Research projects of Faculty
“Political Culture and the Foundations of Liberal Democracy”
My current research seeks to understand how political orientations and social values evolve, can be rationally assessed, shape government and law, and in turn are shaped by them. The specific hypothesis is that answering these questions illuminates the aims, foundations, and justifications of liberal-democracy.
My current research bears on the philosophical reception of literature in Plato’ work and more broadly on philosophy of literature. Plato’s dialogues are both the result and the expression of literary criticism. Although Plato seems at first sight an enemy of poetry and art in general, he uses numerous literary techniques in his dialogues. Philosophy merges into literature, and new literary genre is created. I am currently working on a book entitled Literary Territory and Philosophic Territory: The Platonic Annexation.
“Peirce and the Threat of Nominalism”
Peirce views nominalism as a systematic theory of knowledge, values and metaphysics, typical of empiricism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the book I am working on, I explain Peirce's systematic response to nominalism and argue at each stage that his views are driven by his innovations in logic and mathematics.
“Political Theory and Aesthetics, 1750-1900”
This project seeks to clarify the sources and political consequences of aesthetic though in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, tracing the emergence of important new ideas of the self in relation to nature, society, and the constructed environment. The focus is on romanticism and German idealism, stressing their contemporary relevance.
I am currently working on the nature of rationality. The overall research strategy at this stage consists in investigating the views about rationality inherent in the key thinkers—such as Frege, Wittgenstein, Quine and Davidson—and in elaborating a link between them. This requires a careful reading of selected texts from these philosophers and extracting a conception of ratonality from it, and then defending my interpretation against conflicting ones.
“Hegel and the Ethical Dimension of Objective Discourse”
I am investigating different forms of discourse as they arise in the Phenomenology of Spirit, where they accompany each figure of consciousness. Since each figure presents a certain way of being in the world and being with others, these forms of discourses have ethical import, in the Hegelian sense of recognizing the selfhood of others. How does the language we use engender the ethical space we live in?
I am currently working on ethical issues relating to emotion-work and emotion-transfer, two areas on which there is a fairly extensive empirical literature within social sciences and psychology, but on which there has been relatively little work in philosophy, despite the renewed interest in philosophy of emotion generally and ethical issues relating to emotions specifically. This research also ties in more broadly with my interests in issues relating to psychological realism in moral philosophy.
Je travaille actuellement sur deux projets de recherche. Le premier vise à mettre en lumière et à évaluer les différents fondements normatifs sur lesquels nous pouvons construire des justifications de droits linguistiques et culturels. Distinguer ces sources de normativité (recherche d’égalité, reconnaissance de l’identité, préservation d’objet ayant une valeur instrumentale ou intrinsèque, internalisation d’externalités, etc.) et évaluer la possibilité d’en faire découler des droits ou des politiques permet de jeter un éclairage nouveau sur la littérature portant sur les droits linguistiques et culturels et de remettre en question des arguments et des conclusions généralement acceptées.
Mon second projet de recherche porte sur la confiance interpersonnelle et sociale, sur ses déterminants et sur son importance pour les théories institutionnelles. Plus précisément, et en lien avec mes préoccupations linguistiques et culturelles, j’analyse une trouvaille récente qui établit une corrélation entre l’hétérogénéité des communautés (socioéconomique et ethnoculturelle) et un niveau de confiance moins élevé envers les individus formant cette communauté ainsi que les institutions propres à celle-ci. Une meilleure compréhension de cette corrélation ainsi que de la nature et des déterminants de la confiance pourront permettre de tirer des conclusions normatives importantes entre autres pour la configuration des institutions. Ce travail de recherche est rendu possible grâce à la participation financière du Programme Développement Savoir du CRSH (jusqu’en 2014).
Rusnock, Paul *
The main focus of my current research is the Prague philosopher Bernard Bolzano (1781-1848). One of the greatest philosophers of the nineteenth century, Bolzano made outstanding contributions to logic, the philosophy of mathematics, metaphysics, ethics, political philosophy, the philosophy of religion, and aesthetics. He was also a public intellectual who played an important role in the history of his homeland, Bohemia (today part of the Czech Republic). I am now working with two senior Bolzano scholars (Rolf George of the University of Waterloo and Jan Sebestik of the CNRS, France) on a variety of projects to make Bolzano's contributions better known and more accessible to English- and French-speaking philosophers. These include interpretive studies, a general introduction to Bolzano's life and work, and translation (including a complete English translation of Bolzano's Wissenschaftslehre).
Sikka, Sonia *
“Cultural Identity from Herder to Heidegger”
I am currently working on a project that examines the idea of cultural identity in the writings of German philosophers, focusing particularly on the thought of Johann Gottfried Herder. Themes covered in my study include: language, race, religion, reason, relativism and pluralism.
Current major research project: a study of offense and offensiveness. Claims about being offended or about something (e.g., a work of art) being offensive are a familiar part of everyday speech, but philosophers have given them very little attention. This project aims to rectify this. Secondary topics implicated in this project include the moral status of emotions, the nature and significance of symbolic value, freedom of speech, blasphemy, and obscenity. This work fits into the same broad study of philosophical psychology as found in my Autonomy (2013) and Like-Minded (2011).
* This research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).