Photo of Dr Anne Sophie Meincke (Spann)

Dr Anne Sophie Meincke (Spann)

Research Fellow

I am working at the intersection of metaphysics (broadly construed) and philosophy of biology. My main focus is on developing a comprehensive bio-processual metaphysics of the human person that acknowledges the fact that human persons are organisms and, i.e., stabilised higher-order biological processes. I want to show that a bio-processual perspective sheds new light on old metaphysical problems such as identity over time, agency and free will. This will eventually contribute to a more appropriate general metaphysical picture of the world, including scientifically-informed concepts of life, causation and time.

Together with John Dupré, I won the 2015/16 conference grant of the Institute of Philosophy in London. In June 2016, we organised a conference on "Biological Identity" which brought together metaphysicians and philosophers of biology. There are podcasts of some of the talks online.

In 2014, I have been awarded the city of Innsbruck's annual prize for scientific research.

I am a reviewer for Philosophical Studies, Syntheseratio, The Journal of Philosophical Research, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences and Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences.

See also my profiles on academia.edu and researchgate.net.

And don't forget to have a look at my recent monograph on personal identity which brings together the debate on personal identity within 'analytic' metaphysics on the one hand and the 'continental' philosophy of the person on the other:  "Auf dem Kamplatz der Metaphysik. Kritische Studien zur transtemporalen Identität von Personen" ("On the Battlefield of Metaphysics. Critical Studies on the Transtemporal Identity of Persons"), Münster: Mentis, July 2015.

I am currently preparing an edited volume on "Dispositionalism. Perspectives from Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science" which will appear in Springer's Synthese Library book series.

My forthcoming articles include: 

  • Meincke, A. S.: “Persons as Biological Processes. A Bio-processual Way-out of the Personal Identity Dilemma”, in: Everything Flows. Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology, ed. by D. Nicholson & J. A. Dupré, Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
  • Meincke, A. S.: “Bio-Agency and the Possibility of Artificial Agents”, in: Philosophy of Science - Between the Natural Sciences, the Social Sciences, and the Humanities. Proceedings of the 2016 conference of the German Society of Philosophy of Science, ed. by G. Schurz. Dordrecht: Springer (European Philosophy of Science Association Series), forthcoming.
  • Meincke, A. S.: "How to stay the same while changing. Personal Identity as a Test Case for Reconciling 'Analytic' and 'Continental' Philosophy Through Process Ontology", in: Analytic-Bridge-Continental + (ABC+) Process Philosophy, ed. by R. Booth, Berlin et al.: de Gruyter, forthcoming.

Research group links

Research interests

I am an experienced early-career researcher in theoretical philosophy, working at the intersection of metaphysics (broadly construed, including in particular the philosophy of action and mind), and the philosophy of biology. I am convinced that much of contemporary metaphysics suffers from a lack of attention to insights from empirical sciences in general and biology in particular. At the same time I believe that biologists and philosophers of biology can substantially benefit from reflecting on the metaphysical implications and presumptions of their work. I am devoted to initiating a constructive dialogue between these disciplines, thereby also crossing the boundaries between the 'analytic' and the 'continental' traditions of academic philosophy.

I am particularly interested in the following topics:

  • personal identity and philosophy of the human person
  • theories of persistence and metaphysics of time
  • (non-Whiteheadian) process ontology
  • bio-agency and free will
  • theories of the organism, biological explanation, origins and theory of life
  • artificial intelligence, embodied cognition, robotics
  • developmental biology and arguments for embryo protection
  • dispositionalism and theories of causation, including mental causation
  • phenomenology and philosophical anthropology
  • history of philosophy, especially Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Bergson, Heidegger, Jonas

 

In 2015 my monograph on personal identity came out, which brings together the debate on personal identity within 'analytic' metaphysics on the one hand and the 'continental' philosophy of the person on the other:

"Auf dem Kamplatz der Metaphysik. Kritische Studien zur transtemporalen Identität von Personen" ("On the Battlefield of Metaphysics. Critical Studies on the Transtemporal Identity of Persons"), Münster: Mentis, July 2015.

Here is a short summary of the book's content in English:

The contemporary philosophical debate about persons and their transtemporal identity is stuck in a dilemma: reductionists destruct the idea of transtemporal personal identity in the course of its empirical analysis while non-reductionists transform it into a substance-metaphysical mystery. Transtemporal personal identity is either ‘explained away’ or ‘pseudo-explained’. 
The dilemmatic structure of the discourse puts pressure on our everyday belief that persons exist for longer than only a single moment in time: as the transtemporal identity of persons seems to systematically evade a satisfactory metaphysical explanation, doubts arise as to whether there actually is such a thing as personal identity. At least as dubious, however, appears to be the metaphysics which constantly fails to provide a satisfactory explanation.  
The present critical studies on the transtemporal identity of persons explore the prospects of escaping the dilemma which, as it turns out, is neither new nor harmless. From a Kantian perspective, what we are confronted with is rather a fundamental dialectic, originating in the very structure of human reason and threatening to turn metaphysics altogether into an arena of fruitless battles. The possibility of a satisfactory metaphysical account of transtemporal personal identity reveals itself to be contingent on the possibility of a ‘good’ metaphysics able to overcome that dialectic. 

Other information

Teaching Experience

Teaching at Exeter University, UK:

Spring term: Invited Lecture on "Process Ontology" in the Undergraduate Seminar "Fundamental Ontology"  (Lecturer: Dr Jonathan Davies); 15th March 2017

Teaching at Leopold Franzen University Innsbruck, Austria:

Winter term 2014/15

           Master-/ PhD-Seminar SE Key Texts of Theoretical Philosophy: Hans Jonas: Organism and Freedom

Summer term 2014

           Master-/ PhD-Seminar SE Key Texts of Theoretical Philosophy: Can Animals Act? Introduction to Biological Action Theory

Winter term 2012/13

           Master-/ PhD-Seminar SE Key Texts of Theoretical Philosophy: Philosophical Theories of the Organism in the Context of Contemporary Biology

Teaching at Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Germany:

Summer term 2010

          Undergraduate Seminar: Introduction to the Philosophy of Henri Bergson: Matter and Memory (1896), The Creative Mind (1934)

 

          Undergraduate  Essay Writing Course: Introduction to the Philosophy of Henri Bergson: Matter and Memory (1896), The Creative Mind (1934)

 

 

Winter term 2009/10

          Graduate & Postgraduate Essay Writing Course: Kant: Critique of Pure Reason, Transcendental Dialectic

 

 

Summer term 2009

          Graduate & Postgraduate Essay Writing Course: The Ontological Difference in Heidegger: The Fundamental Problems of Phenomenology (1927)

 

          Summerschool Course (10th – 12th July 2009): Heidegger: Being and Time

 

          Tutorial: Philosophical Coaching

 

 

Winter term 2008/09

          Graduate & Postgraduate Essay Writing Course: Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy

 

          Undergraduate & Graduate Reading Course: Heidegger: The Fundamental Problems of Phenomenology (1927)

 

 

Summer term 2008

          Undergraduate & Graduate Reading Course: Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy and other Metaphysical Writings

Philosophical Teaching at Christian Albrecht University Kiel, Germany:

Summer term 2001

           Undergraduate Tutorial: Platon: Gorgias

Upcoming Refereed Conference Presentations

  • “Processual Animalism”, The Ninth European Congress of Analytic Philosophy (ECAP 9), Ludwig Maximilian University Munich/Germany, 21st-28th August 2017, & Norm und Natur, 24th German Congress for Philosophy, University of Münster/Germany, 24th-27th September 2017.
  • “Biological Autonomy, Autopoiesis and the Process View of Life”, EPSA17, Conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association, University of Exeter/UK, 6th-9th September 2017.
  •  “Processual Animalism: Towards a Scientifically Informed Account of Biological Identity Through Time”, Conference of the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB), University of São Paulo/Brazil, 17th July 2017.
  • “On the Metaphysics of Living Boundaries”, talk in the organised session Organisms, Membranes and Boundaries: A Process Perspective, Conference of the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB), University of São Paulo/Brazil, 19th July 2017.        

 Upcoming Invited Conference Presentations

  • “Human Agency: A Bio-Processual View”, Conference of the Ontologies of Personal Identity (Pontology) network, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich/Germany, 19th October 2017 (key-note speech). 
  • “Animalism and the Problem of Vagueness”, Conference Die Vagheit des Embryos – Unbestimmtheitsphänomene bei biowissenschaftlichen Entitäten (The Vagueness of the Embryo - Phenomena of Indeterminacy in Bioscience), funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Technical University of Dresden/Germany, 12th September 2017.

Upcoming Public Lectures

  • “The Disappearance of Change. How Process Ontology Solves the Persistence Dilemma”, Colloquium of the ‘Metaphysics of Entanglement’ group, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford/UK, invited by Professor Anna Marmodoro, 18th May 2017.
  • "Bio-Agency and Natural Freedom", departmental seminar, University of Leeds/UK, invited by Professor Helen Steward, 10th May 2017.

Organisation of Conferences

Biography

I was born and grew up in Northern Germany. As a schoolgirl, I spent most of my time on and behind our local theatre’s stage. However, rather than becoming a professional singer (which many people wanted me to do), I enrolled at the Christian Albrecht University in Kiel at the Baltic Sea to study German Literature and Language (both modern and medieval), Philosophy, Pedagogics and Ancient Greek.

After intermediate exams in 2001, I moved to the other side of the country, to Munich, where I continued studying German Language and Literature of the Middle Ages, Modern German Literature and Philosophy at Ludwig Maximilian University. I also attended philosophy courses at the Jesuit’s Munich School of Philosophy. In 2003, I obtained my master’s degree with German Language and Literature of the Middle Ages as major subject. My master's supervisor was consternated when I, after the final exam, declaired that I did not plan a career in this subject but rather wanted to become a philosopher. I never regretted my decision. I later published a monograph on the narrative coherance of medieval narrative texts which derived from my master thesis and a journal artical on fictionality in late medieval German narrative texts.

With a scholarship from the German National Academic Foundation, I started preparing my philosophical PhD thesis on personal identity. From 2008 to 2010, I was a teaching and research assistant at Ludwig Maximilian University and taught a variety of courses, especially essay writing courses. I completed my PhD thesis supported by a scholarship from the Ludwig Maximilian University.

It was on the very same day in November 2011 that I submitted the thesis and took up my position as a Research Fellow in the research project “Powers and the Identity of Agents” at the Leopold Franzen University in Innsbruck, Austria. This project, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), explored the ontological commitments of dispositional realism and its impact on our understanding of persistence, personal identity and agency.

I organized three conferences during my three-years appointment in Innsbruck. The last was an interdisciplinary workshop with John Dupré on the natural foundations of free will (“Determinism/Indeterminism in Nature”). Given the considerable overlap of our research interests, I was happy to accept John’s offer to join his ERC-funded research project “A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology” which pursues the ambitious goal of enhancing biology by metaphysically spelling out the processual nature of living systems.

In December 2014, I was awarded the City of Innsbruck’s 2014 Prize for Scientific Research. Immediately after the ceremony I entered my car and drove to Exeter. Since then you can find me together with my colleagues in the ‘Process Biology Office’ in Byrne House. I maintain collaboration with my colleagues in Innsbruck as an external collaborator in the interdisciplinary research project “Agency and (Quantum) Physics”.