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Theoretical Philosophy

Research in Theoretical Philosophy

This is the research-homepage for the subject of theoretical philosophy at the department of Philosophy, Linguistics, and Theory of Science (FLoV) at the University of Gothenburg. Here you will find information about new developments in our subject, about the subject’s (and subject-related) seminars, and about the research conducted by the subject’s staff and PhDs.



What is Theoretical Philosophy?

A Very Short History of the Subject





What is Theoretical Philosophy?

The division of philosophy into a practical and a theoretical discipline can arguably be traced back as far as to Aristotle. At most philosophy departments in Sweden (as well as in the other Nordic countries) this division has become institutionalized. Courses in theoretical and practical philosophy are taught separately and are given separate degrees (for information (in Swedish) about undergraduate studies in theoretical philosophy at the University of Gothenburg, go here). PhD-positions, professorships, lectureships and various research positions are likewise for the most part separately announced, which means that to be eligible to apply for a position in theoretical position, you are normally expected to have (the equivalent of) a PhD in theoretical philosophy or, if the position is as a postgraduate student (a so-called PhD-position), it means that you are expected to write your PhD-thesis on a subject-matter that qualifies as in theoretical philosophy.

Theoretical philosophy is usually defined in terms of the topics it covers. The topics normally included under this heading are metaphysics/ontology, philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and logic. In Gothenburg, logic is however a separate research subject with its own professor (for more information, go here).

A Very Short History of the Subject

The history of theoretical philosophy at the University of Gothenburg dates back to 1893, when the first professor of philosophy, Vitalis Norström (1856–1916), was appointed. Like his two immediate successors, Malte Jacobsson (1885–1966) and Gunnar Aspelin (1898–1977), Norström moved freely between theoretical and practical philosophy in his research, but taught mainly in theoretical philosophy. The first professor of theoretical philosophy was the internationally renowned Neo-Kantian Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), who served at Gothenburg between 1935–1941, having left Germany after the Nazis came to power in 1933. It is however fair to say that the subject’s modern history starts with the 1951 appointment of Ivar Segelberg (1914–1987). Segelberg’s main philosophical interests were analytic ontology, and phenomenology in the tradition of the early Husserl. Segelberg served as professor for almost three decades and came to have a formative influence upon his students, three of whom, Mats Furberg (1933–), Dag Westerståhl (1946–) and Helge Malmgren (1945–), also became professors in theoretical philosophy in Gothenburg. Whereas most of his students attest to Segelberg’s importance for their intellectual development, few came to study the same problems he did. Furberg is a philosopher of language, Westerståhl is a philosopher of logic and Malmgren is a philosopher of mind. All three are now retired, though Malmgren and Westerståhl are still very much active at the department as professors emeritii. The current professor is Anna-Sofia Maurin (1969–). With her appointment, ontology has once again become a main topic of research in Gothenburg.


The research seminar in theoretical philosophy convenes once a week (normally on Wednesdays 10-12 in room T340). The seminar features presentations both by local researchers/PhD students, and by invited guests. A schedule for the seminar can be found here. Note that to get continuous updates and more in-depth info about the content of the seminar, join our e-mailing lit (by contacting Martin Jacobsson at martin.jacobsson@gu.se and ask to be put on the list hogreseminarium@filosofi.gu.se). 


The kind of research we do here can be very roughly subdivided into three main-areas: (Meta)metaphysics, Philosophy of language, and Philosophy of Mind. The “style” of doing research in all of these areas is (broadly speaking) analytic. Some of the research is interdisciplinary and conducted in collaboration with researchers from other fields (including logic, practical philosophy, linguistics, jurisprudence, and neuropsychiatrics). Below, the three main-areas of research are presented in some more detail.


In this area, there is research both in “unrestricted” ontology (meaning the attempt to characterize (the structure and fundamental building-blocks of) all of presumably mind-independent reality) and in “restricted” ontology (meaning the investigation into the nature and existence (or not) of some specified part of reality). Research in “restricted” ontology is mainly focused on issues to do with the nature of (entities in) social, fictional, and/or, mathematical reality. Investigations in “unrestricted” ontology deals with issues concerning the nature of properties (with a special focus on (the nature of) so-called tropes), issues concerning the nature and possible (?) existence of states of affairs, and, more generally, issues to do with the relationship between unity and complexity (with a special focus on problems caused in this context by the so-called “Bradley regress”). Besides research in object-level metaphysics, there is also research on the methods, possibility, and nature of metaphysics/ontology itself, what is sometimes called metametaphysics or metaontology. Among other things, the nature and use of so-called regress-arguments and, more generally, ontological justification, metaphysical explanation, truth-making, and grounding, are investigated. The more formal aspects of theory construction are also researched (often in close collaboration with researchers in logic). Some researchers also do work on (different aspects of) relativism as opposed to absolutism. Researchers (including PhD students) mostly working in this area include Martin Kaså, Anna-Sofia Maurin, Ylwa Sjölin WirlingAnders Tolland, Robin Stenwall, Naomi Thompson, Andrew Brenner and Alexander Skiles (Stenwall, Thompson, Brenner and Skiles are all employed in the research project MetaphysicalExplanation, led by Anna-Sofia Maurin, which runs from 2017-2019).

Philosophy of Language

We also have a few people working in the area of the philosophy of language. Mostly on issues to do with contextualism – the view that the compositional meaning of sentences regularly underdetermines the content of statements made by speakers –, defending, criticizing or developing ideas from Carston, Recanati and Sperber & Wilson; conceptual role semantics, according to which linguistic meaning and concepts should be explained in terms of inferences and other transitions between mental states; and quantification in logic and natural languages, the public nature of meaning, and Davidson’s theory of interpretation. Philosophers of language at the department of philosophy, linguistics, and theory of science, typically work in close collaboration with linguists and logicians. Researchers (including PhD students) in theoretical philosophy mostly working in this area include Martin Filin Karlsson, Martin Kaså, Felix LarssonPeter Johnsen, Stellan Petersson, and Dag Westerståhl (professor emeritus).

Philosophy of Mind

Research in the philosophy of mind is mainly focussed on more or less applied research focusing in particular on applications relevant to psychiatry. This research includes conceptual analyses of key concepts in psychiatry such as mental disorder, delusion and insight. Some research has also focused specifically on the area of forensic psychiatry. Topics investigated here are e.g., the meaning of consciousness, accountability and action control in forensic psychiatry and law. Phenomenological methods have been used to understand different psychopathological states such as depersonalisation or delusions. Clinical phenomena of psychopathology are also used to illuminate issues in the philosophy of mind, such as the nature of perception and belief. Researchers (including PhD students) mostly working in the area of the philosophy of mind include Alla Choifer, Helge Malmgren (emeritus), Filip Radovic, Susanna Radovic, and Alva Stråge.


We are located at the Department of Philosophy, Linguistics, and Theory of Science (Olof Wijksgatan 6). Snail-mail should be sent to the following address:
Box 200

If you need to contact any of our researchers, please follow the links to their respective webpages. There you will find the relevant contact information. For general questions about theoretical philosophy you may contact the subject’s professor Anna-Sofia Maurin (anna-sofia.maurin@gu.se).

Artwork by Jean-Louis Maurin

Jean-Louis Maurin
Jean-Louis Maurin

Contact Information

Anna-Sofia Maurin

Box 200, 405 30 Göteborg

Visiting Address:
Olof Wijksgatan 6

031-786 6969

Page Manager: Monica Havström|Last update: 6/16/2017

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