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Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities "Human Abilities"

Human Abilities is a Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (Kollegforschungsgruppe) funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), starting 1st April 2020. It is directed jointly by Dominik Perler (HU Berlin) and Barbara Vetter (FU Berlin).

Appeal to human abilities is ubiquitous both in and outside philosophy. Lawyers sometimes need to determine the defendant’s rational abilities, teachers aim to help their students develop various abilities, and medication is sometimes used to enhance our abilities. In philosophy, abilities are a staple resource in discussions of free will, theories of knowledge, education, justice, and many more. The history of philosophy is rife with both appeals to human abilities and scathing criticisms of such appeals, especially in early modern philosophy.

But what is it to have an ability of the kind that we humans possess? How is it that we can know about abilities, and how can abilities help explain our role as both agents and knowers?

The project aims to do foundational work to address these questions, with a focus on metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of action. More specifically, the project aims to clarify the nature of human abilities; to determine which abilities are required for acquiring knowledge, and how knowledge of abilities is possible; and to analyse how free action can be understood better by reference to human abilities.

To do so, the project will bring together researchers from all the different areas of philosophy and, where relevant, neighbouring disciplines where human abilities play a role. It thereby aims not only to further our understanding of human abilities, but also to build bridges, first, between historical accounts and contemporary theories; and second, between different subdisciplines of philosophy.

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, German Research Foundation