In the first half of the 20th century, lively debates were going on in Europe concerning the foundations of sociality and interpersonal understanding. Participants in these debates included central figures of the phenomenological tradition, such as Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Max Scheler, and Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as lesser known figures, including Alfred Schutz, Gerda Walther, Edith Stein, and Karl Löwith, amongst many others. Contributors to these debates didn’t come only from philosophy, though. Founding figures of German sociology like Georg Simmel and Leopold von Wiese provided important inputs. Psychiatrists like Ludwig Binswanger and Medard Boss were also significantly interested in the topic of sociality, as were other thinkers whose contributions spanned the boundaries between philosophy of sociality, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of language, like Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, and Ferdinand Ebner.
Thomas Szanto, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at CFS, on a Complex Affective Trias
Thanks to my generous Marie Curie project funding (SHARE), recently, I could spend three wonderful months in Europe’s probably most vibrant capital, Berlin—vibrant not only in terms of its notorious night-life, but just as much in terms of its research community.
From May to July I was a Visiting Researcher at the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Center (CRS), “Affective Societies: Dynamics of Social Coexistence in Mobile Worlds” http://www.sfb-affective-societies.de/en/index.html. The CRS is an interdisciplinary research platform, spanning 11 disciplines and involving 70 researchers, based at the Freie Universität Berlin and lead, as Co-PIs, by the philosopher Jan Slaby (http://www.janslaby.com/), who kindly invited and hosted me for the research stay, and the sociologist Christian von Scheve (http://www.polsoz.fu-berlin.de/soziologie/arbeitsbereiche/emotionen/team/Professur/scheve.html).
I immensely profited from discussions with Jan and Christian and other colleagues at FU Berlin. The forthcoming paper on “Emotional Self-Alienation”, which I was mainly working on during my stay, was much inspired by their exciting work, in particular, by Christian’s work on “feeling norms” (esp. von Scheve 2012, 2013), and Jan’s work on the exploitative and manipulative flip-side of situated and extended cognition approaches (esp. Slaby 2017).
I am writing from my home in Sheffield, nearly two weeks after returning from Copenhagen where I spent the month of September ensconced in the research community at the Center for Subjectivity Research. I spent that time quietly getting on with some work of my own, but every day discussing various philosophical issues with the Center’s members (to my great advantage). I have nothing but very warm memories of the academic environment and how kindly I was welcomed into it for a month.
Since 2011, the Center for Subjectivity Research has been involved in a large-scale project on the empathy funded by the VELUX FONDEN. A central objective had been to investigate what empathy is and what role it plays in interpersonal relations.
In recent years, an increasing number of disciplines have shown interest in empathy, be it psychiatry, affective neuroscience, developmental psychology, anthropology, or philosophy. The increasing amount of work being done in the field hasn’t resulted in any converging consensus about what exactly empathy amounts to. In fact, if there is any agreement, it is about disagreeing about the definition of empathy.
These days, my 2 years stay as a visiting post doc at the Center for Subjectivity Research comes to an end. It has been a great time of learning and also a great pleasure. The people working at or visiting the Center have provided me with valuable feedback and hints for my work on collective atmospheres and also – though in a less theoretical way – with an impressive example of a good working atmosphere.
In the world of phenomenological publishing outlets, there is a new kid on the block: Routledge Research in Phenomenology. This book series – which is edited by Komarine Romdenh-Romluc, David R. Cerbone, and myself – publishes volumes that relate phenomenological arguments and ideas to a broader range of current philosophical problems. It also offers more historically informed studies of themes and figures from the phenomenological tradition, with the aim to be a rich resource of new ideas and approaches that promise to enliven contemporary debates. Clearly written and rigorously argued, these books ensure accessibility to a broad philosophical audience and to theorists working in other disciplines.
At the moment, I am a visiting researcher at the Center for Subjectivity Research between January and July 2017. During my stay, I am working on my post-doctoral research project with the working title The Art of Attention. The plan is to publish several articles and eventually also a book that deals with the faculty of attention and a cluster of philosophical difficulties that are related to how we understand attention.
As promised in a previous blog post, The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology has now been published!
Co-edited by Giuseppina D’Oro (Keele University) and myself, the book offers clear and comprehensive coverage of the main methodological debates and approaches within philosophy. The chapters in this volume approach the question of how to do philosophy from a wide range of perspectives, including conceptual analysis, critical theory, deconstruction, experimental philosophy, hermeneutics, Kantianism, methodological naturalism, pragmatism and, last but not least, phenomenology.
Together with Dan Zahavi and Thomas Szanto, I have been involved in the organization of the upcoming CFS conference “Shared Cultural Context and Interpersonal Understanding”.
The conference will take place on May 18-19, and is part of the CFS project “Empathy and Interpersonal Understanding”, financed by the VELUX Foundation.
The main aim of the conference is to explore the interrelations between shared cultural context and interpersonal understanding from an interdisciplinary perspective.
Some of the questions to be considered at the conference are:
- How do shared cultural contexts and in-group/out-group dynamics enable and influence different forms of interpersonal understanding?
- Conversely, what is the impact of interpersonal understanding on shared cultural contexts?
- In this regard, is there a specific role for empathy, sympathy, and mutual recognition?
- Furthermore, how do processes of stereotyping and typification contribute to our understanding of the interrelations between interpersonal understanding and shared cultural context?
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).