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Prof. Dr. Achim Stephan


    Animal Emotionale II

  • The central tenet of our research is that man is essentially an emotional being - an animal emotionale. It is not only that our conscious, or experiential, mental life is essentially emotional; by establishing a primary way of world-directness, processes such as thinking, deciding, and acting are also profoundly emotional. This kind of worlddirectness of emotions - we call it "affective intentionality" - formed the topic of our philosophical and neuroscientific research in animal emotionale I. The project animal emotionale II extends the work done previously in two ways. First, it brings into focus a new kind of affective state - so called "existential feelings". Second, it broadens our perspective by incorporating research from two disciplines not heavily involved in animal emotionale I - evolutionary anthropology and psychopathology. Emotions are not only a way of being evaluatively directed towards certain objects or situations, as, for instance, in the case of basic emotions such as fear or disgust. Rather, as existential feelings they establish an essentially qualitative way of being directed to the world as a whole. Normally, this ever present affective kind of worlddirectedness remains in the background and unnoticed by the subject. It comes into the focus of attention typically when it is in some sense disturbed, for instance in cases of derealisation, when the world is experienced by the subject to be unreal. So far, existential feelings have primarily been the subject matter of philosophical research done in a phenomenological tradition. In the first two subprojects of animal emotionale II we will build on, but go beyond, this phenomenological tradition by developing a systematization of existential feelings in a way that is based instead on the analytic tradition in philosophy and incorporates knowledge from psychopathology, discussing the neurophilosophical question of whether existential feelings are, at least in principle, accessible empirically, and if so, how, and doing one exemplary empirical imaging study with atients suffering from Depersonalisation- and Derealisationsyndrome. Historically, psychological theories of emotions have been heavily influenced by Darwin`s theory of evolution by natural selection. Therefore, the third subproject addresses the topic "emotions" from the point of view of the philosophy of science, by critically evaluating the explanatory force of evolutionary explanations of emotions in general and of fear and disgust in particular (thereby connecting animal emotionale II to the empirical studies done in animal emotionale I). Topic of the fourth subproject is an empirical study in which we are investigating the neural correlates of the experience of fear and disgust both in healthy subjects and in patients with spider- and blood-phobia. These phobias also form the basis for a philosophical evaluation of the relevance of neurobiological research for evolutionary explanations of emotions. The fifth subproject finally addresses the questions whether functional equivalents of existential feelings, which, after all, are usually taken to be characteristically human in the phenomenological tradition, can also be found in animals and how existential feelings can be subjected to evolutionary explanations.
  • Emotional Experience in Depression: A Philosophical Study

  • The aim of this project is to provide the first ever detailed, systematic philosophical study of the nature and role of altered mood, emotion and feeling in depression. Despite the vast amount of research that is conducted into the causes and treatment of depression, the experience of depression remains poorly understood. Most autobiographical accounts either resort to metaphor or acknowledge that aspects of the experience are incommunicable. Changes in emotion, mood and bodily feeling are central to all forms of the condition. In recent years, there has been much valuable philosophical and interdisciplinary research on the emotions, which is complemented by new developments in philosophy of psychiatry and in scientifically-informed phenomenology. We will draw on all these areas. Our project will bring together a group of philosophers, psychiatrists, cultural anthropologists, psychologists, and neuroscientists all of whom have made important contributions to current research on emotion and/or psychiatric illness. The result will be a cohesive account of emotional experience in depression that will serve as the basis for further philosophical work, assist ongoing scientific research by providing clearer accounts of the emotional changes that require explanation, and contribute to clinical work by formulating a conceptual framework that patients and clinicians alike can use to communicate the experience of depression.
  • Philosophie des Geistes

    Philosophische Probleme der Kognitionswissenschaft

    Emergenz und Selbst-Organisation

    Wissenschaftsphilosophie und Logik


    Analytische Philosophie

    Philosophie der Psychoanalyse und Psychotherapieforschung