The Constitution of Subjectivity

Practical Philosophy and Philosophy of man and culture

Members of the Groups for Practical Philosophy and the Philosophy of Man and Culture jointly
combine a detailed study of texts with the philosophical exploration of key contemporary topics in
science, art and politics. We combine conceptual analysis with a critical perspective aimed at
engaging in interdisciplinary cooperation, public and political debate, and practical application. This
aim is reflected by a two-tiered publication strategy that does not only aim at the usual academic
outlets but also at publications that reach a wider public of professionals, artists, and policymakers.
We focus on the constitution of subjectivity through its enacted, embodied, embedded, and
extended participation in moral, socio-political, cultural, and technological practices. The deepening
of the contemporary economic and ecological crises, together with the increasing technological
complexity of our life-world, necessitates a redefinition of our relationship with nature, each other
and ourselves. At stake are the legacy of social liberation and emancipation articulated by
Enlightenment humanism and our capacity to take responsibility for the consequences of our
actions.   


(a) Humanist/Post-Humanist Views on Identity and Agency. Today science, culture and technology
have become a closely knit whole. As a consequence, traditional questions of philosophical
anthropology and the philosophy of mind and action increasingly converge with the philosophy of
technology and with science and technology studies. Instead of affirming the individualist picture of
ourselves as autonomous rational agents, we need to get a new grip on the relevance and meaning
of concepts such as identity, privacy, ownership, free will, individual responsibility and the moral
issues informed by such notions. The most recent findings in the life sciences and the neuro-,
behavioral, and cognitive sciences serve as our point of departure.


(b) Critique and Empowerment. The constant disavowal of our capacity to take responsibility, not
just for our own words and actions, but also for our modes of relating to our social and physical
environments, problematizes the modern, emancipated form of subjectivity. Moreover, contemporary
transformations of citizenship and of traditional social, economic, political, juridical, corporate,
cultural and artistic institutions change the conditions under which this subjectivity appears. In a
critical sense we aim to contribute to the discussion by articulating a diagnosis of contemporary
subjectivity through concepts such as boredom, indifference, interpassivity and ressentiment. In an
affirmative sense, we aim for a theoretical analysis and renegotiation of the relation between
institutional domains – with a special emphasis on intermedial practices between art and philosophy
– that enables us to overcome the sense of impotence and corresponding lack of care, attention and
trust.