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Humboldt-Fellowship “Rethinking Personhood and Solidarity”

Dr. Elodie Boublil held a Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship in Paris (CNRS-ENS) before being awarded a scholarship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to carry out the following research project at the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School, University of Cologne.

Project: “Rethinking Personhood and Solidarity: The Anthropological and Ethical Contributions of the Phenomenology of Feeling (Gemüt)”

What determinants compel an individual to act when facing the suffering of another? Is it based on its personal history and constitution (i.e., biographical and psychological determinants)? Is it contingent upon its cultural and educational backgrounds? How do we move from emotions to action and commitment? What does it take for a community to unite and stand collectively against injustice and violence? These questions underpin contemporary research in phenomenology and practical philosophy and have led to a growing interest in empathy theories and social ontology. Current debates aim indeed to ground ethics upon an anthropologically adequate picture of affectivity and interpersonal relations.

This project investigates the phenomenological descriptions of feeling (Gemüt), as elaborated in the works of Alexander Pfänder, Edith Stein and Stephan Strasser in order to rethink the notions of personhood and solidarity. These authors developed a philosophical anthropology of “feeling” (Gemüt), stemming from theology, German idealism and classical phenomenology, in order to address issues related to self-constitution, decision-making and community bonding. Contemporary research in philosophy, and especially in phenomenology and ethics, has recently demonstrated a shift toward social ontology, the phenomenology of emotions, the nature of the self and empathy, and the role of collective emotions in the development of political communities. This research project acknowledges this anthropological turn to affectivity. Yet, it contends that the underexploited works written by these authors could significantly contribute to overcome the tensions between rationality and affectivity, still at work in contemporary research. Moreover, their accounts provide new understandings of personhood and solidarity that can help elucidate the paradoxical responses to vulnerability at play in contemporary societies, namely the tensions between resilience and violence, solidarity and group-exclusion, the longing for a common horizon and the individualistic quest for self-achievement.

This research project will examine how these authors recast the notion of feeling (Gemüt) by providing: 1/ an embodied picture of personhood that, nonetheless, accounts for the inner and spiritual life of the subject; 2/ a relational and interpersonal conception of personhood and motivation that can renew our sense of solidarity, beyond the dichotomy between liberal and communitarian frameworks; 3/ a complex description of the intertwining of social norms and moral values that fosters a new approach to worldview’s formation and their impact on the subject’s moral life.