Daniel Skibra did his PhD at Northwestern University, USA. Prior to coming to the Zukunftskolleg, he already worked at the University of Konstanz as a postdoc on the project “Universal Preferences for Natural Concepts” in the Departments of Linguistic and Philosophy.
His research project at the Zukunftskolleg – which is entitled “Reassessing Desire for Mode and Content” – has to do with desire, its peculiar representational properties, and how these differ from other psychological states like belief, for example. “Typically, we’d say both belief and desire are representational states”, explains Daniel. “What this means can be illustrated by some examples: When I believe something (say, that Olaf Scholz is the Bundeskanzler), I stand in relation to what philosophers have called the “content” of the belief, which we can think of as a representation of the way I take the world to be. In this case, that’s a representation that Scholz is the Bundesklanzler. In desiring something, I also stand in some kind of relation to content; one that characterizes how I’d like the world to be. If I’m waiting in line at the polls, I may want it to be the case that Scholz is the Bundeskanzler (and so I would vote accordingly). This results in a picture that analyzes these psychological states into a content (the representational component of the state) and a mode (the relation to the content one is in when one has this attitude).
This way of thinking about things leads to a simple and elegant picture of psychological states, which has been popular both in philosophy and in neighboring disciplines. And it also allows for a very neat interface between our thoughts and what we express with our language in communication. The problem is, this simple picture I described above is not articulated very precisely, and once we probe the details, complications quickly mount. Without getting into the complications too much, I’ll simply say: desire content doesn’t really behave the way we expect representations to behave, and it behaves differently enough from belief content that one begins to suspect that this mode/content picture can’t provide the simple and elegant picture we hoped for. Maybe it’s just the wrong way to think about psychological states.”
His project involves evaluating this mode/content account of desire by taking the challenges seriously. “And I have a suspicion that we can provide an account of desire that indicates this way of thinking of psychological states after all.”
Daniel is very happy to be at the Zukunftskolleg: “Not only am I happy to be able to continue the collaborations I already had the good fortune to start with my colleagues in Konstanz, I’m excited to start more.”
We wish him a good start and all the best for his time at the Zukunftskolleg!
Website of Daniel Skibra: www.danielskibra.weebly.com