Ongoing Research Projects
- Learning from Literary Narratives (SNF | 2017-2021)
- The Normative Relations between Fiction, Imagination, and Appreciation (SNF & DFG | 2017-2020)
- Aesthetic Rationalism (SNF | 2017-2018)
- Perception, Rationality and Self-Knowledge (Collaboration unifr & Warwick – 2017-2021)
- The phenomenology of mental states (Collaboration Liege & unifr – 2018-2022)
Past Research Projects
Past PhD Projects
- Coralie Dorsaz: Perceptual Justification
- Patrik Engisch: Singular Thought
- Hannes Ole Matthiessen: Thomas Reid’s Geometry of Visibles as a Theory of Visual Space
- Andrea Giananti: Perception and Content
The Normative Mind (2013–2017)
The research project aims to bring together and integrate the various debates in epistemology, in meta-ethics and, to some extent, also in aesthetics that are concerned with the rational motivation and justification of mental attitudes (belief, intention, evaluation, etc.), as well as with the normative connections between values, reasons and norms.
Two particular views that we would like to defend are that justification is a matter both of the facts and of our awareness of them (thus combining externalist and internalist elements), and that our relevant motivating awareness of facts as reasons is part of our awareness of the phenomenal character of the attitudes concerned (thus combining rationalist and empiricist elements).
The research project is generously funded by the Swiss National Science Foundations.
Philosophy and Phenomenology of Agency (2010–2014)
This project – which is part of the SNF-ProDoc ‘Mind and Reality’ – aims at the development of a general empirically informed philosophical theory of agency which covers the realm of bodily as well as mental action. The analysis of how we experience ourselves in our bodily and mental behaviour will play a central role in this project.
Human agency is a long-established subject of interest among philosophers, but it is only recently that analytical philosophers have seriously taken into account the phenomenological dimension of agency. The way in which we experience ourselves as an agent is of a great importance for a theory of human agency. On the one hand it is already not an insignificant question what is the right account of our experience of actions. Do we experience ourselves as free in our actions? And how do we experience ourselves as the source of our actions? On the other hand, on the base of an adequate account of agentive experience, theoretical discussions can be lead on specific philosophical problems and also on interpretations of empirical findings about human agency.
A systematic account of agentive experience will be developped for both bodily and mental agency. The interpretation and the philosophical consequences of empirical data relevant to theoretical accounts of agency will be an important supplement to our phenomenological approach. More general methodological issues concerning the relation between the phenomenological and the empirical approach will be also addressed.
An adequate understanding of agentive experience is of interest for several different philosophical issues. Long-standing philosophical problems can be tackled in new way. The current debate on consciousness has mainly focused on sensorial experiences and was led to make some mistakes. Widening the scope of the cases studied will open new perspectives in the discussion. Furthermore, our scientifically informed approach is also significant for a better understanding of the interrelation between our natural understanding of ourselves, philosophical reflection and scientific theorizing.
The research project is generously funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.
Imagination, Emotion, and Value (2011–2014)
The aim of our project (co-hosted with the University of Neuchatel) is to explore significant connections between the imagination, emotion, and experiences and judgements of value. The focus will be on moral and aesthetic values, but we intend the scope of our investigation to have implications for values in general, including how we ‘apprehend’ them, their metaphysical status, and the norms governing our judgements about them.
A distinctive feature of our project is that it contains an historical dimension, namely the examination of the role of the imagination and emotions in Hume and Kant’s ethics and aesthetics respectively. This is driven by the belief that such an investigation can inform, and enrich, contemporary debates on these issues, for the theories of Hume and Kant have been amongst the most influential in shaping contemporary debates on aesthetic and moral value, on emotion and on the imagination.
The research project is generously funded by the Swiss National Science Foundations.
Perceptual Justification [Completed]
The topic of my thesis is the epistemic role of perception. I attempt first to explain how perceptual experience can provide an immediate justification for beliefs about the external world in response to Sellars’ and BonJour’s attacks. I thereby also try to see if the possibility of such a perceptual justification depends on a particular metaphysical view of experience. I then pursue on those lines by investigating McDowell’s claim that the very possibility of perceptual knowledge depends on a disjunctive account of perception ; I hope to show that his argument proves to be unconvincing. Finally, I address the debated issue of the conceptual vs nonconceptual content of perception ; I am tempted to agree that the content of perception has to be conceptual if perception is to be able to justify a belief.
I am interested in the phenomenon of intentional thought, and in particular in the difference between what philosophers generally call singular and general thoughts. In my thesis, I hope to give an account of the phenomenon of singular thought that takes into account recents deflationary theories without giving up on earlier Russellian concerns, notably by trying to draw what I hope could be useful distinctions between different notions of singularity.
The First Person in Thought and Action
The PhD project I am working on is about the role of the first person in thought and action (hence the project title: The First Person in Thought and Action). In general, the idea is to explain de se phenomena like the possibility of thinking about oneself and intentionally acting. Normally, when I am perceiving the world around me, I take the things that I am perceiving to have some specific relevance to me and I use this information to act from my point of action.
However, it is unclear how we should determine the nature of that kind of thinking. In my project I am pursuing the idea that entertaining properties in a specific way, namely as directly relevant to the thinker of the thought, is the most basic way of thinking about the world. The subject is thereby not directly “referred” to in thought, but it is crucial that the properties are entertained from the first person. This also connects the information I get to the intentions I form. When a subject acts, she does so from her perspective and need not “refer” to herself; however, her intention needs to be entertained from the first person, just as in the case of thought.
Thomas Reid’s Geometry of Visibles as a Theory of Visual Space [Completed]
My research project concerns the geometrical properties of visual experience. On the one hand, I am interested in early modern accounts of spatial perception, especially spatial seeing (Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Reid). On the other hand, I am trying to defend and refine a broadly Reidean account of visual space according to which the geometry of visibles (ordinary things regarded as occupants of the visual field) is non-Euclidean and explicable in terms of the geometry of spherical figures. My work takes into account phenomenological treatments of the matter, as well as current psychological research.
Perception and Content
My thesis concerns the topic of perceptual experience, and in particular the question whether or not it has content. This invests issues such as the intentionality of perception, its phenomenology and its epistemology, and has been hotly debated in the last decade.
I closely examine and criticize the work of relationalist philosophers such as Bill Brewer and Charles Travis, who think that we can understand how perception relates us to the world only if we conceive of it as something fundamentally different from thought, and therefore as something that does not have representational content.
I respond to relationalist challenges to the notion of perceptual content, by articulating a view of perceptual experience according to which perception discloses the world to our view precisely in virtue of having a determinate representational content, which is in turn accessible to one in virtue of phenomenological traits of one’s experience. I also articulate an objection to purely relationalist theories, in the form of a dilemma: relationalists either have to work with a notion of perceptual relation that is too thin to meet important explanatory desiderata, or they have to introduce the notion of content, thus violating their own theoretical commitments.