A great deal of a human life normally happens in contact with other people, and as part of living together we often talk about ‘sharing’ a variety of experiences and attitudes with others. For example, we talk about ‘sharing’ emotions, beliefs, and intentions with other people. On occasions, sharing an intention to do something together, say to go to the movies, is a basis for going to the movies together. If two friends end up going accidentally to the movies at the same place and time, we wouldn’t normally say that they went to the movies together – at least not in the same sense in which we would say that if they had shared an intention to do so, and coordinated their actions in such a way that meeting at the movies results from a mutual agreement. While perhaps intuitively plausible, the idea that (some) mental phenomena could be shared in a robust (non metaphorical) way is likely to raise some eyebrows. What could sharing possibly mean in the context of mentality?
Nearly everyone has experienced the awe of standing at the edge of a massive environment, like a mountain-scape – the experience is strikingly different when stuck in a cramped space, like an aeroplane seat, in which the spatial limits are all too apparent. But do you actually feel smaller when you are looking at something huge? And, conversely, do you actually feel bigger than you really are when you can see you don’t have much personal space?
Thomas Szanto, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at CFS, has just started his research project
After two wonderful and productive years as a Postdoc at the CFS, where I have worked within the framework of the VELUX-Foundation project “Empathy and Interpersonal Understanding”, I am absolutely delighted that I could extend my stay at this excellent research environment—and, not least, in this truly amazing city that has become so dear to me!—for another two years. I have just started my new Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship project SHARE: “Shared Emotions, Group Membership, and Empathy“. Let me briefly explain what SHARE is about:
Liesbet De Kock, visiting researcher at the Center for Subjectivity Research
Although a two-month visit is relatively brief, I had a very stimulating and inspiring stay at the Center for Subjectivity Research. As a master in Clinical Psychology and a post-doc in philosophy (Free University of Brussels), I found the interdisciplinary focus of the Center particularly appealing and I thoroughly enjoyed the weekly seminars. Although not all of them aligned with my specific area of research, the weekly gatherings broaden the horizon and open up new venues of thought.
During my research stay, I focussed on finishing a manuscript on Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s transcendental approach to the body, entitled ‘Determination, Embodiment and Affect. The Epistemic Purport of J.G. Fichte’s Theory of the Body’. In the past decades, academic philosophy has witnessed an expanding ‘back-to-Fichte’ movement that seems to thrive mainly on the recovery of the valuable insights to be drawn from Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s account of subjectivity in general, and of self-consciousness in particular.
Since 2002 the Center for Subjectivity Research (CFS) has carried out research on the self and its relations to others and the world from an interdisciplinary perspective. Its exploration of subjectivity has explicitly sought to further the integration of different philosophical traditions, in particular phenomenology, hermeneutics, analytic philosophy of mind and philosophy of religion. At the same time, however, much time has been invested in promoting the dialogue between philosophy and empirical science, in particular psychiatry and psychopathology, but also clinical psychology, cognitive science and developmental psychology.
Over the years, the center staff has worked systematically on topics such as intentionality, imagination, empathy, action, perception, embodiment, naturalism, self-consciousness, self-disorders, schizophrenia, autism, normativity, anxiety and trust. It has also done scholarly work on classical thinkers such as Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schleiermacher, Brentano, Husserl, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas and Ricoeur. Throughout, the research has been driven by the conviction that a variety of different philosophical and empirical perspectives on subjectivity can lead to mutual enlightenment and that such methodological and conceptual pluralism is what is acutely needed in the contemporary debate.