Dan Zahavi in Copenhagen, 2014
6 November 1967 |
Dan Zahavi was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and initially studied phenomenology at the University of Copenhagen. He obtained his PhD in 1994 from the Husserl Archives at the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium, with Rudolf Bernet as his doctoral supervisor. In 1999 he defended his Danish Disputats (Habilitation) at the University of Copenhagen. In 2002, at the age of 34, he became Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen.
Zahavi writes on phenomenology (especially the philosophy of Edmund Husserl) and philosophy of mind. In his writings, he has dealt extensively with topics such as self, self-consciousness, intersubjectivity and social cognition. He is co-editor of the journal Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences. Zahavi's work has been translated into more than 25 languages.
Pre-reflective self-consciousness and the minimal self
One central part of Zahavi’s work has been devoted to the analysis of the relation between experience, self, and self-consciousness. In several books and articles, he has defended the existence and significance of pre-reflective self-consciousness, and argued in favor of the idea that our experiential life is characterized by a form of self-consciousness that is more primitive and more fundamental than the reflective form of self-consciousness that one finds in various kinds of introspection. He has also argued that a theory of consciousness that wishes to take the subjective dimension of our experiential life seriously needs to operate with a minimalist notion of self, with what he has also called the minimal or experiential self. More generally speaking, Zahavi has spoken out against different reductionist approaches to consciousness, and insisted on the theoretical significance of subjectivity and the first-person perspective.
In working on these issues, Zahavi has collaborated and debated with psychiatrists, developmental psychologists,  and Buddhist scholars. Critics have included those who either deny the existence of self  or the existence of pre-reflective self-consciousness.
Another part of Zahavi’s work has focused on problems related to intersubjectivity, empathy, and social cognition. His PhD thesis defended a phenomenological approach to intersubjectivity. In various papers and books since then he has in particular focused on the role and structure of empathy. He has argued in favor of the bodily and contextual character of interpersonal understanding, and criticized dominant positions within the so-called ’theory of mind’ debate, including simulation theory and theory-theory.
Shame and collective intentionality
Since 2010, Zahavi has worked increasingly on social emotions and on issues in social ontology. He has written on shame, on shared emotions, we-experiences, collective intentionality, and the importance of the I-thou relation.
In parallel with his systematic work on the above-mentioned topics, Zahavi has also written on phenomenology, especially the work of Edmund Husserl. He has argued that phenomenology is a powerful and systematically convincing voice that contemporary philosophy and empirical science shouldn’t ignore. In addition to offering extensive analyses of Husserl’s analyses of intersubjectivity and self- and time-consciousness, Zahavi has also discussed the nature of Husserl’s transcendental philosophy and the metaphysical implications of phenomenology in various publications. Throughout his work, Zahavi has criticized what he takes to be overly simplistic interpretations of Husserl that depicts the latter as a solipsist and subjective idealist, and instead accentuated the continuity between Husserl’s phenomenology and the work of post-Husserlian phenomenologists, especially that of Merleau-Ponty.
Zahavi is the author of a number of books, including:
- Intentionalität und Konstitution: Eine Einführung in Husserls Logische Untersuchungen. Museum Tusculanum Press 1992.
- Husserl und die transzendentale Intersubjektivität. Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996. (Translated into English)
- Self-awareness and Alterity. Northwestern University Press 1999. (Translated into Japanese)
- Husserl's Phenomenology. Stanford University Press 2003. (Translated into Danish, Japanese, Chinese, German, Georgian, Greek, Italian, Croatian, Polish, Persian, Portuguese, Korean).
- Subjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the first-person perspective. MIT Press 2005. (Translated into Chinese)
- Phänomenologie für Einsteiger. Wilhelm Fink Verlag 2007. (Translated into Icelandic, Danish, Japanese)
- The Phenomenological Mind (with Shaun Gallagher). Routledge 2008. (Translated into Hungarian, Danish, Italian, Japanese, Korean)
- The Phenomenological Mind. 2nd Edition (with Shaun Gallagher). Routledge 2012. (Translated into Spanish, Polish)
- Self and Other: Exploring Subjectivity, Empathy, and Shame. Oxford University Press 2014.
Zahavi is also the editor of more than 10 volumes, including:
- The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology. Oxford University Press 2012.
Honors and awards
Zahavi has received a number of honors and awards, including:
- The Edward Goodwin Ballard Prize in Phenomenology (2000)
- The Silver Medal from the Danish Royal Society of Sciences and Letters (2000)
- Elected member of Institut International de Philosophie in 2001
- The Elite Research Prize of the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (2006). The award is given to outstanding young researchers of the highest international standard, which have made an extraordinary contribution to strengthen Danish research.
- Elected member of the Danish Royal Society of Sciences and Letters in 2007
- The Carlsberg Foundation's Research Prize (2011) from the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. The prize was awarded in connection with the 200 year anniversary of brewer J.C. Jacobsen, founder of the Carlsberg Breweries and the Carlsberg Foundation.
- The second revised edition of The Phenomenological Mind was selected by Choice as a 2012 Outstanding Academic Title.
- The Danish Association of Masters and PhDs’ Humanities Research Award (2013)
- Appointed Honorary President of The Nordic Society for Phenomenology (2014)
- Zahavi 1999
- Zahavi 2005
- Zahavi 2014
- Zahavi 2011a
- Zahavi 2014, p.13
- Zahavi 2005
- Gallagher & Zahavi 2012
- Zahavi & Parnas 2003
- Parnas, Sass, Zahavi 2008
- Rochat & Zahavi 2011
- Zahavi & Rochat 2015
- Siderits, Thompson, Zahavi 2011
- Metzinger 2006
- Schear 2009
- Howell & Thompson 2017
- Zahavi 1996
- Zahavi 2010
- Zahavi 2011b
- Zahavi 2017
- Zahavi 2005, pp. 181-182
- Zahavi 2007
- Zahavi 2008a
- Zahavi 2014
- Zahavi 2012
- Zahavi 2015
- Zahavi & Salice 2017
- Zahavi 1996
- Zahavi 1999
- Zahavi 2003a
- Zahavi 2003b
- Zahavi 2008b
- Zahavi 2002
- Zahavi 2008b, p. 662
- Gallagher, S., Zahavi, D. (2012), The Phenomenological Mind. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge.
- Howell, R. J. & Thompson, B. (2017), Phenomenally Mine: In Search of the Subjective Character of Consciousness, Review of Philosophy and Psychology 8, 103-127.
- Metzinger, T. (2006), Reply to Zahavi: The Value of Historical Scholarship. Psyche 12.
- Parnas, J., Sass, L.A., Zahavi, D (2008), Recent developments in philosophy of psychopathology. Current Opinion in Psychiatry 21, 578-584
- Rochat, Ph., Zahavi, D. (2011), The uncanny mirror: A re-framing of mirror self-experience. Consciousness and Cognition 20, 204-213.
- Schear, J. (2009), Experience and Self-Consciousness. Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, 144(1), 95-105
- Zahavi, D. (1996), Husserl und die transzendentale Intersubjektivität: Eine Antwort auf die sprachpragmatische Kritik. Phaenomenologica 135. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
- Zahavi, D. (1999), Self-awareness and Alterity. A Phenomenological Investigation. Studies in Phenomenology & Existential Philosophy. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
- Zahavi, D. (2002), Merleau-Ponty on Husserl. A reappraisal. In T. Toadvine & L. Embree (eds.): Merleau-Ponty's Reading of Husserl (pp. 3-29). Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.
- Zahavi, D. (2003a), Husserl's Phenomenology. Stanford University Press, Stanford.
- Zahavi, D. (2003b), Phenomenology and metaphysics. In D. Zahavi, S. Heinämaa, H. Ruin (eds.): Metaphysics, Facticity, Interpretation. Phenomenology in the Nordic Countries (pp. 3-22). Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht-Boston.
- Zahavi, D. (2005), Subjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the first-person perspective. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
- Zahavi, D. (2007), Expression and empathy. In D.D. Hutto & M. Ratcliffe (eds.): Folk Psychology Re-Assessed (pp.25-40). Dordrecht: Springer.
- Zahavi, D. (2008a), Simulation, projection and empathy. Consciousness and Cognition 17, 514-522.
- Zahavi, D. (2008b), Internalism, Externalism, and Transcendental Idealism. Synthese 160/3, 355-374.
- Zahavi, D. (2008c), Phenomenology. In Moran, D. (ed.): Routledge Companion to Twentieth-Century Philosophy (pp. 661-692). London: Routledge.
- Zahavi, D. (2010), Empathy, Embodiment and Interpersonal Understanding: From Lipps to Schutz. Inquiry 53/3, 285-306.
- Zahavi, D. (2011a), The Experiential Self: Objections and Clarifications. In Siderits, M., Thompson, E., Zahavi, D. (eds.): Self, No Self? Perspectives from Analytical, Phenomenological, & Indian Traditions (pp.56-78). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Zahavi, D. (2011b), Empathy and Direct Social Perception: A Phenomenological Proposal. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 2/3, 541-558.
- Zahavi, D. (2012), Self, consciousness, and shame. In D. Zahavi (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology (pp. 304-323). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Zahavi, D. (2014), Self and Other: Exploring subjectivity, empathy and shame. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Zahavi, D. (2015), You, me, and we: The sharing of emotional experiences. Journal of Consciousness Studies 22/1-2, 84-101.
- Zahavi, D. (2017), Phenomenology, empathy, and mindreading. In H.L. Maibom (ed.): The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Empathy (pp. 33-43). New York: Routledge.
- Zahavi, D., Parnas, J. (2003), Conceptual Problems in Infantile Autism Research: Why Cognitive Science Needs Phenomenology. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10/9, 53-71
- Zahavi, D., Rochat, Ph. (2015), Empathy ≠ sharing: Perspectives from phenomenology and developmental psychology. Consciousness and Cognition 36, 543-553.
- Zahavi, D., Salice, A. (2017), Phenomenology of the we: Stein, Walther, Gurwitsch. In J. Kiverstein (ed.): The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of the Social Mind (pp. 515-527). New York: Routledge.