Intuitively there is a clear difference between attention, curiosity and interest. Still, I have managed to be very confused on the question of what the differences exactly are. Recently, I have been interested in Husserl’s descriptions of how we are affected and motivated towards what is given and pegiven. My interest in these aspects of Husserl’s writings (in particular Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis) stems from my discomfort with on the one hand a sharp distinction between sensory and conceptual curiosity in the existing literature and the other hand the tendency to require to much of curiosity (that it is directed towards something specific and is aware of some information, knowledge, or the like, that it lacks).
After a year and a half of work (not counting maternity leave!), my involvement with the project on The Genomic History of Denmark is slowly drawing to a close. Working in it has been both fun and enormously challenging, since I had to learn a lot about population genomics, ancient DNA research and genetic ancestry testing.
But you may wonder: why is someone from CFS working for such a project? Well, the answer is that one can often hear claims that genetics has something to tell us about our identity, about who we are. In the case of ancient DNA research and genetic ancestry testing, the claim is specifically that it can unlock the mysteries of our ancestry and tell us where we really come from, which is supposed to be a key to who we really are. All such claims spark controversy to a higher or lesser degree, and raise questions about what identity means. My job within this project has been to reflect upon the implications that this research may have, and should or should not have, for personal identity (for identity self-ascription, group-identification and the sense of group belongingness) and group membership.
On April 28-29, CFS will host a two-day workshop on the theme of “Shared and Temporally Extended Agency”. People exercise shared agency when they intentionally do things together. Think about two or more people having a conversation, cooking dinner together, or navigating across the sea in a sailing boat together. These joint actions all consist of many “smaller” actions that are all performed to bring about some common goal (mutual understanding, eating food, safely reaching a destination). Similarly, temporally extended actions consist of many smaller actions that are all organised around a common goal.
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?