My intellectual interests lie on the boundary between philosophy of society and the sciences of mind and brain. A common view about the nature of social reality holds that social facts exist as the product of human activity. In what sense are individual minds responsible for bringing about acts of sociality, from the most basic forms of infant communication to institutional engineering?
There are two sides to this question: ontological and epistemological. The ontological question explores the processes and mechanisms of the mind upon which social kinds would rely for their existence and identity. The epistemological question asks how we gain a better understanding of the foundations of social reality and behaviour in science, given that laboratory experiments presuppose ‘interacting minds’ as a default assumption in both design and interpretation.
Both questions have been central to my research since I entered grad school. In the PhD thesis I offered a naturalistic characterization of the view that sociality might depend on the capacity of individuals to share the mental states of others and form collective intentional states. In philosophical parlance, ‘collective intentionality’ refers both to the capacity of sharing minds and to the field of research that has established itself as the most authoritative approach to social ontology.
In my recent work as a postdoc, I have developed the naturalistic approach to collective intentionality by drawing on the empirical research on ‘modes’ of cognition other than the individual mode. I am particularly intrigued by the idea that social understanding and interaction might be sustained by an irreducibly collective mode of thought and agency that can be expressed in ordinary language by means of first-person plural concepts – something I dub the ‘we-mode hypothesis’.
Over the years I addressed these questions in various places including Manchester, Oxford, Berkeley, Tartu, Rome, Copenhagen, London, San Sebastian, Warwick, Basel, Leipzig and Cambridge.