Line 1: “Practices: Values, Standards and Institutions” (leader: T. Boccon-Gibod)
IPhiG’s first line of research is devoted to human practices and their standards, such as they exist within contemporary societies. The development of this line takes the form of work aimed at understanding actual practices addressed within their political, ethical and legal dimensions, as well as normative proposals formulated both in theoretical work and within non-philosophical bodies of reflection (medical ethics committees, workshops on research ethics, etc.). Line1 thus seeks, with the declared objective of elucidating contemporary practices such as they exist, to meet the demands expressed by the academic world (for example, the ethics of science, care ethics and research ethics) and by civil society (for example, concerning the meaning of punishment, authority, gestational surrogacy (GPA), euthanasia or regarding corruption in public ethics) for an in-depth reflection on the rules and values governing our conduct, the processes by which they are formulated and their modes of application.
More precisely, the activities of line 1 take two main directions.
Basic ethics and applied ethics
Line 1’s first direction focuses on the various aspects of the ethics under consideration– applied, normative, and meta-ethics – and pursues a variety of themes that figure prominently on the current ethics agenda – in particular, the ethics of innovation, feminist ethics, care ethics, research ethics, bioethics, the ethics of artificial intelligence, and work ethics – paying close attention to the sources and resources that current ethics can find in the history of ethics and moral philosophy.
Political and legal philosophy
Line 1’s second direction is devoted to the standards of practices, standards regarded as institutional phenomena. Driven by the objective of elucidating the historical evolution of modern and contemporary social, political and legal forms (for example, by studying contemporary governmentality or the destiny of political categories resulting from modernity), it questions the way in which standards are constituted within institutions and confronts the issues raised by their application and the exercise of the power they involve. More specifically, this second line consolidates work relating to political and social philosophy, on the one hand, and the philosophy of law and public ethics on the other.
Line 2: “Mind: Cognition and Language” (leader: K. Michaelian)
The IPhiG’s second main line of research (PPL) questions the nature of the mind, (or) of cognitive life, with a special emphasis on the themes of memory, intentionality and language. The work carried out takes place within current theoretical frameworks, which are arranged as follows: the naturalistic approach enshrined in the field of cognitive sciences, on the one hand, and non-naturalistic approaches that favour logical and conceptual analysis, on the other. This line debates the question of the nature of the mind and how to go about elucidating it. Does the use of empirical methods provided by cognitive neuropsychology, with their own modes of delivering evidence, lead to a proper understanding of cognitive life? Or should less — or even non — empirical methods be chosen? For example, should semantics be constructed by means of an exclusively logical and pragmatic analysis, or should prominence be given, when considering naturalised semantics, to psychological operations and their experimental examination? Similar questions arise concerning memory and intentionality. More precisely, the activities of line 2 are arranged in two main directions.
Philosophical approaches to the mind
Line 2’s first direction brings together the naturalistic approach and conceptual analysis as regards several psychological concepts. Dedicated mainly to memory, the imagination and intentionality, it provides an opportunity to contrast but also combine the philosophical resources offered by empirical work in cognitive neuropsychology and conceptual analysis promoted by the philosophy of ordinary language, in order to address questions relating to the philosophy of the mind.
Mind and language
Research within the IPhiG has long been rooted in reflections on language. After having mainly produced work relating to logical languages and natural languages, and having explored their semantic and pragmatic aspects, line 2’s second direction now questions the relationship between mind and language, whether through the neo-Wittgensteinian approach of elucidating the mind via the analysis of ordinary language, or through using a naturalistic approach which raises the question of the nature of the cognitive processes brought into play by the use of language, for example by examining the role of perception and the various forms of inference at work in the semantic interpretation of natural languages.
Line 3: “The History of Philosophy” (leader: I. Römer)
This line has two objectives. On the one hand, it develops contributions to the history of philosophy through the interpretation of texts. These contributions cover the ancient period (the Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus), modern philosophy (Machiavelli, Hume, Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau) and German philosophy (Kant, Husserl and Heidegger). On the other hand, its research questions the ways in which the history of philosophy influences the thinking of contemporary philosophy and current world issues.
Research in ancient philosophy relates to the Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus. The initial leading question is that of the relationship between theory and practice, in particular the theoretical foundations of moral and political action. A second direction concerns the question of the relationship between thought and language in antiquity.
There are two aspects to research in modern philosophy. On the one hand, it is devoted to the history of political philosophy in Machiavelli, the Raison d’Etat (national interest) and the construction of the modern liberalism-republicanism dilemma (Spinoza, Hume, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau). On the other hand, it studies moral naturalism. Studies devoted to the moral philosophy of David Hume feature prominently. To these is added work on the question of the relationship between aesthetics and morality in the 18th and 19th centuries.
There are two strands to German philosophy. On the one hand, there is Kantian research, with studies focusing on metaphysics and moral philosophy. On the other hand, research on German phenomenology and its acceptance by French phenomenology features prominently, especially with regard to the issues of time, history, subjectivity, ethics and metaphysics.
Research which is initially conceived as a contribution to contemporary philosophical debates frequently comes up against issues relating to the history of philosophy. This applies to the philosophy of action, to concrete and applied questions of moral, social and political philosophy, to research in the tradition of Michel Foucault, to the history and philosophy of biology and also to the philosophy of time and memory. It is in relation to this work that there is some overlap between line 3 and lines 1 and 2.