Dual Character Concepts


funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation

From September 2019 onwards I will be an Assistant Professor (Eccellenza Professorial Fellow) at the University of Zurich. This Professorship will be funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

My main research focus will be on dual character concepts.

The recent discovery of so-called dual character concepts presents a new and formidable challenge for the neat distinction between the descriptive and the normative realm. Dual character concepts have two related but independent dimensions for categorization: one descriptive, one normative. To illustrate their two-fold structure, take the example of an artist: On the one hand, we consider a person to be an artist, if certain descriptive features, such as painting pictures for a living, are met. On the other hand, we may also conceive of a person as an artist if she fulfils certain normative criteria that represent what most people believe an artist should be or should do, for instance, be committed to creating works of deep aesthetic value. The descriptive and normative dimensions of dual character concepts are independent of each other in the sense that a person can fulfil either of these two dimensions without satisfying the other. For more on dual character concepts see my recent article in Philosophy Compass (here).

The study of dual character concepts reveals that large parts of our thinking are thoroughly permeated by normative considerations. Using an experimental-philosophical approach, I will detail the content and the structure of dual character concepts as well as the interaction between the descriptive and normative dimension. A specific focus will be placed on the relation to other classes of concepts, such as thick concepts and natural kind concepts. This allows me to test existing theories of dual character concepts and develop a comprehensive account of this class of concepts. The existence of dual character concepts posits great challenges for philosophical theorizing, but also points to new ways in which we can advance our understanding of both the normative realm and people's normative evaluations. Furthermore, dual character concepts present new possibilities for studying gender biases, generics, and social roles, and are thus highly relevant for the social sciences, the judicial sector, and politics.