Postdoc Position in Philosophy

Position available at the Institute of Philosophy II
(Research Group: Prof. Newen)
Ruhr-University Bochum

Call for applications

Title of the Collaborative Project: The structure and development of understanding actions and reasons

Thematic Focus for the Position: The cognitive architecture of false belief understanding: Can mental files help to solve the false belief paradox?

At the Institute of Philosophy II of the Ruhr-University in Bochum a postdoc position (100% TVL) is offered in the area of philosophy of mind and cognition in the research group of Prof. Albert Newen (presupposing formal administrative consent of the university). The position is available for a period of three years (with an assessment after the first year). The subproject will be situated in Bochum and developed in a close collaboration with further philosophers from the universities Bochum (Prof. T. Schlicht) and Zurich (Prof. H.-J. Glock). In addition, the project is embedded in a close collaboration with the psychology department in Salzburg (Prof. J. Perner). Thus, ideally, the candidate has a strong background and interest in philosophy of mind and cognition as well as developmental psychology as a basis for grounding philosophical theories. These dimensions are expected to be applied to discuss the paradox of false belief understanding in the context of understanding actions and reasons of other agents.
Preconditions: The applicants are expected to have an excellent PhD in Philosophy. Their area of expertise should be in Philosophy of Mind and/or Philosophy of Understanding Others. They should, in addition, be familiar with at least one of the following areas: Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology or Cognitive Neuroscience.
The applicants need not speak German at the time of application but he or she should be willing to learn German in order to be able to engage in everyday conversations soon. Candidates should be prepared to participate in weekly meetings of the research group or research colloquia of Prof. Newen in Bochum and take responsibility for working cooperatively in the research team. Teaching in English is expected in average one course per semester starting in the winter semester 2018/19. Topics of the teaching courses can be closely related to the research project.
The position is available from 1st June 2018. The position is available for a period of three years (with an assessment after the first year).
Please submit your applications with the usual documents (CV; copies of all certificates; a list of publications, talks, conferences attended and teaching experience – together with one article or book chapter of your choice). Since the research project is thematically constraint, please send a description how you want to combine your work up to now with publications in the focus of the research project on false belief understanding (max. 1 page). Please make two PDF files: one with all documents and one with your article/book chapter and submit them via email until 1st of March 2018 to (hard copy submissions cannot be returned):  sekretariat-newen (at) RUB.DE
More details can be found at:
For specific questions please contact: albert.newen (at)

The Structure and Development of Understanding Actions and Reasons
This project aims at a comprehensive theory of the structure and development of how humans, in particular children, understand the actions and reasons of others. It is thus restricted in the sense that only the understanding, not the performance of action is concerned, and that the focus is on understanding the actions and reasons of others, not one’s own. To this end, philosophical and empirical subprojects are interlocked in order to conceptually develop and empirically test a theoretical framework in one and the same collaborative project. The project can be divided into 3 subprojects: (1) Philosophical investigations of a naturalistic non-psychologistic conception of a reason for action (working hypothesis a): A conception of reasons as objective facts still allows for both action explanations in terms of objective reasons (facts) and of subjective reasons (beliefs), if the latter reflect an understanding of belief as a perspective on the objective states of affairs, in which false beliefs represent potential facts (Zürich: Glock); (2) The theoretical development and empirical testing of a layered teleological framework for describing how we develop an understanding of others by distinguishing types of action explanation (working hypothesis b): Between 6 to 12 months, infants understand goal-directed actions of others only as regularities, lacking a sensitivity to reasons. At ca. 18 months, children acquire a teleological understanding of actions based on evaluations of the desirability of goals, i.e. an objective goal of an action worth pursuing. Around 4 years, children understand that intentional actions of others can be motivated by subjective reasons, i.e. they understand actions on the basis of belief-ascriptions as perspectives on an objective situation (Bochum: Schlicht, Salzburg: Perner). (3) The philosophical formulation of a cognitive architecture based on the notion of mental files which is applied to the development of understanding beliefs and reasons (working hypothesis c): Mental files theory tells us how knowledge about the world and others is represented and organized and explains the developmental paradox that infants from 7-15 months seem to be able to pass implicit false-belief tasks but can only pass explicit tasks at the age of 4 years (Bochum: Newen, Salzburg: Perner). All philosophical projects are interdependent and interlocked with empirical research. This ambitious project makes substantial and original contributions to central debates in the philosophy of mind and action and the cognitive science of social cognition. To pursue this project, experts from Bochum, Salzburg and Zürich will collaborate closely in this unique interdisciplinary constellation which promises to yield a comprehensive, conceptually sound, and empirically supported theory of the structure and development of understanding actions and reasons.