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Durham University

Department of Philosophy

Amanda Taylor Aiken

Amanda Taylor

Amanda Taylor Aiken is a postgraduate researcher.

She has a particular expertise in applied phenomenology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychiatry (particularly phenomenological psychiatry) and with a strong interdisciplinary interest in intersubjectivity.

Thesis Title:
Relatedness and Alienation in Interpersonal Understanding:
A Phenomenological Account

Thesis Summary:

This thesis aims to provide a phenomenological exploration of relatedness and alienation in interpersonal understanding, which elucidates and supports recent interdisciplinary critiques of more traditional accounts of interpersonal understanding.

Orthodox accounts of folk psychology, namely theory theory and simulation, have focused on the role of attributing mental states in understanding others. This focus has led to a neglect of how interaction and forms of relatedness contribute to the task of interpersonal understanding.

Building on recent interdisciplinary research, my work aims to rectify this neglect through exploration of how various forms of relations, particularly interactive relations between interlocutors, support interpersonal understanding. My account, therefore, emphasises understanding as a shared process, moving away from the spectatorial orientation of the orthodox accounts. My approach is original in its use of Gadamerian hermeneutics to offer a novel and detailed account of the central role played by collaborative refinement of interpretative presuppositions.

Examining face-to-face interaction it becomes apparent that affective interactions often frame and underpin an ability, described by folk psychology, to attribute mental states. I explore how, in conversational instances of interpersonal relatedness, understanding involves a continual collaborative refinement of interpretive presuppositions, resulting modification of understanding.

From this my work broadens, taking into account how reciprocal embodied expression, space and stance, tacitly support an ability to relate to and understand the other in virtue of jointly inhabiting mutually meaningful social situations. To clarify the ways in which affective interaction and shared situation are partly constitutive of ability to understand others, I consider impaired forms of interpersonal understanding in the psychiatric illnesses depression and schizophrenia. Examination of these instances highlights the central role which an ability to dynamically engage and inhabit relations with others holds. 


Current Lecturing:

20th c. European Philosophy (level 3)

Current Tutoring:

20th c. European Philosophy (level 3) (since 2008)

Theory, Literature and Society (level 2) (since 2009)

Previous Tutoring:

2009-2010 Philosophy of Mind (level 2)

2008- 2009 Philosophy of Religion (level 2)


'The Role of Affective States in Philosophical Enquiry'. 2008. Praxis 1: 88-104.

The Article may be found here

Book Review of L. Svendsen. Dec. 2008. A Philosophy of Fear. Times Higher Education.

Conference Presentations:

"The Importance of Phenomenological Space for Interpersonal Understanding."
The Phenomenological Mind: Winter School
, Milan, 28th January 2010

"Shared Affects."
SEP-FEP Joint Conference, Cardiff University. 27th-29th August 2009.

"Embodied Affective Relations: Their Importance for Interpersonal Understanding."
Intercorporeality and Intersubjectivity Conference, University College Dublin. 6th-7th July 2008.

"Embodied Affective Relatedness: Importance of Non-Verbal Embodied Responsiveness in Interpersonal Understanding."
Applied Phenomenology Research Day, Durham University. 10th April 2008.

"Fleshing out Relations: Phenomenological Space and Body Dialogue's."
Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind, Durham University. 1st-2nd July 2008.

"Sass, Heidegger and Alienation."
International Philosopher's Rally '07, Groningen University, the Netherlands. 26th April 2007.

Academic Activities, Awards and Affiliations:

2010. Invited to be part of the "Next Generation" of young interdisciplinary researchers in the European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences and the Humanities, Volkswagen Foundation. Member of the subgroup: 'Intersubjectivity Interrupted'.)

2010-present. Participant and Collaborator in the VW European Platform funded project 'Pain: Why Others Matter/Psychological, Philosophical & Neuroscientific Perspectives', in phenomenology sub-group.

2009 - present. Participant in the AHRC/DFG-funded project 'Emotional Experience in Depression: A Philosophical Study' (Principal Investigators: Professor Matthew Ratcliffe, Durham, UK, and Professor Achim Stephan, Osnabrueck, Germany).

2009 and 2010. Referee for journal Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences.

2008-present. AHRC Doctoral Award Holder.

2008. Invited to become RIP Jacobson Fellows

July 2008. Participant in European Science Foundation's: Consciousness in Cultural and Natural Contexts Summer School: Social Cognition and Social Narratives. San Marino.

2008. Co-organiser of a postgraduate conference on 'Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind', 1st-2nd July 2008, University of Durham.

2008. Project Co-ordinator and Full Participant of research project 'Varieties of Moral Experience: A Phenomenological Investigation', June and August 2008. University of Durham.

May 2008. Referee for postgraduate journal Perspectives.

Dec. 2007. Referee for International Journal of Philosophical Studies.

Nov. 2007. Proof reader for Matthew Ratcliffe's Feelings of Being: Phenomenology, Psychiatry and a Sense of Reality (2008)

Sept. 2007. Awarded Alumi Prize, Durham University.

Oct. 2007 - present. Member of Durham University IAS, Postgraduate Research Group.

Oct. 2007 - present. Managing Editor for postgraduate journal Philosophical Writings.

2007-2008. Awarded a Departmental Scholarship, Philosophy Dept., University of Durham.

2006-2007. Recipient of the Doreen Bretherton Award, Durham University.

2006. Departmental Award for academic excellence, Durham University.


Email Amanda Taylor at amanda.tayloraiken^at^