In this project, I am investigating the question of what mental disorders are. My goal is to establish a comprehensive theory that answers both the question of the basic ontological category, the question of the individuation of individual types of disorders, and the question of the specific properties of mental disorders. I assume that mental disorders are dispositions to think, feel, or act. Types of mental disorders are individuated by their manifestations, causes, causal basis, or combinations of these factors, and the types so individuated are mental disorders (e.g., as opposed to personality types, cognitive abilities, or intellectual virtues) because they are harmful, irrational deviations from statistical norms.
In this project, we investigate the features of dispositional properties in biology, psychology, and psychiatry. In this project we show on the one hand that it is theoretically and practically fruitful to understand phenomena in the mentioned sciences as dispositions. On the other hand, we use examples of dispositions from the life sciences to give impulses for the metaphysical debate on dispositions. For instance, we show that causal bases in the aforementioned sciences are often extrinsic, processual, and contrastive. Furthermore, we use examples from the life sciences to argue for the ontological context-dependence of biological dispositions.
In this project, I address two previously understudied questions related to nonfundamental modal properties. Nonfundamental modal properties have a causal basis. In a first paper (co-authored with María Ferreira Ruiz, Bielefeld University), we explore the notion of causal basis and argue for the position that causal bases must have both a causal role for manifestation and a metaphysical grounding role for instantiation of the modal property. Combining these roles allows for important distinctions (e.g., between causal bases and manifestation conditions), captures relevant traditional features of causal bases, and can help ensure the causal efficacy of dispositional instantiations. At the same time, our theory allows neutrality with respect to fundamental properties, the existence of dispositional or extrinsic causal bases, multi-track dispositions, and the reducibility of dispositional predicates. The second part of this project is concerned with the question of what distinguishes non-fundamental multi-track dispositions from co-instantiated single-track dispositions. My working hypothesis is that non-fundamental multi-track dispositions are homeostatic clusters of properties.
In this project, I develop a theory of biological functions as selected dispositions. This theory is particularly well suited to play important roles in philosophy of mind, psychiatry, and medicine. Unlike competing theories, it explains the gradability of dysfunctions, the productivity of biological functions, and the difference between dysfunctions and defects.
Teleosemantic theories provide promising, naturalistic explanations for the content of perceptual states. The notion of function has a central explanatory role here. In this project, I have developed a theory of function suitable for this purpose, synthesizing evolutionary and dispositional theories, combining their respective advantages and avoiding their problems.
This research was conducted as part of the DFG project "Advancing Teleosemantics".
The contents of mental representations of non-human animals, in human core cognition and perception cannot be precisely described by sentences of a natural language. However, this fact does not prevent us from inaccurately characterizing these contents by natural language. In this project, I have developed a theory (using possible worlds of semantics, set theory, and measure theory) that can be used to capture the precision of content characterizations.
Virtue reliabilism assumes that knowledge is a cognitive achievement – an epistemic success attributable to the cognitive abilities of the knowing subject. Apart from this consensus, there is no agreement among proponents of virtue reliabilism about the conditions under which the relevant relationship between an epistemic success and a person's cognitive abilities exists. In this project, we have developed a new and attractive view of this relationship and applied it to virtue reliabilism. The resulting theory can handle cases of epistemic happiness and testimonial knowledge, among others.
February 2024 The Role of Dysfunctions in Psychiatry, Templeton-Sowerby Joint Workshop: Function and Dysfunction in Medicine and Psychiatry, London (UK)
October 2023 Biological Functions as Selected Dispositions, Millikanfest, University of Connecticut (USA)
September 2023 Biologcal Functions as Selected Dispositions, EPSA23, Belgrade (Serbia)
10. August 2023 Causal Bases in the Life Sciences, Inductive Metaphysics: Insights, Challenges and Prospects, Düsseldorf
20. June 2023 The Modal Nature of Mental Disorders: A Comparative Analysis, Philosophy and Psychiatry Talk Series 2023, online
12. June 2023 The Modal Nature of Mental Disorders: A Comparative Analysis, Mental Disorders and Modal Properties, Berlin
29. March 2023 Biological Functions as Selected Dispositions together with Marlene van den Bos, Empirical Philosophy Workshop, Bielefeld
14. September 2022 Multi-track pluralism at the GAP.11 - Philosophie und Öffentlichkeit, Berlin
8. September 2022 Dysfunctions, Dispositions, Defects and Disorders at the ThUMB 2022 Meeting on Functions in Biology and the Biomedical Sciences, Rijeka (Croatia)
3. June 2022 Causal bases in the life sciences together with Javier Suárez at Dispositions in the Life-Sciences: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives, Trier
13. September 2021 What are causal bases of dispositions? together with María Ferreira Ruiz at the Microworkshop Dispositions and the life-sciences, Bielefeld
"The Future of Teleosemantics", Universität Bielefeld, 6.-8. September 2018
"Teleosemantics and the Nature of Functions ", Universität Bielefeld, 7.-8. September 2017
"Teleosemantic Perspectives on Perception", Universität Bielefeld, 7.-8. Oktober 2016
WiSe 2012/2015 - WiSe 2014/2015