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Erik Norman Dzwiza-Ohlsen studied philosophy, psychology and theology at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel. From 2013 to 2018, he completed his PhD at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität zu Würzburg and has been a research associate of Prof. Thiemo Breyer at the Research Lab of the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne since 2016 and at the Husserl-Archiv Cologne from 2022. He is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Subjectivity Research in Copenhagen since fall 2021 and is co-founder of the working group Transdisciplinary Dementia Research as well as the network Phenomenology of Dementia and Aging. He is currently working on a ‘Phenomenology of Dementia’.

further information

E-Mail: edzwiza[at]uni-koeln.de

Research Project

Philosophy of Dementia | Phenomenological, Psychopathological, and Anthropological Perspectives

Dementias–used as an umbrella term for a plethora of age-related, chronic, progressive, incurable, and, until now, irreversible diseases–can be seen as one of the central challenges of the present and the future. They bring not only both modern medicine and sociopolitical systems to its limits, but also the self-image of humankind by questioning our autonomy, reason and dignity.

Dementia diseases affect the whole person in his or her socio-cultural lifeworld and accordingly require theories that can do justice to this complexity and diversity. As a first step in the direction of an inter- and transdisciplinary dementia research the project aims to provide a comprehensive philosophical investigation of the most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s dementia. It brings three traditions into dialogue with each other: the phenomenological, psychopathological, and anthropological. It has three parts:

In the first part, the project, resulting in a book, gives an overview of central philosophical currents that have dealt with dementia-related illnesses in the last decades. The guiding principle is the philosophical question of the identity of self and person. Following this, the second part presents a phenomenological psychopathology of Alzheimer’s dementia. Starting from the experience of the affected persons in their socio-cultural lifeworld, the book explores the structural relationship between three main symptoms: the progressive loss of orientation, language, and memory. In the spirit of Jaspers’ “General Psychopathology”, the book provides the first comprehensive phenomenological psychopathology of Alzheimer’s dementia, critically incorporating empirical findings from fields such as medicine, psychiatry, linguistics, sociology, psychology, and many more. In the third part, two therapeutic strategies are proposed for dealing with such multidimensional loss: a context-specific strategy that explores the bodily resources of the individual person with regard to design, architecture, and gaming; and a situation-specific strategy that explores the communicative resources of the person in face-to-face interaction.