UP1: Interpersonal and Phenomenal Understanding (Essen)

Although both explanatory understanding and recognizing another person’s mental states are clearly important for interpersonal understanding, the guiding assumption of this sub-project is that interpersonal understanding involves more than these two components. In particular, I assume that an essential aspect of interpersonal understanding is understanding what it is like or how it feels for another to be in some situation. I will focus primarily on affective states, firstly, because it is relatively uncontroversial that affective states have phenomenal qualities. Secondly, affects play a central role in a person’s psychology, so that understanding a person’s affective states is a key aspect of interpersonal understanding.

What it means to understand affective states depends on the fact that affects are essentially conscious; it is primarily in virtue of this fact that there is a specific form of understanding which focuses on what it is like for a person to be in her specific state. According to my working hypothesis, then, this is a key reason why interpersonal understanding cannot be reduced to explanatory understanding or propositional knowledge about the target’s mental states. The aim of the subproject is, accordingly, to develop an account of phenomenal understanding of other persons’ psychological, particularly affective states. In doing so, phenomenal understanding will be examined in its relations both to phenomenal knowledge and to other types of understanding, in particular, explanatory understanding.

Christiana Werner PhEEL

Christiana Werner

Christiana’s research focuses on philosophy of mind, epistemology and aesthetics, in particular, she is interested in the role of empathy and emotions in different processes of understanding. Before starting her project on Interpersonal and Phenomenal Understanding at the Duisburg-Essen University, Christiana worked one year at the Philosophical Seminar at the University of Göttingen. From 2013-1019, she had a postdoc position and was a member of the Junior Research Group "Language, Cognition and Text"; at the Graduate School of Humanities at the University of Göttingen. Since 2018, Christiana has been coordinating the interdisciplinary research network "Feeling and Understanding. The Role of Empathy in Understanding People and Literature" funded by DFG (https://fuehlenundverstehen.net/). She received her doctoral degree from the University of Regensburg in 2012 for her thesis on fictional speech and fictional characters.





Werner, Christiana, Empathy’s Role in Understanding Persons, Literature, and Art, Routledge 2024 (Open Access on www.taylorfrancis.com) edited together with Thomas Petraschka

Werner, Christiana (2024). “Tell me, how does it feel?” – Learning what it is like through literature. In: Empathy’s Role in Understanding Persons, Literature, and Art, Routledge (Open Access on www.taylorfrancis.com)

Werner, Christiana (2020). Emotions, Actions and Action Tendencies. Erkenntnis, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-020-00316-2

Werner, Christiana (2020). “See Me, Feel Me”: Two Modes of Affec Recognition for Real and Fictional Targets. Topoi 39, 827–834.

Werner, Christiana (2019). Are emotional responses necessary for an adequate understanding of literary texts? In: Debates in Aesthetics, S. 45–59 (with Eva-Maria Konrad and Thomas Petraschka)