Who Are We?

Philosophy and the social sciences

The guiding question of the Semper Ardens project is how philosophical theorizing about the we, in particular seminal contributions from classical phenomenology, can impact and profit from theoretical discussions found in the social sciences (anthropology, sociology, social psychology, political theory).

Central research questions

  • How does self-disorders and disorders of empathy, i.e., impairments of the first-person and second-person perspective singular might impact and have ramifications for the possibility of adopting a we-perspective.
  • What is the role of social imaginaries (especially collective memory, narratives or rituals) for the establishment and maintaining of we-identities beyond the here and now? What role does collective effervescence and emotional entrainment play for group-formations? How do shared values contribute to the transformation of associations into communities?
  • How does one come to experience oneself as a member of a national community?  What role does antagonism (us vs. them) play for the formation of political identities? How does the acquisition of a national identity change the relation between I and we and us and them?


Thomas Szanto

We Matter: From Collective to Political Emotions

The project investigates the structure, phenomenology, and normativity of emotional bonds between members of large-scale groups and political communities, and specifically focuses on disruptive and antagonistic affective dynamics in intergroup contexts. Paradigmatic affective phenomena to be explored are intra- and intergroup hatred, trust, distrust, resentment, as well as fanaticism, empathy-related biases, and feelings of belonging and solidarity.

Daniel Gyollai

We Forget: Adaptive Collective Memory

I am interested in the phenomenological aspects of the mutually constitutive relationship between collective memory and collective identity. My project explores the embodied and enactive processes that underlie collective remembering and the role intersubjectivity plays in collective memory formation.

Christopher Shawn Stephan

Do Tell: Making and Modifying Relationships in Narrative Interaction

In this project, I am developing a theoretical synthesis of anthropological, sociolinguistic perspectives on narrative interaction with phenomenological studies in the relation of narrative to the self and the we. My project extends two interrelated lines thinking, through which I argue for: 1) the significance of narrative as a concrete communicative activity, and 2) the relational and communalizing work done within narrative genres of mundane talk (e.g. “second stories” and gossip) that have tended to be overlooked in narrative social ontology.

Lorenzo Posocco

Nation, nationalism and phenomenology

My research project aims to study the concept of nation and nationalism from a phenomenological perspective. The goal is to focus on how these concepts are experienced and constituted in the lived life of individuals and communities, and the sense of “us” and/versus “them” that often accompanies national and nationalist sentiments.

Dominik Zelinsky

Charisma and We

The project explores the role of charismatic leaders in fostering social cohesion and division, linking together influences from phenomenology, sociology of emotions, and cultural sociology.

Maja Zandersen

Identification, social engagement, and disorders of collective intentionality in autism and schizophrenia

This project is an empirical study of 20 adult psychiatric patients diagnosed with either an autism spectrum disorder or a schizophrenia spectrum disorder. The overall aim is to obtain a global phenomenological description of the social life of these two groups of patients with a special focus on the quality of collective intentionality. 

Mette Vesterager

The I and We: Selfhood, sociality, and the role of habit

The overall objective of the project is to develop a novel account of the relation between selfhood and social groups, and in particular, to answer the following three questions: 1) What kind of selfhood is compatible with we-phenomena, such as shared emotions, actions, and intentions? 2) Which role does habit play in the constitutive relationship between social groups and selfhood? 3) What are the implications of linking social practice to selfhood through habit for practical disciplines such as therapy, coaching, and meditation?




Osler, L., and Szanto, T. (eds.). For, Against, Together: Antagonistic Political Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Salmela, M., & Szanto, T. "Two Types of Political Resentment." In: M. Lewis, and A. Kauppinen (eds.). The Moral Psychology of Resentment. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. 

Szanto, T.: "Feelings of Belonging and Feeling Solidarity: Two Forms of Social Cohesion?" In: D. Petherbridge, and L. Dolezal (eds.). The Phenomenology of Belonging. Albany: SUNY Press. 

Szanto, Thomas: "Collective Intentionality as a Concept in Phenomenology." In: N. de Warren, and T. Toadvine (eds.). Encyclopedia of Phenomenology. Cham: Springer.

Zahavi, D.: I, You, and We: Beyond Individualism and Collectivism. Australasian Philosophical Review, in press.

Zahavi, D., Zelinsky, D.: Experience, Subjectivity, Selfhood: Beyond a Meadian Sociology of the Self. Journal for the Theory of Social BehaviourOnline first


Gyollai, D. (2024). The inauthenticity of policing: Obedience and oblivion. Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology 16: 1-4.


Montes Sánchez, A. & Salice, A. (eds.): Emotional Self-Knowledge. London, New York: Routledge, 2023.

Montes Sánchez, A. & Salice, A. "Introduction." In Montes Sánchez, A. & Salice, A (eds.), Emotional Self-Knowledge (pp.1-13). London, New York: Routledge, 2023.

Montes Sánchez, A. & Salice, A.: "Self-understanding and moral self-improvement in individual shame and shame based on group identification." In Fussi, A. & Rodogno, R. (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Shame. Rowman and Littlefield, 2023.

Morgan, B., Rokotnitz, N., Budelmann, F., Zahavi, D.: "I and We: Hannah Arendt, Participatory Plurality, and the Literary Scaffolding of Collective Intentionality." Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 25/2, 2023, 235–264.

Osler, L., Zahavi, D.: Sociality and embodiment: Online communication during and after Covid-19Foundations of Science, 28, 2023, 1125-1142.

Salice, A. & Montes Sánchez, A.: "Envy, Racial Hatred and Self-Deception." In Montes Sánchez, A. & Salice, A (eds.), Emotional Self-Knowledge (pp. 188-208). London, New York: Routledge, 2023.

Stephan, C. S. (2023). The passive dimension of empathy and its relevance for design. Design Studies, 86.

Stephan, C., and C. J. Throop: “Anthropological Phenomenology and the Eventive Ground.” In Horizons of Phenomenology, edited by Jeff Yoshimi, Philip Walsh, and Patrick Londen, 337–55. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2023.

Stephan, C., Flaherty, D.: “A Phenomenology of Anticipation: Culture, Social Distribution, and Collectivity.” In: R. Staupe-Delgado and M. G. Bartoszewicz (eds.). Reducing Risks vol. 4: Disaster Futures and Anticipations. Singapore: World Scientific, in press.

Szanto, T.: Epistemically Exploitative Bullshit. A Sartrean AccountEuropean Journal of Philosophy, 31(3), 2023, 711–730.

Szanto, T., Montes Sánchez, A.: Imaginary Communities, Normativity and Recognition: A New Look at Social ImaginariesPhänomenologische Forschungen, Beihefte 5, 2023, 197-218.

Szanto, T.: "Husserl on the state: A critical appraisal." Continental Philosophy Review 56/3, 2023, 419-442.

Szanto, T., Meindl, P., Zahavi, D.: "Introduction: Husserl and community." Continental Philosophy Review 56/3, 2023, 335-341.

Throop, C. J., and Stephan, C.: “Husserlian Horizons: Moods in Yap.” In Philosophy on Fieldwork: Case Studies in Anthropological Analysis, 284–301. New York, N.Y: Routledge, 2023.

Zahavi, D. "Observation, Interaction, Communication: The Role of the Second Person." Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 97/1, 2023, 82-103.

Zahavi, D.: "Empathy, Alterity, Morality." In M. Englander & S. Ferrarello (eds.): Empathy and Ethics (pp. 489-500). Rowman & Littlefield, 2023.

Zahavi, D., Dolezal, L.: "What is "we"? Dan Zahavi in conversation with Luna Dolezal." In A. Morgan (eds.): What matters most: Conversations on the Art of Living (pp. 61-69). Agenda Publishing, 2023.

Zahavi, D.: "Group-identification, collectivism, and perspectival autonomy." The Southern Journal of Philosophy 61 (suppl. 1), 2023, 66-77.


Zahavi, D.: "Individuality and community: The limits of social constructivism.Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 50/4, 2022, 392-409.

Szanto, T. "Sacralizing Hostility: Fanaticism as a Group-Based Affective Mechanism." In M. Staudigl, H. B. Schmid, L. Townsend, and R. R. Tietjen (Eds.): Confronting Fanaticism. Theoretical and Applied Perspectives (pp. 184–212). London, New York: Routledge 2002.


Szanto, T.: "Can it Be or Feel Right to Hate? On the Appropriateness and Fittingness of Hatred". Philosophy and Society 32(3), 2021, 341–368.

Osler, L., Szanto, T.: "Political Emotions and Political Atmospheres”. In D. Trigg (Ed.). Shared Emotions and Atmospheres. London, New York: Routledge, 2021, 162–188.

Zahavi, D.: "We in me or me in we? Collective intentionality and selfhood". Journal of Social Ontology 7/1, 2021, 1-20.

Szanto, T.: "Hass und die negative Dialektik affektiver Herabsetzung." Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, 69/3, 2021, 422–437.

Overgaard, S. and Salice, A.: “Consciousness, Belief, and the Group Mind Hypothesis”. Synthese 198, 2021, 1597-1621.

Salice, A., Henriksen, M.G.: "Disturbances of Shared Intentionality in Schizophrenia and Autism." Frontiers in Psychiatry 11, 2021, 570597.

Gallagher, S., Zahavi, D.: The Phenomenological Mind. 3rd edition. London: Routledge, 2021. (p. 294).


Szanto, T.: "Phenomenology and Social Theory". In P. Kivisto (ed.): The Cambridge Handbook of Social Theory. Volume I: A Contested Canon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020, 292–316.

Szanto, T.: "Why should we give a damn?" The Philosopher 108/4, 2020, 32-37.

Zahavi, D.: "We and I". The Philosopher 108/4, 2020, 19-24.

Szanto, T.: "Imaginative Resistance and Empathic Resistance". Topoi 39/4, 2020, 791–802.

Szanto, T.: "In Hate We Trust: On the Habitualization and Collectivization of Hatred". Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 2020, 19/3, 453–480.

Szanto, T. & Landweer, H. (eds.): The Routledge Handbook of Phenomenology of Emotions. London, New York: Routledge, 2020.

Szanto, T. & Slaby, J.: "Political Emotions". In Szanto, T. & Landweer, H. (eds.): The Routledge Handbook of Phenomenology of Emotions. London, New York: Routledge, 2020, 478-492.

Szanto, T. & Landweer, H.: "Introduction: The Phenomenology of Emotions - Beyond ‘What it is like to Feel’". In Szanto, T. & Landweer, H. (eds.): The Routledge Handbook of Phenomenology of Emotions. London, New York: Routledge, 2020, 1-37.

Zahavi, D.: "Shame". In T. Szanto & H. Landweer (eds.): The Routledge Handbook of Phenomenology of Emotions. London: Routledge, 2020, 349-357.

Szanto, T. & Moran, D.: "Edith Stein". In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2020 Edition), (pp. 1-73), 2020.



Name Title Image
Gyollai, Daniel Postdoc Billede af Gyollai, Daniel
Posocco, Lorenzo Postdoc Billede af Posocco, Lorenzo
Stephan, Christopher Postdoc Billede af Stephan, Christopher
Szanto, Thomas Associate Professor Billede af Szanto, Thomas

Former staff

Zelinsky, Dominik
Zandersen, Maja
Vesterager, Mette

Recurrent visiting professors

Heinämaa, Sara
Loidolt, Sophie

Research associate

Salice, Alessandro


Carlsberg Foundation

This project has received funding from the Carlsberg Foundation.

Project period: 01 January 2020 – 31 December 2027.

PI: Professor Dan Zahavi