Fiction and Other Minds: Minds, Cognitive Science, and the Public Domain

This term’s Fiction and Other Minds seminar welcomes Prof Dan Zahavi and Prof Sophie Loidolt, who will present on the topic of Minds, Cognitive Science, and the Public Domain.

‘Being you—or Not.’
Prof Dan Zahavi, University of Copenhagen

In his recent book, Being You, Anil Seth (Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex) defends a radical form of representationalism. But can we really speak meaningfully of a you if one declares the world of experience a neuronal fantasy? In his talk, Prof Zahavi will criticise Seth’s account, and, drawing on the works of Edmund Husserl, argue that a proper understanding of the ‘you’ must go hand in hand with an exploration of a common lifeworld.

‘On Being, Appearing, and Acting in Public. Towards a Phenomenological Theory of the Public Realm’
Prof Sophie Loidolt, Technical University of Darmstadt

What does it mean to be, appear, and act in public? These questions are rarely asked when it comes to the often-diagnosed "structural transformation" (Habermas) of the public sphere. Yet people have a wide variety of "public experiences" every day: from the simple experience of leaving the house and moving on the street to highly networked and technologically mediated public communication and concerted action. In the project Prof Loidolt will present in its outlines, she tries to shed light on the quality and structure of such "public experiences" using a phenomenological approach. In this way, she wants to reclaim public space as an experiential space and argue that experiences matter for the constitution of different kinds of public spheres and public spaces.  

How, for example, do phenomena like visibility, attention, relevance, reality, trust, or their opposites emerge in public contexts? And how can our individual and collective experiences of the public retain its high democratic ideals while facing the constant threat of superficial entertainment and self-commercialisation? In contrast to theories that view the public sphere primarily as a system of information, coordination, or discourse, a phenomenological approach aims to reveal the ways in which experiences constitute spaces of meaning. Such a disclosure of the world-building function of experience is crucial if we are to understand how people can relate to their public existence and a public world, how they can integrate into it or fall away from it, gain or lose trust, and how a shared world is either built or destroyed.  


The seminar is convened by Professor Ben Morgan ( Dr Naomi Rokotnitz (

As always, the talk will be followed by drinks for all attendees.


About the Seminar Series: The Fiction and Other Minds seminar series showcases current research in the Cognitive Humanities by hosting scholars working at the interface between literary studies, visual and performance art, phenomenology, philosophy, and the cognitive sciences. The seminars explore how features investigated by the cognitive sciences can be tested and expanded across different cultural contexts, media, and artistic genres. In particular, we explore how literary texts often challenge and differentiate theoretical insights—especially through their attention to the culturally situated aspects of cognition—and how cognitively informed approaches to literature can deepen our understanding of the embodied and affective processes that underpin meaning-making, including literary reading. For more information, please see the Fiction and Other Minds research strand page.