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Kristoffer Balslev Willert

PhD Student

Kristoffer Balslev Willert

Profile

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy from Copenhagen University and a Master's degree in Philosophy from Aarhus University. During my Master's degree I spend a semester at Bonn University under the supervision of Prof. Markus Gabriel, whose work Warum es die Welt nicht gibt I've translated into Danish (Philosophia, 2018). I edit the Danish philosophy journal Paradoks: www.paradoks.nu. I also edited a book that was published in 2022 called Planetære frakturer (Planetary Fractures) at Multivers with a grant from Aarhus University Research Fund (72.000 kroner), which contains human and social scientific contributions to understanding the climate crisis. I occasionally review political and philosophical books in different journals and news papers (Dagbladet Information).

I am a reviewer at several international philosophy journals (such as Inquiry, History of Philosophy Quarterly, and British Journal for the History of Philosophy). I am also an affiliate of the following international research centres:

CV


Research

My main philosophical interest comes with the reception of Kantian philosophy, both in German Idealism and parts of contemporary philosophy, which is also the setting for my current PhD-project.

There is a growing tendency within most contemporary philosophical hemispheres towards understanding human existence in virtue of something non-human; towards post- or anti-humanism. A predominant example is Scientistic Naturalism (SN) – although an allied incentive underlies so-called new materialist or speculative realist positions within (so-called) ‘continental’ philosophy. In rough terms, SN maintains that ‘nature’ exhausts what exists, and that nature is whatever the natural sciences construct their theories about. This standpoint entails, in broad strokes, that humans are non-exceptional. Features usually associated with human life and existence – such as normativity, values, history, religious beliefs, meta-cognition, freedom and meaning production – are no more than ‘natural’ or ‘physical’ phenomena or concepts to be explained (away) by the ‘hard’ natural sciences, such as microphysics, evolutionary biology and neuroscience. In my dissertation, I aim to explore and critically examine this pronounced tendency towards post-humanism. One of my leading assumptions is the need for critiquing post-humanism from a different standpoint than the common ‘pragmatist’ or ‘anti-metaphysical’ one (e.g., McDowell, Brandom, Rice). In the thesis, I will do so by turning to F. W. J. Schelling’s metaphysics; more specifically, a series of his texts from 1797 to 1810. My thesis statement is that Schelling constructed what I shall call a naturalistic existentialism by defending the view that humans must be regarded as special, at least compared to non-animate nature, qua being free, theory-mongering and norm-sensitive creatures (summed up with the term Geist, which I reconstruct as Schelling’s philosophical anthropology), albeit being dependent upon and part of what he calls Nature – his concept for the unrestricted totality of what there is, including irreducible human subjectivity. Schelling calls this stance a “mutual saturation of Idealism and Realism” (SW, VII: 350), which I will reconstruct as a type of neutral monism (comparable to Thomas Nagel’s recent version of it), which includes process philosophical and gradualist elements together with a thorough critique of mechanical conceptions of nature (in its different disguises all the way from Epicurus to Kant’s first Critique, and from Laplace to Dennett and Dawkins). Essentially, this is the view that the minimal conditions for the existence of agency is that the domain of Nature is compatible with that sort of existence, without it being exhaustively reduced to certain preceding properties of this domain. Since this position shares certain anti-naturalist commitments that are present within so-called ‘analytical’ philosophy, such as Timothy Williamson, Hilary Putnam and Thomas Nagel, the project will also bridge the gap between different traditions, that for many seem incompatible.

This critical stance towards post-humanism shall finally provide a basis for engaging with questions of normativity and human responsibility that arise out of the idea that we live in the Anthropocene era – the natural-geological age where man impacts the Earth System as a powerful and fatal agent – by stipulating a confined locality of normativity. The overall aim is thus to provide an alternative to post-humanist ontology and display how such an alternative is not only more well-founded on its own, but also more fitting for the political and ethical queries that we presently find ourselves in.

Areas of specialization: History of Philosophy (Modern Philosophy, Kant, German Idealism); Metaphysics; Naturalism/anti-naturalism; Climate Philosophy

Areas of competence: Philosophical methodology (Metaphilosophy); Philosophical Aesthetics; Philosophy of Mind; Phenomenology; Critical Thinking; Normativity of logic

I am happy to supervise BA-projects that somehow fall under my research interests. Contact me at any time.

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