Prof. Dr. Rebekka Hufendiek

Postal Address:

University of Bern
Institute of Philosophy
Länggassstrasse 49
3012 Bern

Office: Unitobler, B202


I am an SNF Eccellenza Professor at the University of Bern and the Principal Investigator of the research project Explaining Human Nature: Empirical and Ideological Dimensions.

My research focus lies at the intersection of philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, and anthropology. I am particularly interested in the normative and ideological dimension of scientific research on the evolution of human features such as morality, emotions, and cooperation.

Within the project I work on a comprehensive critique of theories about the evolution of morality. In a nutshell, my take is that these theories often presuppose a particular view of what morality is and thereby make normative presuppositions that bias the resulting work. I have developed this critique focusing on the work of Michael Tomasello in a recent paper. I also take it that this tendency can be found in the first genealogies of morality in the 19th century and a first critique of that tendency can be found in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality. I sketch this view in a recent paper.

A second interest of mine that will be part of the project is the role that functional explanations (in particular etiological explanations) play for theories about the evolution of cognitive and behavioral features. In a recent chapter on functional explanations of pride and shame, I argue that functional explanations entail holistic assumptions about what kinds of beings we are, why we do what we do, what is beneficial for us, and how we structure our social surroundings. Where claims about the function of emotions such as pride and shame are offered as if they were bolstered by solid evidence for the kind of causal mechanism needed for a functional explanation, they tend to make overgeneralizing and reifying claims about the human condition, giving such claims an ideological flavor.

I am generally interested in the role that ideology critique can play in the discussion of socially relevant research on cognitive and behavioral features. I have a forthcoming paper that discusses that role focusing on recent research on sex differences.

I am also interested in philosophy of mind, specifically in embodied and situated cognition and research on emotions. In my book I explore emotions as embodied, action-oriented representations, providing a noncognitivist theory of emotions that accounts for their normative dimension. The book focuses not only on the bodily reactions involved in emotions, but also on the environment within which emotions are embedded, and on the social character of this environment, its ontological constitution, and the way it scaffolds both the development of particular emotion types and the unfolding of individual emotional episodes.



Papers and Book Chapters (selection)

  • (accepted): “Beyond Essentialist Fallacies: Fine-Tuning Ideology Critique of Appeals to Biological Sex Differences.” Journal of Social Philosophy.
  • (2020): “From Natural Hierarchy Signals to Social Norm-Enforcers. What Good Are Functional Explanations of Shame and Pride?” In: Rebekka Hufendiek, Daniel James, Raphael van Riel (Eds.): Social Functions in Philosophy: Metaphysical, Normative, and Methodological Perspectives. Routledge, New York, 93-121.
  • (2020): “Emotions, Habits, and Skills: Action-Oriented Bodily Responses and Social Affordances” In: Fausto Caruana, Italo Testa (Eds.): Habits. Pragmatist Approaches from Cognitive Neurosciences to Social Sciences. Cambridge University Press Cambridge, 100-119.
  • (2019): “Das Hypothesenwesen. Die genealogische Methode bei Nietzsche und Rée.” Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie. 67 (3), 440-450. DOI: 10.1515/dzph-2019-0035
  • (2019): “Die Entstehung der Moral, der Begriff der Moral und die Natur des Menschen.” Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung. 73 (2), 183-208. DOI: 10.3196/0044330826489487
  • (2018): “Explaining Embodied Emotions – with and without Representations.” Philosophical Explorations. 21 (29), 319-333. DOI: 10.1080/13869795.2018.1477985
  • (2017): “Affordances and the Normativity of Emotions.” Synthese. 194 (11), 4455-4476. DOI: P-2171-2017
  • (2016): “William James and John Dewey on Embodied Action-Oriented Emotions.” In: Roman Madzia, Matthias Jung (Eds.): Pragmatism and the Embodied Cognitive Sciences. De Gruyter Berlin, 269-288. DOI: 10.5451/UNIBAS-EP53871
  • (2015): with Markus Wild: “Faculties and Modularity” In: Dominik Perler (Ed.): The Faculties. A History. Oxford University Press, 254-298. DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199935253.003.0010
  • (2013): “Whereabouts. Locating Emotions Between Brain, Body and World” In: Julia Weber and Rüdiger Campe (Eds.): Rethinking Emotions. De Gruyter Berlin, 351-379. DOI: 10.1515/9783110259254


  • Elizabeth Barnes: The Minority Body. OUP 2016, 09.11.2016 in der NZZ
  • Das Muttertier am Ursprung der Moral. Neuere naturalistische Ansätze in der Metaethik.“ In: Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung. Bd. 66/1 (2012)
  • „Catherine Newmark: Passion. Affekt, Gefühl. Philosophische Theorien der Emotionen von Aristoteles bis Kant. Hamburg (Meiner) 2008.“, 62 (2009).


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