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.
This year (2016) Claudio Costa will join our subject as a guest professor. Costa is professor of philosophy at the UFRN in Brazil. Welcome!
In May 2016, the department is visited by prof Ed Zalta, well known editor of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosphy. Zalta will give a crash-course in Axiomatic Metaphysics, as well as give a talk at our research seminar. Zalta's visit is organized by Seyed Mousavian.
For this year's research seminar go to this page (the page is continually updated, so visit frequently!).
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).
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 this schedule is continuously updated with more in-depth info about the content of the seminar, its speaker, and with papers and abstracts.
Besides this seminar, there are a number of other seminars organized at the department. Some of these seminars are cross-disciplinary and of special interest to at least some of our researchers. One such seminar is the PhilLang seminar which features talks by (local and invited) linguists and philosophers of language (and which is intended to bring researchers from these two subjects together). For a schedule, go here. Another one is the Human Reasoning Seminar in which different perspectives on human reasoning are investigated by bringing in perspectives from logic, linguistics, computer science, psychology, neurology and evolutionary theory. For a schedule, go here. Of interest to some theoretical philosophers is also the seminars in Logic and in Practical Philosophy and Political Theory. For information about the logic seminar go here. For information about the seminar in practical philosophy and political theory, go here.
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 Dan Giberman (associated), Martin Kaså, Anna-Sofia Maurin, Susanna Salmijärvi, Ylwa Sjölin Wirling and Anders Tolland.
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 Susanna Andersson (on leave), Martin Filin Karlsson, Peter Johnsen (on leave), Stellan Petersson, and Dag Westerståhl (professor emeritus).
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.
Below you find a list (in alphabetic order) of all the researchers (including the PhD students) in theoretical philosophy, followed by a very short description of what they are currently working on, and a link to their respective web-pages (where you will find more information). Please note that (very) temporarily employed researchers (like, e.g., guest professors) will not appear in this list.
We will try our best to keep descriptions on this list as updated as possible.
Susanna is currently taking a break from her PhD studies.
The work in progress focuses on the problem of distinguishing between two perspectives of consciousness – the first- and third-person perspectives. The source of the problem is, in my view, that there are no scientifically elaborated or systematically discussed criteria for how these two perspectives should be defined. This leaves us in a situation, I argue, where researchers of consciousness make use of two mutually exclusive notions of the first-person perspective. The basic claim is, indeed, that one of these two uses is not first-personal but rather third-personal. Link to my webpage here.
I am currently working on my thesis which deals with the problem of absolutely general statements, i.e. statements in which we quantify over absolutely everything there is. On the one hand such statements seem both harmless and, at least in philosophy, quite common. On the other hand, there are arguments, e.g., the set-theoretical paradoxes, which have been taken to show the impossibility of such quantification. The thesis discusses arguments for and against the possibility of absolutely general quantification and contains a novel suggestion of how to construct a model-theoretic semantics for such quantification in NFU with pairing and choice. Link to my webpage here.
I work in contemporary analytic metaphysics and related aspects of philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. Much of my work concerns questions about spatiotemporally located entities. I am interested in how such entities exemplify properties; how they persist over time; what their part/whole structure is like; what, if anything, amounts to their being fundamental; and what exactly we mean when we say they’re ‘spatiotemporally located’. I am also interested in the relationship between spatiotemporally located entities and phenomenal consciousness; the relationship between spatiotemporally located entities and basic predicative claims about them; and the relationships among spatiotemporally located human organisms, psychological features, and persons. Link to my webpage here.
Dan just took up a position as assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. He remains closely associated to the department however (as, among other things, one of Ylwa Sjölin Wirling's tutors).
My work gravitates around the public nature of meaning and discussions on relativism, skepticism, interpretation, the principle of charity and other related principles. It is mainly but not exclusively within the analytical tradition. I have done some work on the critique of relativism from the perspective of the principle of charity, publicness and the radical translation/interpretation tradition and I have recently developed an interest in more practical applications of these theories such as Appiah's theory of Cosmopolitanism. Link to my webpage here.
Peter Johnson is currently on leave from his position at FLoV.
Current research is on philosophical and technical aspects of systems for trial-and-error logic i.e., logical languages where the interpretation of the vocabulary is subject to change. Research interests in general include most of philosophical logic, foundations of mathematics and philosophy of logic, as well as directly related areas such as metaphysics and philosophy of language. Link to my webpage here.
My main present work does not fall within philosophy. It concerns the brain in different medical and non-medical conditions and is based on the analysis of magnetic resonance (MR) images. This work has been going on for several years and has resulted in two PhD theses by my students Carl Eckerström (2010) and Erik Olsson (2013). In philosophy, I have just started writing an advanced textbook on consciousness from the multiple viewpoints of philosophy, cognitive science, psychiatry and neuroscience. I hope to complete the book in 2013. Link to my webpage here.
Work in progress includes a paper on the nature of tropes (are they a kind of substance or a kind of property, or neither?) and a paper on metaphysical explanation. Link to my webpage here.
My dissertation discusses and develops indexicalist, contextualist, radical contextualist and minimalist theories of the syntactic and semantic structure of some constructions – for instance noun phrases introduced by a quantifier expression, weather reports, colour adjectives, metonymies – and explores methodological and ontological problems associated with contextual semantics. Link to webpage here.
I have just finished editing an anthology dealing with various issues within the philosophy of life. I am currently working on a paper about how monothematic delusions are formed, and a paper on what role the community is assumed to have in theories of delusion, which are part of a research project on delusions financed by the Swedish Research Council. I am further engaged in a project on dream-consciousness and illusion in the Aristotelian tradition, which is part of a larger research program, financed by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond. Work in progress also includes a paper on contemporary theories of dream-consciousness and the illusory sense of reality in dreaming. Link to webpage here.
Work in progress includes a couple of papers about delusions (one about the discussion of the belief-status of delusions, one paper about the concept of insight), which are part of a research project on delusions financed by the Swedish Research Council. I am also working on a paper about the relation between the psychiatric concept of insight used in psychiatric evaluations of criminal offenders and the juridical concept of criminal intent. This paper is based on empirical data collected from psychiatric evaluations and court verdicts. Link to my webpage here. I am the director of CELAM a centre that supports research in the inter-diciplinary field between philosophy, law and forensic psychiatry.
I have just finished a paper on perceptual directness in direct realism accounts of perception. At the moment, I am working on my thesis in social ontology. Two main questions for my research are: What is a social or institutional entity as compared with a material or a psychological entity? How do social entities relate to consciousness on the one hand, and to the material world on the other? Among other things, the answers will involve me in ontological discussions about existential dependence, supervenience and (social and material) constitution. Link to webpage here.
Susanna is currently on leave.
I am currently working on my Phd thesis, in which I focus mainly on questions concerning neurolaw and the ongoing debate of if and how neuroscience fits in the discourse of law, especially with regard to the topics of punishment, responsibility and free will. With the overall aim to conclude if, and then in what sense, neuroscientific data should be included in the judicial discussion of the matters mentioned above, I discuss what kind of premises that must be accepted by “yes” and “no” supporters, as well as general questions concering metaphysics of law and the nature of the human mind. Link to my webpage here.
Presently, the first item in my “paper pipeline” is a preliminary version titled “Gadamerian Linguistic Meaning; Or, Why Speaker Meaning Is Not That Important”. Next is a shorter presentation on the subject ‘The usefulness of skeptical arguments for relativism’. In the pipeline are also a few preliminary versions of papers discussing other aspects (mostly epistemic) of relativism . Finally (but not necessarily last) there is a paper in normative ethics (more precisely, on the topic ‘Animal Rights’) titled “A Vindication of the Rights of Plants”. Link to webpage here.
Dag Westerståhl is professor emeritus of theoretical philosophy in Gothenburg. He is currently working at Stockholm University (but he still functions as the supervisor for two of our PhD students, and comes to visit every now and then). Link to his webpage here.
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:
405 30 GÖTEBORG
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the department’s head of research Fredrik Engström. Fredrik is also in charge of the department’s PhD programme.
Artwork by Jean-Louis Maurin
Box 200, 405 30 Göteborg
Olof Wijksgatan 6