Humboldt Foundation

The Anneliese Maier Research Award

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awarded the first Anneliese Maier Research Award in 2011 to seven humanities scholars and social scientists. The new collaboration award is designed to promote the internationalisation of the humanities and social sciences in Germany and will be awarded annually to outstanding researchers from outside of Germany.. The award amount of EUR 250,000 will be used to finance research collaboration with specialist colleagues in Germany for a period of five years. Shaun Gallagher was nominated by Prof. Albert Newen at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) and will act as the primary collaborative partner in Germany.

The award is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and named after the philosopher and historian of science Anneliese Maier (1905 in Tübingen, Germany – 1971 in Rome, Italy). Her international biography was unusual for the time and her academic traditions. Maier conducted research on the emergence of modern scientific thought from the 14th to 18th centuries, particularly in the natural sciences.

The research award will support research visits by Profs. Gallagher and Newen, and exchanges of Ph.D. Students and Post-doc researchers between Ruhr-Universität Bochum, and the Universities of Memphis (USA) and Hertfordshire (UK).

Announcement of the Anneliese Maier Research Award (RUB)].


Past and continuing connections

In 2007, at the invitation of Prof. Newen, Prof. Gallagher gave the Carnap Lectures at the university of Bochum addressed especially to PhD students and postdocs. Since then Prof. Gallagher has been regularly involved in meetings and initiatives organized in the context of research projects of Prof. Newen’s research group, including the co-supervision of a Ph.D. research student.  

The Anneliese Maier Research Awardwill allow Prof. Gallagher to continue researching topics in the area of the philosophy of intersubjectivity and action theory in cooperation with Prof. Newen and several members of his research group (three postdocs and six PhD-students). Gallagher will be a fellow of the Institut für Philosophie II at the Ruhr-University Bochum with special cooperation with Prof. Dr. T. Schlicht and Prof. Dr. M. Werningm and colleagues in other faculties (e.g. social sciences, psychology, neurosciences). Research topics will include:

  1. Social Cognition and Action Theory:  Recent debates in philosophy of mind and cognitive science on the concepts of agency, action, free will and responsibility have been undertaken with special reference to neuroscientific and experimental psychological studies.  Gallagher (2006) joined this debate arguing that free will and its associated concepts require a time frame more appropriate for intentional action than provided in the neuroscientific studies.  More recently he has been exploring the role of social interaction in regard to the development of agency.  Since, from infancy, we learn to act in intentional ways by seeing, imitating, and interacting with others, the analysis of agency, free will and responsibility needs to take these social aspects into account.  Gallagher takes a pragmatic approach to these questions and suggests that we need to think of free will and responsibility not as absolute properties or capacities of an individual, but as matters of degree that accrue to agents who are interacting with others. Dimensions of this discussion include: (i) specific features of joint action (with Newen and Fiebich), (ii) how institutions shape our actions extending to the well-established practices of educational, cultural, and legal institutions (Newen, van Riel) and (iii) how we can adequately account for control of actions. The latter is a ongoing research topic of a NRW-junior research group in psychology (Dr. C. Bellebaum) and empirical research in psychiatry (Prof. Dr. Martin Brüne together with Prof. Newen) and in biopsychology (Prof. Onur Güntürkün).
  2. Understanding Other Minds: This topic is one of the most important topics in social cognition. Gallagher developed the interaction theory of understanding others (Gallagher 2001; 2005; 2007; Gallagher & Hutto 2008). Newen developed a theory based on a person model (Newen/Schlicht 2009). Both accounts have overlapping and distinctive parts. It is one aim to improve both accounts and to work out whether this could develop into a shared theory of understanding others. The cooperation involves Prof. Newen and Prof. Dr. Tobias Schlicht in Bochum.
  3. The role of memory in social cognition and its development: In Bochum there is established an internationally outstanding “Mercator Research Group” working on “memory” from the perspectives of philosophy, psychology and neuroscience. This will also be an area of research for Gallagher.

Prof. Newen established the Center for Mind, Brain and Cognitive Evolution in July 2011. Gallagher is a member of the scientific advisory board for the center, and was one of three international keynote speakers at it's inauguration. The Center includes members from philosophy, psychology, neuroinformatics and neurosciences.

Prof. Gallagher will also be able to visit varioius institutes of philosophy in Germany and several similar centers or institutes that have an interdisciplinary focus on “mind and brain” or on a combination of philosophy, psychology and neurosciences. Those institutes or initiatives can be found e.g. in Berlin’s School of Mind and Brain, Osnabrück’s department of cognitive science, Tübingen’s philosophy and CIN cluster developing a section of neurophilosophy and similar cooperations in Köln (Prof. Dr. Kai Vogeley) or Heidelberg (Prof. Dr. Thomas Fuchs). The goal is to advance the humanities in Germany, especially the field of philosophy, and to shape new interdisciplinary connections of humanities and natural sciences.