Transcendental and phenomenological studies
The history of transcendental philosophy is intensively studied by various researchers. The transcendental perspective serves to transcend various dichotomies often uncritically handled in philosophical discussions.
Kant’s viewpoint on objectivity, in particular the one articulated in his third Critique, has been crucial for Gertrudis Van de Vijver, Joris Van Poucke, Boris Demarest, Filip Kolen, Elisabeth Van Dam and Eli Noé, a.o.. Important research topics here are: Kant’s third Critique in relation to his other Critiques and to his pre-critical and anthropological work; the relation between systematicity and organicity; the organicity and epigenesis of reason; the status of the theory of faculties in the light of an organic viewpoint on reason; objectivity and symmetry; the distinction between determinative and reflective judgments, comprising Hegel's criticism of the Kantian notion of judgment and his “naïve linguistic” notion of judgment; the relation between Kant’s aesthetical judgment and the Enlightenment notions of Bildung, public Reason and maturity as formative of the process of identification and the freedom of the subject.
Beyond Kant, there is a growing interest in the first critical reception of Kant’s legacy, thanks to the post-doc research of Emiliano Acosta and Henk Vandaele that respectively work on radical enlightenment and on the topical notion of truth inspired by Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre of 1794. Pursuing the question of objectivity in the context of perception, Liesbet De Kock studies the inspiration von Helmholtz found in Fichte’s metaphysical and epistemological theory of I and not-I, and uses precisely this philosophical background to critically assess current, mainly enactivist, theories of perception. Hegel’s work has been the major source of inspiration for Eli Noé, who seeks to evaluate Hegel's claims on language in relation to Kant's transcendental philosophy from the vantage point of what could be considered as the "missing link" between the two: the linguistic "metacritique" of Hamann and Herder.
In line with our interest for objectivity in the Kantian tradition, a number of researchers have pursued these questions from within the phenomenological tradition. Helena De Preester studied the problem of embodiment starting from Husserl’s phenomenology, and inspired many of us to take a closer look at his phenomenological work. Husserl’s Crisis of the European Sciences became a major source of inspiration for Gertrudis Van de Vijver, Joris Van Poucke, Filip Kolen, Jens De Vleminck and Jan De Vos. Merleau-Ponty’s theory of the flesh is a source of inspiration for the research of Jude Godwins, who studies the issue of embodiment from a combined phenomenological and African perspective. Helena De Preester currently pursues her phenomenological interest by studying detailed problems related to the body, such as deep body, phantom limbs, effects of amputation, where she adopts a fruitful “trans-perspectivist” viewpoint connecting neurosciences, arts and philosophy. Anton Froeyman starts from the work of Cassirer, Levinas and Buber to articulate a transcendentally inspired philosophy of history. Willy Coolsaet's work finds inspiration in authors like Marx, Husserl, Heidegger, and Levinas and purports on this basis to formulate answers to current ecological and political problems.
A large part of our transcendental research is developed in dialogue with more recent ways of thinking, be it from a more continental or analytical side, existentialist or postmodern. Derrida is often used by Helena de Preester, Filip Kolen and Gertrudis Van de Vijver as a specific way of deconstructively accessing Husserl. Elisabeth Van Dam studies Derrida in line with her study of the moving body and its embedment in the différance of language. To trace the neo-Kantian inspiration in the works of Frege and Wittgenstein, in contradistinction to Russel’s empiricist background, is important for Gertrudis Van de Vijver. Wittgenstein’s philosophy, and in particular the transcendental threads of his viewpoint on ethics and aesthetics, serve Elisabeth Van Dam to articulate a theory of the freedom of the subject in relation to its moving body. Anton Froeyman develops his ethical theory of historiography in dialogue with analytical virtue ethics and with the contemporary philosophers of history Frank Ankersmit and Eelco Runia.
Philosophy of Psychology, psychiatry and psychodynamic theories
The idea of a complex dynamical structure was, from the beginning, studied in relation to living and psychic systems. Today, the interest for psychodynamic theories –psychoanalysis, neuropsychoanalysis, cognitive science– is articulated from a theoretical, clinical and political perspective.
After a PhD study on psychologization, Jan de Vos is now doing post-doctoral research on psychoneuropolitics. From within critical theory and political philosophy, he examines the "neurological turn" in its "psy-lineage", leading to a neuropsychologization or a psychoneurologization.
Dieter De Grave prepares a PhD on the clinical structure of psychosis. He considers the latter a complex dynamical structure that requires special attention to the perspective (epistemological and clinical) within which it is assessed. The question of the relation to reality is at the core of this research.
John Gilbert studies the tools made and applied by humans compared to the tools used by non-human primates. Important questions are: (i) What are the cognitive correlations or implications of the type of action which is supported by the use of tools?, (ii) Are there similarities between the pattern exposed by general tool mediated manipulation on the one hand and the pattern (logic or systematic) of linguistic behavior on the other?, (iii) If the introduction of the early stone tools supplies the stepping stone to typical human cultural development, how can these crude tools be related to modern sophisticated technical manipulations and to higher cognitive processes?
The relation between Helmholtz's "Muskelgefühl" and Freud's primary and secondary processes and his theory of reality-testing
Besides its historical interest, Liesbet De Kock's research on Von Helmholtz resonates with current research in the neurosciences, in particular that on efference copies. In cooperation with Ariane Bazan and Gertrudis Van de Vijver, the ambition is to further articulate the relation between Helmholtz's "Muskelgefühl", Freud's primary and secondary processes as well as his theory of reality-testing, and the current significance of efference copies.
Elisabeth Van Dam studies Freudian as well as Lacanian psychoanalysis to articulate problems of body, pathos and expression in correlation with the language of ethics, aesthetics and dance.
After a PhD study on human aggression in Freud and co-editing (together with Eran Dorfman, FU Berlin) a volume on the role of sexuality in Freudo-Lacanian psychoanalysis, Jens De Vleminck is doing post-doctoral research on the ontological status of (sexual) psychopathology (the concept of ‘mental disorder’ and the status of psychiatric categories) in (the history of) philosophical anthropology. From within the larger framework of philosophy of psychiatry, his research questions the (analytical) domain of ‘philosophical psychopathology’ by confronting it with the continental (Bachelard, Canguilhem, and Foucault), phenomenological (Heidegger, Jaspers) tradition and the work of the contemporary Canadian philosopher of science Ian Hacking.
Seen from Kant's third Critique, it cannot come as a surprise that the intimate connection between the beautiful and the living would get further attention at our Centre.
Elisabeth Van Dam examines the relation between ethics and aesthetics on the basis of the tension between the body in its pathos and the raising movements of reason/humanity. Subjectivity is grasped from within its linguistic utterances and is to be figured in the space of freedom, that is, in its ethical tensions and aesthetical powers. This research departs from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and his linguistically shaped ideas on ethics, aesthetics, subject and freedom. From thereon, a line is drawn towards Kant's critical philosophy and the spirit of the age of Enlightenment (Schiller’s aesthetical theory and the ideas of the Weimarer Klassik - Goethe, Wieland, Herder, Winckelmann).
Ludwig Vandevelde, sculptor, prepares a phenomenologically inspired PhD "in de Kunsten" on the theme of the Pietà. Besides his sculptural work, this research follows Husserl's phenomenological method of investigation and proceeds by carefully examining and describing the various steps in the experience of making a sculpture. Sources of inspiration are various historically known sculptors, as well as Husserl, Badiou and Lacan.
Philosophy of Biology
The Centre’s first research was devoted to problems of objectification in relation to complex, dynamical systems. Up to this day, this interest prevails, but it is more prominently embedded in a transcendental context and in the meanwhile led to the articulation of a transcendental philosophy of biology. It relies heavily on a critical reading and actualization of Kant's third Critique.
Joris Van Poucke critically revisits the notions of system (whole) and complexity in the context of current Systems Biology, and contributes to a transcendentally inspired philosophy of biology on the basis of Robert Rosen’s theoretical biology in which the modeling relation plays a crucial role.
Boris Demarest focuses on the architectonic meaning of the Kantian notion of system, from a historical perspective in both continental and analytical contexts, and participates in the discussions of philosophy of biology through his analysis of the notion of epigenesis of reason.
Luis Ramirez Trejo examines the compatibility of mechanical and teleological explanations in the context of current biological theories and praxis, and in this regard also addresses the question whether purposiveness such as it figures, for instance, in the philosophies of Kant and Locke, is still relevant in the context of current philosophical explanatory theories (such as the new mechanists).
Questions concerning the conditions of possibility of a (radical) democracy, the meaning of Europe, the legacy of the radical Enlightenment, ... are apprehended starting from one of the core-topics of the Centre, namely the one about complexity and self-organization, which, in the end, revolves around the issue of autonomy. In this regard, various members, a.o. Emiliano Acosta, Henk Vandaele, Boris Demarest, Gertrudis Van de Vijver, and Franc Rottiers, are attempting to "re-think" Europe, viewed as a complex entity of which the parts are only identifiable from a perspectivist viewpoint. The ambition is to gather various research groups around this theme and to prepare a collective research project.
Franc Rottiers is one of the central figures in this political interest. Combining an expertise in philosophy and anthropology, his PhD purports to examine the topic of complexity in the context of people seeking refugee who, in the process of claiming protection, probe their new environment as potential, "genuine" citizens. The democratic logic they are expected to know and obey is, however, a perspective that they can in no way criticize as long as they not genuinely form part of it. This leads Franc Rottiers to critically assess the "participation logic" and to plead for a new, complex, perspective in this regard. Sources of inspiration here are Bakhtin (answerability), Adorno (critique on the instrumental reason, non-identity principle and negative dialectics), Rancière and Badiou (their analysis of "le/la politique" and articulations of subjectification).
Jan De Vos – in his turn combining an expertise in psychology, psychodynamic theories and political philosophy – engages in his aforementioned post-doc with both post-foucaultian theorists (Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Giorgio Agamben), post-Marxists (Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe) and the theorists of post-politics (Slavoj Žižek, Alain Badiou) in order to assess the dynamics of post-Fordist biopolitics.