Research team

Expertise

Within the fields of moral psychology and meta-ethics I focus on the nature and importance of moral emotions (shame, regret, anger...) and on the connection between love and morality. Within feminist philosophy I focus on questions at the intersection of ethics and epistemology (epistemic injustice, moral encroachment) Within health humanities I research questions surrounding ASD, abortion, the end of live, the meaning of a politics and ethics of care

Putting arrogance in its place. Do we need to revalue or reform the concept of arrogance? 01/11/2022 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Arrogance has been understood as an attribute of people and sometimes as an attribute of an act. Within this approach something important is overlooked: whether someone is perceived as arrogant, depends on what their environment allows them to do, and what we allow others is not equally distributed. William F. Buckley once said: "It is not a sign of arrogance for the king to rule. That is what he is there for", but where did the monarchy come from and who has the right to be king? This shows the connection between arrogance and entitlement. While reality shows us that perceived arrogance is connected to our social structures, we are stuck with a concept that is understood as absolute. From this perspective someone is arrogant as a result of their behavior, and not because of the context from which we look at that person. Therefore a new approach to the concept of "arrogance" is needed. First, we might re-evaluate arrogance, by saying that some cases are arrogant but at the same time not problematic. To this end, I will examine in which cases arrogance is problematic. The second way of dealing with this problem of arrogance is by redefining it: taking another principle than someone's attitude or behaviour to say whether something is arrogant might bring us to a more suitable extension. Therefore, I will also research alternative principles to define arrogance.

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  • Research Project

Electroencephalography system for cognitive experiments in social sciences and humanities. 01/06/2022 - 31/05/2024

Abstract

Electroencephalography (EEG) is a technique of recording electrical activity of the brain. By using electrodes placed on the scalp the researchers are able to track the activity of cortical neurons. Despite the fact that EEG It is the most widely used way of studying cognitive processes in the current century, the University of Antwerp still does not have an EEG laboratory. EEG is used so widely because of the numerous advantages that it can offer researchers. It has a high temporal resolution, which means that it captures cognitive processes in real time, as they occur. This is a great feat, since cognitive processes are fast. They occur within tens to hundreds of milliseconds and other neuroimaging techniques (such as fMRI or PET) are only able to record the processes that last longer than a second. Furthermore, EEG is inexpensive, lightweight, and portable. It allows for ecologically valid experimental designs at an affordable rate. The price of a whole EEG system can be less than 30,000 EURO, while fMRI scanners cost millions. However, the biggest advantage of using an EEG system is the ability to study the unconscious drivers of human behavior. Our researchers at the The Social Lab, Media and ICT in Organizations and Society (MIOS), Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies (TricS), the Centre for Philosophical Psychology, and the Centre for Ethics are interested in investigating implicit attitudes, language comprehension, response inhibition and many other processes that are inaccessible to survey research. In this application we summarize several research projects which would greatly benefit from utilizing an EEG system at the University of Antwerp. We cite recent, world-renowned research which was made possible only thanks to EEG data collection and point out specific ways in which our scientists could use an EEG to achieve similar world-class results.

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  • Research Project

BactoHealing - Bio-Kin-Tsugi as a trans-disciplinary tool to bridge science and society and challenge the ethics of synthetic biology. 01/01/2022 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

BactoHealing interweaves various fields to explore the idea of Kin Tsugi with living matter and research the ethical implications of biotechnology. Inspired by the ancient Japanese craft to mend ceramics with gold or silver, we propose re-evaluating the concept of repair and introducing bioengineering technologies for growing a "scar" of biomatter – with the help of fungus and bacteria – over the cracks. This novel interpretation of Kin Tsugi with biotechnology is called Bio-Kin-Tsugi. Using synthetic biology approaches, novel biological materials as alternative adhesives will be developed. Simultaneously, the project invites a philosophical angle to challenge the relations between biology and technology and genetic engineering ethics. Art is creation, and we expect that the involved biotechnologists will be inspired to look differently at their science and engineering. The Bio-Kin-Tsugi objects, created in the lab, are inspiring artefacts and a point of departure for experience-oriented participatory artistic interventions, e.g., salons and workshops, where complex scientific contexts are communicated transparently. These practices contribute to the emerging and substantial international field of bio-arts and inform audiences to shape their opinions on biotechnologies. The proposal is a daring transdisciplinary collaboration between life sciences, humanities and the arts. Such constellations offer a novel way to interface academia with society.

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  • Research Project

Ethics in Enactivism: a Pragmatic Approach. 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2025

Abstract

In contemporary philosophy of mind, it now the rule rather than the exception to assert that cognition is not 'all in the head'. Although endorsed by many, the exact nature of the claim that cognitive processes — perceiving, imagining, remembering — are related to our bodies and world remains the topic of fierce debate. The interdisciplinary research tradition of enactivism takes perhaps the most radical line on this issue. According to enactivists, there is no real way to separate our thoughts, perceptions and actions from the places we are in. Cognition is not a process taking place inside an agent, bearing a relation to something outside of the agent, but an activity arising out of agent-world interactions. Brain, body and environment are said to play equal parts in structuring our experience; they form a 'coupled system' that is constantly updating itself via interactive adaptations, thus giving rise to how we act. Enactivism has proven popular among philosophers and cognitive scientists alike. But as of yet, it has said very little about the moral dimension of cognition. This research project aims to fill that gap. By drawing upon the tradition of American pragmatism, it attempts a systematic inquiry into the nature of moral agency in the enactivist framework. It specifically attempts to answer the question how moral action and knowledge should be seen if we accept that agency and the world in which we act are deeply interconnected.

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  • Research Project

The Problem of Implicit Bias and the Limits of Moral Responsibility. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2023

Abstract

Psychological research has shown that most people have some implicit biases towards some or multiple stigmatised social groups. This means that a person, who would describe herself as not racist, sexist, ageist, xenophobic etc. and who truly believes in the equal treatment of all people, could have biases that she does not directly know of, that can affect her judgement and action, resulting in discriminatory behaviour. For example, imagine a director of a small business who must decide which of three applicants she should hire. She compares their CV's and interviews each applicant, and while she is confident that she has made the right choice, based only on the quality of the applicant, her hiring decision was influenced by the identity features of the applicants. We would then say she has an implicit bias. These findings have raised many questions about how we should think about our moral responsibility for these biases. Are people responsible for having implicit biases and/or their manifestation in behaviour, even if they have limited control over or knowledge of them? If people can be so mistaken about their motives, how should we think about our capacity for selfknowledge? What steps can people take to prevent these biases from influencing their actions? My aim is to answer these questions in a novel way, arguing that bias is a vice, and to show how the innovative moral ecology approach can help to better understand the problem and provide solutions to it.

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  • Research Project

Towards Postfeminist Thinking? A Wittgensteinian Solution to a Semantic-Political Problem in Contemporary Feminist Theory. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

What is a 'woman'? At a time where traditional gender categories are profoundly criticized and rethought, this seemingly easy question generates much debate amongst feminist advocates. On the one hand, any substantive definition inevitably comes with a normative claim of what it means to be a 'real woman'. Since the women's movement tries to show how women come in all shapes and forms and, moreover, how they are capable of doing anything they put their minds to, it goes without saying that feminists should steer clear from imposing new gender norms themselves. However, on the other hand, a complete refusal to define the concept 'woman' leads to the inability of talking about women as a social category, and hence complicates a feminist plea for women's rights. After all, if feminists are incapable of somehow clarifying what a 'woman' is, how can they describe their own mission and target group? It is my aim to enter into the debate and point out that an ordinary language philosophy can shed new light on the matter. I will argue that through this approach, it becomes possible of going beyond the above mentioned dilemma and of reinterpreting the concept 'woman' in a way that it can sustainably deal with the challenges it faces today. In doing so, I will also provide a way of discussing ethical matters concerning gender equality more accurately and face the daunting question whether the conceptual crisis regarding 'woman' irrevocably heralds the end of feminism.

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  • Research Project

Imagination and Moral Reasoning. Creative Imagination in Moral Option Generation. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

As a human faculty, imagination is often linked to the creativity of the mind, as displayed, for instance, by artists or children. This project examines its functional roles in moral reasoning. People often seem to use their imagination in situations where moral problems are at stake. Suppose that you cross the path of a refugee begging for help. You would probably try to imagine several things: the things the other has been through, what your options to help the refugee are, what the repercussions of certain actions will be, and so on. This project investigates how exactly we use our imagination to answer difficult moral questions or to solve pressing situations or dilemmas. This main aim is split up in two sub-aims. First, this research applies a novel moral-psychological approach to distinguish different modes and functions of imagination. As a very general term, 'imagination' can namely refer to different elements of moral reasoning, e.g., metaphorical understanding, empathy, narrative reflection, etc. Having analysed contemporary research results regarding the different relations between imagination and moral reasoning, I will focus on a blind spot in the current debate: the way in which imagination generates specific options for moral action. Thus the second aim is to examine this process of option generation in order to provide an answer to the question why imagination might be necessary to come up with practical solutions to moral situations and dilemmas.

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  • Research Project

Against the fat relentless ego: love at the centre of morality. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Although a commandment to 'love thy neighbor' is an important feature of most age-old religious traditions, a moral obligation to love seems to be unpopular in contemporary analytic philosophy. In light of recent societal challenges such as polarization and hate for 'out-groups', we might however be in need for a contemporary secular moral call for love, if we have in mind the goal of a peaceful and embracing society. This project investigates whether we can make sense of the argument that we should love one another. It aims to develop an account of love and morality inspired by the ideas of Iris Murdoch to defend that we do, thereby rejecting the widely held claim that love and morality are somehow in tension. The main investigation consists in researching on the basis of which grounds it can be said that we should love everyone. The project also aims to offer a practical guide: what are our exact responsibilities in loving everyone? What difference would such a claim make in comparison with an already widely established and acknowledged moral claim for respect or empathy? The project aims to answer 1) societal challenges such as polarization, 2) skeptics of moral love in contemporary analytical philosophy and 3) feminist worries that could arise with a moral obligation to love. The project will address moral questions of interest to a wide public, because it concerns love on both a personal and political level.

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  • Research Project

The Emotion of Pride and the Ethics of Recognition: A Philosophical Analysis. 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

We can feel pride about something we achieved or about an ability we have, whether that be about a good result on an exam, the way we handled a tricky situation, or a silly way in which we can move our ears. We can also feel pride of other people's achievements, like those of our children or of our friends. We can be proud of the country we belong to, a soccer team we cheer for, a religion we believe in, or not believing in any religion at all. Sometimes, these feelings of pride give us reasons to act in a certain way. We might want to dress up in the colours of our favourite soccer team on the night that they are playing against a dreaded competitor, or we might want to tell our friends about the great results our kids are getting in school. Our pride can drive us to do good actions. It may encourage us to donate to charity or to pursue ambitions that we cherish. But pride can have morally bad consequences as well. Those become apparent in contemporary issues like religious extremism or nationalist feelings that lead to discrimination. In order to understand the emotion of pride and how it affects our actions both in a positive and negative way, it is interesting and not without importance to come to a philosophical exploration of pride. This project investigates into what it means to be proud of something, and how that feeling relates to the notion of dignity and identity. Moreover, it investigates what role the recognition by others, in relation to pride, plays in our moral lives.

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  • Research Project

The Problem of Implicit Bias and the Limits of Moral Responsibility. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

Psychological research has shown that most people have some implicit biases towards some or multiple stigmatised social groups. This means that a person, who would describe herself as not racist, sexist, ageist, xenophobic etc. and who truly believes in the equal treatment of all people, could have biases that she does not directly know of, that can affect her judgement and action, resulting in discriminatory behaviour. For example, imagine a director of a small business who must decide which of three applicants she should hire. She compares their CV's and interviews each applicant, and while she is confident that she has made the right choice, based only on the quality of the applicant, her hiring decision was influenced by the identity features of the applicants. We would then say she has an implicit bias. These findings have raised many questions about how we should think about our moral responsibility for these biases. Are people responsible for having implicit biases and/or their manifestation in behaviour, even if they have limited control over or knowledge of them? If people can be so mistaken about their motives, how should we think about our capacity for selfknowledge? What steps can people take to prevent these biases from influencing their actions? My aim is to answer these questions in a novel way, arguing that bias is a vice, and to show how the innovative moral ecology approach can help to better understand the problem and provide solutions to it.

Researcher(s)

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Project type(s)

  • Research Project

The Emotion of Pride and the Ethics of Recognition: A Philosophical Analysis 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

We can feel pride about something we achieved or about an ability we have, whether that be about a good result on an exam, the way we handled a tricky situation, or a silly way in which we can move our ears. We can also feel pride of other people's achievements, like those of our children or of our friends. We can be proud of the country we belong to, a soccer team we cheer for, a religion we believe in, or not believing in any religion at all. Sometimes, these feelings of pride give us reasons to act in a certain way. We might want to dress up in the colours of our favourite soccer team on the night that they are playing against a dreaded competitor, or we might want to tell our friends about the great results our kids are getting in school. Our pride can drive us to do good actions. It may encourage us to donate to charity or to pursue ambitions that we cherish. But pride can have morally bad consequences as well. Those become apparent in contemporary issues like religious extremism or nationalist feelings that lead to discrimination. In order to understand the emotion of pride and how it affects our actions both in a positive and negative way, it is interesting and not without importance to come to a philosophical exploration of pride. This project investigates into what it means to be proud of something, and how that feeling relates to the notion of dignity and identity. Moreover, it investigates what role the recognition by others, in relation to pride, plays in our moral lives.

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  • Research Project

Care for Oneself and Failures of Self-knowledge. 15/07/2017 - 14/07/2018

Abstract

The research project "Care for Oneself and Failures of Self-Knowledge" investigates in what way knowledge of who we are and who we want to be guides our deliberations about how to act. An important role is played by practical identities: those roles or identities that we find valuable and that give guidelines as to which actions are valuable for us to undertake. For example, if I value my identity as a parent I find those actions that let my child flourish worthwhile. A question that has raised quite some philosophical interest is how and whether our practical identities should cohere. That they often do not is a common experience. For example, the identity as parent and the identity as teacher can come in conflict if the soccer match of one's daughter is on a Sunday and the deadline for having the papers of the students graded is directly the Monday after. According to a widespread assumption in contemporary philosophical debates our practical identities can only guide practical deliberation about what to do if they are unified into a harmonious and coherent whole. This unification-requirement calls for systematic scrutiny. That this contention can be contested can be illustrated by examples of people who are defined by conflict in their identity: for example, a homosexual man who grew up within the orthodox church might not only experience a strong conflict between his homosexual and orthodox identity, but is as well defined by it. As such, he stays more true to himself by acting on the conflict than by trying to overcome or solve it. This research project will investigate and question the unification requirement in a systematic fashion— thereby already going beyond the state of the art. It will deliver a unique contribution to the current debate in three ways: 1) by laying bare some pre-theoretical commitments inherent in the use of the image of distance-taking as a prerequisite of self-knowledge. This image suggests that we need to divide ourselves in order to get to know ourselves, and that we subsequently need to unify ourselves. A historical analysis will reveal the ubiquity as well as the legacy of the use of the metaphor of distance-taking. 2) by executing a systematic analysis of the contemporary debate along two axes: A) the first axis is defined by the form of unity that is required: contemporary philosophers characterize the required unity respectively as a matter of being wholehearted, of being rational, or of having a life narrative; B) the second axis is defined by the reasons offered in favour of striving for this unity. In the literature one can read justifications invoking I) a psychological necessity (f.e. a condition of happiness), II) a requirement of agency, III) a moral requirement, IV) a necessary condition of self-understanding V) or a necessary condition for being understood by others. None of these justifications will prove sufficient, which frees the way for another approach to self-knowledge and practical deliberation. 3) by proposing an alternative theory of the way in which practical deliberation is guided by practical identities, avoiding the unnecessary and even harmful unification-requirement.

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  • Research Project

Autism Ethics Network 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

The Autism Ethics Network is an international platform that unites researchers and individuals inspired by a desire to understand autism and by the belief that a transdisciplinary and inclusive approach is necessary for an ethical approach to autism and autistic individuals. Striving to surpass reductionist frames of thinking the network brings together researchers from sociology, literary studies, the arts, anthropology, psychology, ethics and philosophy of science. Questions that are central to the project are: what is autism, is autism a mere pathology, what does it mean to be neuro-(a)typical, how does a diagnosis of autism affect a person's self-understanding,...

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  • Research Project

The Ethics of Love: (How) Ought Parents and Children to Love Each Other? 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

While most moral philosophers concentrate on questions that arise in the public sphere, the majority of people will be confronted with moral questions in their private lives, more particularly regarding their conduct towards the people they love. On a daily basis we make moral choices in the way we react to our friends' favours, our lovers' expectations, our children's needs, our parents' wishes. Yet some moral philosophers think that love in general, and family love in particular, falls outside the moral domain, and is governed by its own rules. They reject moral evaluations of love (as a motive or as an attitude) as overly moralistic. This project starts from the hypothesis that morality does have a bearing on love, and examines the objections against two theses: that it can be true of someone that he has a duty to love a particular person, and that once people love each other, their love can be better or worse in moral regard. After examining the theoretical and conceptual problems that affect the idea of a duty to love and the idea of a morally defect love, the results will be applied to parental love and filial love. Ought parents not only to take care of their children but also to love them? Can they do so in better or worse ways, and can these qualitative differences be spelled out in moral terms? Can they demand that their children love them back? The aspired formulation of an ethics of parental and filial love will fill a lacuna in contemporary moral philosophy, and will address moral questions of interest to a wide public insofar as they are at the heart of family life.

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  • Research Project

Love as the source of morality 01/02/2014 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

Love and morality guide many of our actions, but the relationship between these two sources of normativity is complicated. In preparation for a major grant-application current philosophical ideas about this relation will be collected and discussed, primarily through the organisation of a Symposium in Antwerp and participation to international conferences. The guiding hypothesis is that morality is not in tension with but rather presupposes love.

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  • Research Project

Legal Normativity: A Meta-Ethical Assessment of the Interpretivist Account. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

The proposed research should be regarded as a specific contribution to the general effort of explaining and justifying the normative dimension of law. In particular, the focus of the project is provided by a given legal theory aiming at such an explanatory and justificatory account of the normativity of law, namely, interpretivism. The resources that interpretivism has to account for legal normativity will be explored in detail and submitted to thorough criticism, thereby relying on but also contributing to current meta-ethical debates. The value of the proposed research is twofold, theoretical and practical. On the one hand, the theoretical significance of the research is due to the fact that it addresses a classical philosophical problem whose implications range over the disciplines of law and philosophy. On the other hand, the practical significance of the research is demonstrated by its relevance to a host of seminal questions surrounding our daily engagement with the legal doctrine: 'What are the roots of legal obligation?' 'To which extent is legal obligation confined to the state and to which can it arise independently of states at the global level?' 'Is there a hierarchy of norms in international law?' 'Are there universal human rights, and if so on what grounds?' Finally, 'how and to what extent are legal obligations connected to obligations arising from justice?' These questions concern us not only as legal theorists, philosophers and lawyers, but also as responsible citizens. It follows that a theory of law's normativity is going to impact considerably on our ordinary lives.

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  • Research Project