Projects

Projects

These are research projects with external funding that I am, or have been, participating in.

  • DIAPHORA. Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Training Network (H2020-MSCA-ITN-2015-67541), PI Sven Rosenkranz (UBarcelona), local scientist-in-charge: Kathrin Glüer-Pagin.

DIAPHORA serves as a European research and training platform for collaborative research on the nature of philosophical problems, their resilience and the sources of persistent divergence of expert opinion about them, and their relation to conflicts in the practical sphere. More specifically, DIAPHORA’s 3 principal research objectives are (A) to diagnose what makes philosophical problems so resilient and to clarify to what extent the sustained lack of convergence in philosophy can successfully be explained by the hardness of its problems; (B) to explain why the tendency has not been towards a general agnosticism about candidate solutions, but rather towards divergence, and to identify features of philosophical method that allow for such persistent peer disagreement; and (C) to explore whether the dynamics of philosophical debate, despite the subject’s highly theoretical nature, bears important and instructive resemblances to the dynamics of debates about more practical matters and their political and socio-economical antecedents – and hence whether philosophical problems and their attempted resolution can illuminate, and be illuminated by, the procedural and methodological difficulties besetting strategies for the adjudication of public affairs, thereby determining what philosophical thought might contribute to society at large. DIAPHORA joins 7 leading European research centres in philosophy, and 5 partner organisations, 3 of which from the nonacademic sector, in the fields of international conflict management, mediation and policy-making, as well as the analysis of social conflict and cultural diversity. It undertakes to provide 14 Early Stage Researchers with the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the demands of top-level research within its remit, as well as professional complementary skills training in both the academic and non-academic sectors, with the goal of widening their potential societal contributions and improving their individual career prospects.

  • The Nature of Belief, joint project with Åsa Wikforss, Swedish Research Council (VR 2013-737), 2014-18.

The project investigates the nature of belief, the state of mind we have when we take something to be the case. Together with desire, belief plays a central role in our everyday understanding of ourselves. We invoke these states to explain, justify, and predict mental states and actions. This motivates traditional attempts at characterizing belief by its functional role: the way it is formed on the basis of, and results in, other mental states and actions. It also suggests an essential connection between belief and rationality. At the same time, both experimental psychology and everyday experience provide data suggesting a great deal of irrational belief: perseverent belief, implicit bias, delusion, etc. A central challenge for a theory of belief is therefore to capture the essential reason-providing role of belief while allowing for irrational belief. Our project is to develop an original version of functionalism addressing this challenge: ‘Reason-Providing Functionalism’ (RPF).

The project has five main parts: 1) working out RPF in full detail, characterizing belief in terms of its reason providing role, i.e. the role it plays in theoretical and practical reasoning, and showing how the theory can account for irrational belief; 2) investigating the conception of rationality RPF is based on; 3) investigating whether RPF allows the mind to be extended; 4) investigating the question of how we know our own beliefs; 5) investigating the relation between belief and perception.

  • Switcher Semantics for Singular and General Terms, Swedish Research Council (VR 2009-1195), 2010-12.
This project aims at providing an alternative semantic theory for two important and heavily debated phenomena of natural language: The meaningful use of empty proper names such as ‘Vulcan’ or ‘Odysseus’, and the name-like behavior of certain general terms such as ‘water’ or ‘tiger’. More precisely, the aim is to extend the “evaluation switcher semantics” (ESS) suggested in “Proper Names and Relational Modality” (Glüer&Pagin 2006) to these phenomena. ESS is a version of possible worlds semantics, but it uses more than one semantic evaluation function. Modal operators, such as ‘it might have been the case’, work as “evaluation switchers”. ESS allows proper names to have descriptive contents while accounting for their seemingly rigid modal behavior, thus combining the advantages of traditional descriptivism with those of non-descriptive semantic theories. So far, ESS has only been worked out for non-empty names and modal operators, but its basic mechanism appears very versatile; ESS thus promises a systematic, unifying explanation for a wide range of seemingly incompatible semantic phenomena. Extending ESS to empty names and natural kind terms is the natural first step towards such unification and might contribute to breaking the long-standing deadlock between descriptivism and non-descriptivism in natural language semantics. This would not only bring philosophical semantics and linguistics closer together, but also be of significance for metaphysics and epistemology.

FP7 Marie Curie Initial Training Network PETAF is the first research and training network exclusively in philosophy ever to be financed by the European Commission. It aims to serve as a European research and training platform for joint philosophical research on perspectival thought, its linguistic expression and its consequences for our conception of objective, mind-independent reality.

  • Theories of the a priori: Critique and Alternatives, PI Fredrik Stjernberg, financed by the Swedish Research Council (VR 2007-2271), 2008-10.
  • The Semantics of Experience, Swedish Research Council (VR 2005-869), 2006-8.

Since antiquity, perception is one of the central topics of the philosophical tradition. It involves questions at the very core of our conception of ourselves as thinking creatures in cognitive contact with our world. One such question concerns the content and objects of experience. Since the 17th Century, the area was dominated by empiricist epistemology. The resulting theory emphasized the epistemic role of experience as evidence for our beliefs about the world and concluded that the direct objects of perception are not material objects, but private, mental objects called “sense data”. Today, the content of experiences is once again a ‘hot’ topic. The interest comes mostly from the philosophy of mind, however, where almost everyone has abandoned sense data. Experiences now are taken to have representational contents and their objects to be material objects. A decisive question then concerns the properties experiences ascribe to these objects. The most popular account has it that these are sensible properties like color or shape. Since that means that experiences and basic beliefs have precisely the same contents, it is further held that experiences cannot be beliefs. That, however, leaves us without any plausible account of both the characteristic psychological and epistemic role of experience. This project aims to reintegrate especially epistemological questions into the philosophy of perception and, thus, to develop an alternative account of the content of experience.

  • Knowledge of Meaning, PI Peter Pagin, Swedish Research Council (HSFR), 1999-2001.