Joulia Smortchkova

(c) privat

(c) privat

I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Ruhr University Bochum for the Volkswagen Foundation project “Situated Cognition: Perceiving the World and Understanding Others”. In my work I connect debates in philosophy of mind with empirical research in cognitive science.
My first encounter with philosophy happened during my high school years: In Italy (I’m Russian-Italian) every “liceo” has three years of mandatory history of philosophy. Among all the subjects, philosophy was for sure the most challenging one, but also the most rewarding.
I did my BA in Bologna, Italy, where I had a well-rounded education, ranging from esthetics to logics, but I was mostly interested in history and philosophy of science. I wrote my first BA thesis on history of logic, and took some advanced classes in history, logic and philosophy of science at Paris I – Sorbonne, where I spent a year thanks to the Erasmus program. At the same time, I was a scholarship student at Collegio Superiore in Bologna – an institution that offered housing and funding to outstanding students, in exchange for a complementary interdisciplinary training in a variety of subjects that we could freely choose.
After the Erasmus, I stayed in Paris for six more years, thanks to a scholarship from the Ecole Normale Supérieure that offered me the opportunity to pursue my studies in an intellectually vibrant and interdisciplinary atmosphere. I finished two master degrees: one in history and philosophy of science with a thesis on naturalistic approaches to mathematics, and another in cognitive science with a thesis on consciousness, attention, and mental demonstration. A stay at NYU was a turning point in my studies, and after years of oscillating among different topics, I settled for empirically oriented philosophy of mind. From 2010 to 2014 I did a PhD at the Institut Jean Nicod in Paris with a thesis on the social contents of visual experiences, under the supervision of Pierre Jacob.
In my PhD dissertation, I explore social perception, an area of research between philosophy of perception and social cognition. I claim that we can perceive some social properties in others, in particular we can perceive others as agents (and not as inanimate objects), we can perceive their goal-directed actions, and even some of their mental states, such as their emotional expressions. I argue that social perception, rather than an alternative to mindreading and to cognitive ways of understanding others, is a complementary mechanism, that works in automatic ways and is connected to core systems in development. My interest in this topic stems from an old skeptical philosophical problem: the ‘other minds problem’. It arises from the (epistemic) asymmetry between the direct way we access our mental states and the indirect way we access the mental states of others, which are, for us, opaque and elusive. The skeptic draws on this fact to challenge our certainty that others have inner lives similar to ours. While social perception per se is not a reply to the skeptical problem, I think that it shows that there is an innate and basic psychological mechanism that gives us a sense of the inner lives of others.
In general, social perception challenges some of the received views in philosophy and cognitive science about the contents of perception, the divide between perception and cognition, and the way we understand each other. It is also an empirically grounded claim, because much of recent research in cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and developmental psychology bears on the issue.
My current projects concern the exploration of the role of the body in perceiving social properties; the explanatory role of mental representations in cognitive science, and a collaborative work with Michael Murez and Brent Strickland on mental files and singular thought.
Concerning the first project, I am mostly interested in a theory that would allow for a proper embodiment of emotional states, in order to answer a worry about the claim that we perceive emotions. According to this worry, we do not access the emotional mental states, but merely their behavioral manifestations (because mental states are not visible and outwardly manifest). The second project stems from my interest in developmental psychology and in the role of mental representations in scientific explanations. In particular, I focus on the debate about the non conceptual format of representations. This debate often appeals to infants’ mental states as paradigmatic examples of states with non conceptual format, but seldom looks at empirical evidence. I think that a fruitful discussion about non conceptual format cannot abstract from a closer look at the empirical evidence from developmental psychology.
For more information and for contacting me please visit my personal page:

Workshop für Philosophinnen* zu Machtverhältnissen in Seminaren an der Universität Leipzig

SWIP Germany hat einen Workshop für Studierende ko-finanziert, welcher Machtverhältnisse in Seminaren thematisierte. Er fand am 13. Juni 2016 unter der Leitung von Lisa Mangold an der Universität Leipzig statt. Der Workshop richtete sich an Frauen*, Inter- und Transpersonen, die im Kern- oder Nebenfach oder im Lehramt Philosophie studieren.

Gender Bias in Academia

Gender Bias in Academia

Daten: 07.06.2016

Ort: Ruhr University Bochum

Recent studies have shown that women are underrepresented as authors (Leuschner 2015). Is this due to a synergy of biases and stereotype threats? The event aims at addressing the problem of gender bias in general and in the academic world in particular. We will discuss possible ways of tackling this problem, such as raising the awareness of its occurrences and preventing its negative impact. We also aim to highlight similarities and differences in manifestations of gender bias in different academic disciplines. Moreover, the meeting provides an opportunity for exchanging experiences on gender bias in academic philosophy and in research institutions in general.

References: Leuschner, A. (2015). Social exclusion in academia through biases in methodological quality evaluation: On the situation of women in science and philosophy. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A54, 56-63.

We welcome students, academic and non-academic staff of all sexes and genders. The language of the workshop is English.

When: June 7, 2016
Where: Ruhr University Bochum, GA 03/49
Reception with buffet: Comeniusraum GA 2/41
Please register here until May 31, 2016. Childcare can be provided upon request.
17:00 -17:45 Experiencing gender biases in academia: informal discussion (reserved for non-maleparticipants)
17:45 – 18:00 Coffee break
18:00 – 18:45 Talk by Dr. Anna Leuschner ”The Synergy of Biases and Stereotype Threats in Academia”
18:45 – 19:30 Commentary by Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith-NewenPlenary discussion
19:30 Reception with buffet

Abstract of the talk by Dr. Anna Leuschner “The Synergy of Biases and Stereotype Threats in Academia”

Data from review sections of three top philosophical journals (Ethics, Mind, and the Journal of Philosophy) show that women philosophers are not underrepresented as authors of reviewed books, particularly overrepresented as reviewers of women’s books, and generally overrepresented as book reviewers while underrepresented as article authors. In this talk, these data will be presented and explained. It is argued that the underrepresentation of women’s articles is caused by a low submission rate rather than a biased acceptance rate. As feminist science studies have shown there is a synergy of biases and stereotype threats that causes women not only to leave academic disciplines, but also to deviate in their professional behavior.

Dr. Anna Leuschner is postdoctoral researcher at the DFG Research Training Group “Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Scientific Research” at Leibniz Universität Hannover.

Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith-Newen is professor for physical chemistry at RUB.

Organizing committee:

Beate Krickel (RUB)
Insa Lawler (Duisburg-Essen)
Judith Martens (RUB)
Dunja Šešelja (RUB)
Pascale Willemsen (RUB)