Prof. Dr. Albert Newen, Institute of Philosophy

Albert Newen

Research Programme:

The main focus of the research group of Prof. Newen lies on the areas philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. Adjacent areas like epistemology, logic, ontology and theory of emotion and action and philosophy of science are partly included into the research projects.

One methodological background assumption is a representational theory of mind in a general sense: It is presupposed that all our mental phenomena can be described by presupposing mental representations which can be and often are causally relevant to trigger our behavior. Furthermore, mind and language are investigated from an interdisciplinary perspective such that the philosophical theory formation is essentially based on the relevant empirical discoveries in psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience. Even more: The philosophical theory is then used for developing key experiments which are critical for supporting the theory or respectively modifying it.

In our research, we develop new philosophical theories on the basis of recent empirical discoveries. The contrasting philosophical background consists of traditional theories of mental phenomena which usually were developed as armchair theories. In close cooperation with developmental psychology we try to work out the ontogenetic dimension of mental phenomena in order to understand the acquisition conditions for mental phenomena. Knowing the acquisition conditions is usually an important aspect for an adequate understanding of the constituting conditions. Cooperation with researchers in biopsychology is the basis for a systematic comparison of human cognition and animal minds. Furthermore, the general representational framework allows us to investigate mental abilities even in robots. Cooperations with psychiatry and neuroscience constitute the framework for a systematic investigation of neural correlates of the relevant mental activities in normal cases but also in cases of mental diseases. The medical perspective of deviant cases is one of the most important sources of knowledge that demands a re-evaluation of the human mind.

The main ongoing research projects are “Self-Consciousness and Concept Formation”, “Natural and social foundations of cognitive abilities”, “Understanding Other Minds”, and “Social Information Processing and Culture”.

The relevant research topics in the area of philosophy of mind are: Self-consciousness, Self-deception, consciousness, Conceptual and nonconceptual representations, knowing-how and knowing-that, classifying emotions and understanding their functional role, animal minds, concepts and perception, intentionality, joint attention, understanding other minds, thought and language, metaphors in the philosophy of mind, etc.

Relevant research topics in the area of philosophy of language are e.g.:

  • Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Quine, Davidson, Kripke
  • meaning of singular terms, meaning of indexicals
  • two-dimensional semantics
  • a cognitive theory of concepts and meaning