Nicolai K. Knudsen

I’m a philosopher, working on phenomenology, social ontology, and practical philosophy. I'm currently an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Aarhus University, and before that, I was a Carlsberg Junior Research Fellow at Linacre College, Oxford.

My main interest concerns how perception, agency, and responsibility are transformed in group settings. Combining phenomenological and analytical methods, I have published on social cognition, joint action, social normativity, and the moral responsibility of groups. My first book, Heidegger’s Social Ontology: The Phenomenology of Self, World, and Others was recently published by Cambridge University Press. Here I argue that Heidegger’s phenomenology is an underexplored resource for contemporary social ontology, and I show what Heidegger’s claim that Dasein is always already Mitsein entails for his distinct conceptions of human mindedness and agency as well as his existentialist conception of authenticity. In more recent work, I develop a pluralist approach to joint responsibility according to which poorly structured groups can nonetheless possess morally relevant emergent capacities that make them praise- and blameworthy.

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New article in Philosophy & Public Affairs

"A Pluralist Approach to Joint Responsibility" has just been accepted for publication in Philosophy & Public Affairs. Here's the abstract:

The dominant accounts of group moral responsibility argue that only those groups that have organizational capacities that mirror the agential capacities of rational and morally competent individuals are morally responsible agents. Undergirding these arguments is the taken-for-granted assumption that there is only one type of moral responsibility. This paper challenges this assumption and outlines a pluralist approach to the moral responsibility of groups. I first describe three types of groups that lack some of the capacities often assumed necessary for an entity to be morally responsible and suggest that these aberrant groups nonetheless warrant some of our reactive attitudes. Drawing on David Shoemaker’s tripartite theory, I argue that this is so because aberrant groups, although they are not fully-formed moral agents, might still have morally relevant emergent capacities such as the capacity for having and expressing a largely coherent evaluative outlook, the empathic and coordinative capacities for having regard for other agents, or the capacity for judging. I argue that these three sets of capacities are independent of each other and that each is sufficient to make the group fit to be held responsible in some way.

Heidegger's Social Ontology is now available

Many critics and commentators hold that Heidegger had next to nothing to say about human sociality. In this book, Nicolai Knudsen rectifies this popular misconception. Drawing on his influential philosophy of mind, his philosophy of action and his conception of being-with, Knudsen argues that the central idea of Heidegger's social ontology is that we can only understand others, do things with others, and form lasting groups with others if we pre-reflectively correlate their behaviour with our own projects and the world that lies between us. Knudsen then uses this framework to formulate Heideggerian contributions to current debates on social cognition, collective intentionality, and social normativity. He also reinterprets Heidegger's famous concept of authenticity in the light of his social ontological commitments, and shows how Heidegger's affiliation with National Socialism betrays his own best insights into the fundamental structure of social life.

Use the code "HSO2022" for a 20% discount. 

"This is an excellent book that provides a systematic and long-overdue account of Heidegger's contributions to social ontology. A further virtue of Knudsen's work is that it does not shy away from the catastrophe of Heidegger's political commitments in the 1930s.  A much-needed corrective to the received view, even within phenomenology circles, that Heidegger has little to offer by way of a substantive account of sociality."

- David R. Cerbone, West Virginia University