self. Subjectivity as Minimal Self-Consciousness” [“Das präreflexive Selbst. Subjektivität als minimales Selbstbewusstsein”, Mentis 2016] I question this claim and the separation of mind that it brings with it. Following Zahavi, Kriegel and others, I argue that every phenomenally conscious state involves a minimal consciousness of myself, since every phenomenally conscious state is such that there is something it is like for me to have it. Thus, experience and self-consciousness cannot be separated. They go hand in hand.
My doctoral research examines the process by which a reflexive neonate develops into a reflective child. However, what does it really mean to “reflect” or to be “reflective”? Is reflection a kind of personality trait or disposition that can be trained? Is it an epistemic perspective that one brings to bear in certain contexts or situations? Or is it a cognitive process or mechanism that can drive other developmental changes such as symbolic competence?
A couple of days ago we, the Network for Woman in Philosophy, organized a conference at the University of Copenhagen in a cooperation with a similar network in Bergen, Norway. The aim of the conference was to pay attention to women philosophers. All speakers were women and presented work including women philosophers. The two keynotes were Sabrina Ebbersmeyer from University of Copenhagen and Anne-Marie Søndergaard’s Christensen from University of Southern Denmark and they were followed by student as well as senior researchers presenting on a great variety of topics (e.g. Iris Murdoch on moral visions, on the question of whether there is a female way of composing (which made me think of the paper ”Throwing Like a Girl” by Marion Young), on universal basic income and Hannah Arendt, on Anne Conway’s metaphysics, etc. etc.). The variety of topics is fun and interesting, since it provides an inspirational platform, where you most likely hear about something that you did not expect or knew of before, but it also might have it’s backside. Because the main focus on the conference was female philosophers (rather than a focused topic) the conference did not attract many male students/researchers (in fact there were only a couple).
An article that I co-authored with Thomas Szanto and Dan Zahavi on emotional sharing and the extended mind has been recently accepted for publication in Synthese. Emotional sharing and the extended mind are two research domains that have attracted quite a lot attention in the past years, but their interrelations have remained considerably unexplored. While research on the extended mind has focused on the extent to which an individual’s mind can extend beyond the boundaries of the biological body, one central concern of recent research on emotional sharing is how can emotions be shared in a way that goes beyond the summation or aggregation of the emotions that different individuals may have. The article argues that shared emotions are socially extended emotions that involve a specific type of constitutive integration between the participating individuals’ emotional experiences.
Thomas Szanto, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at CFS, on collaborative irrationality, self-deception and emotion regulation biases
In times of ‘post-truth’, when ‘alternative facts’ circulate widely not just on social media but even in the most elite political arenas, one may wonder about the nature of practical and theoretical irrationality and self-deception.
How can one believe that two propositions A and B are contradictory or incompatible, have sufficient evidence or reason to believe A, indeed acknowledge those evidences and reasons as warranting one’s belief in A, and yet, believe B? Moreover, how can two or more people collaboratively engage and in such forms of self-deception and thus reinforce each other’s irrational tendencies? And what role do emotions and emotion regulation (i.e. strategies to select and adjust the situations of affective import, or modulate our attention and behavioural responses to them) play here?
Merleau-Ponty famously held that minds are embodied. On this view, I am not just causally connected with my body, or somehow lodged inside it; rather, ‘I am my body’ (Merleau-Ponty 2012, pp. 151, 205). Merleau-Ponty believes that doing full justice to this point entails rethinking a host of traditional philosophical themes, including language, the self, nature, freedom, and time, to name but a few. In a recently published paper, I explore the impact of the notion of embodiment on the so-called problem of other minds.
In a few days’ time, on the 27th January 2017, I will be defending my PhD dissertation at the University of Copenhagen; just a few days after then, I will be bringing my period as a researcher at the Center for Subjectivity Research to a close. While I look forward to the former event with nervous excitement, having by now shed most strivings to infinitely rework the dissertation into an ever inaccessible state of perfection, my feelings about leaving the CFS are certainly more apprehensive. Having spent most of the last five years in the midst of the initially exotic ‘Subjektivitetsforskning’, its heady blend of, amongst many other virtuous traits, philosophical openness, resistance to entrenched boundaries, fascination with the mysteries of sociality and selfhood, and high scholarly standards, all now feels entirely natural. I will sorely miss participating in such a unique and engaging research community. Rather than eulogising the closing chapter of my life spent at the Center, however, the present post will rather outline the product of that period of time, namely, the contents of my doctoral dissertation.
“The world is there prior to every analysis I could give of it, and it would be artificial to derive it from a series of synthesis that would first link sensations and then perspectival appearances of the object together, whereas both of these are in fact products of the analysis and must not have existed prior to it. Reflective analysis believes it moves in the reverse direction along the path of a previous constitution and meets up with – in the “inner man,” as Saint Augustine says – a constituting power that it itself has always been. Thus, reflection carries itself along and places itself back within an invulnerable subjectivity, prior to being and time. Yet this is a naïveté, or, if one prefers, an incomplete reflection that loses an awareness of its own beginning.” (Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception)