DocWIP: The doctoral work in progress seminar


The doctoral work in progress seminar (DocWIP) is a regular event run by the Vienna Doctoral School of Philosophy (VDP), co-organized by Flora Löffelmann and Jackson Sawatzky. DocWIP provides an informal space for doctoral researchers to present ideas, receive comments, and socialize with their peers. It is designed to help build a close-knit doctoral community, in which researchers can benefit from each others' knowledge, support, and constructive criticism. Meetings typically take place on Wednesday afternoons, once a month, in Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG). For meeting links, email updates, or requests to take part, please contact Flora Löffelmann ( or Jackson Sawatzky ( Presentations can be given in either English or German. The event is primarily aimed at the doctoral community, but MA students and post-docs are also welcome to join.

Ruadhán J. Flynn's presentation “Whose Standpoint Matters? Cognitive Disability & Knowledge in Community” will be followed by Konstantin Deininger's presentation "Socially Dear, Evolutionarily Near: On the Normativity of Human-Animal Relationships and How They Can Account for the Unequal Treatment of Biological Equals."

The details for the session are as follows:

When: Wednesday, November 30th at 16:45
Where: HS 3B, NIG
Who: Doctoral researchers and early stage PostDocs
Rules: All attendees must abide by the VDP code of best practice.
Language: English

Whose Standpoint Matters? Cognitive Disability & Knowledge in Community


Cognitively disabled people are an oppressed and marginalized social group. The resources of emancipatory epistemologies should therefore be available to them and their communities, to understand and assert their position. However, cognitively disabled people are typically not recognised as epistemic agents, because they lack (or are assumed to lack) the cognitive abilities assumed necessary to form, bear, or transmit knowledge. Additionally, they may communicate atypically, non-verbally, or via affective expression. If cognitively disabled people are not epistemic agents, then emancipatory epistemologies can get no grip on their oppression or marginalization.

As an emancipatory epistemological framework, I focus specifically on feminist standpoint epistemology. My aim is to develop two crucial adaptations to it: (1) a non-individualistic account of epistemic agency, and (2) an understanding of atypical, affective, and non-verbal expression as potentially knowledge-laden communication.

Socially Dear, Evolutionarily Near: On the Normativity of Human-Animal Relationships and How They Can Account for the Unequal Treatment of Biological Equals

Animal ethics has faced a challenging fact since its beginnings in the 1970s: How to get a grip on the myriad of human-animal relationships and their complexity. On the individual level, however, many humans and animals share similar, empirically detectable capacities. These include, for example, sentience, intelligence, or self-awareness. While these capacities are intrinsic to the very individual, they may vary across individuals-even within individuals of the same species. The biological nearness between humans and animals on the individual level exists independently of the actual relationships the beings in question are entangled in. Accordingly, inconsistencies of treating animals seem to be obvious if the animals in question are considered according to their similarities in respect of their capacities. This correlates with a moral rule bottoming out morals: equals are to be treated equally. The competing paradigm to that view, moral relationalism in animal ethics, provides justifications for the diverse and/or inconsistent treatment of animals in unequal human-animal relationships. Here, the basis for normative claims is, at least partly, given by the non-comparability of relationships. The project pursues the aim of comparing and contrasting moral relationalism and capacity-based accounts in animal ethics. The upshot is to get a grasp on how far social dearness (relations) is compatible with evolutionary nearness (capacities) as normative sources in orienting human-animal relationships. This is reflected in the overarching research question of this project: In which way can human-animal relationships provide normative sources for the unequal treatment of biological equals?