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Dr. Erik N. Dzwiza-Ohlsen pursued his studies in philosophy, psychology, and theology at Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel from 2007 to 2012. He went on to complete his PhD at Julius-Maximilians-Universität zu Würzburg from 2013 to 2018 (Horizons of the Lifeworld published by Fink in 2019). Subsequent to a Suhrkamp Fellowship at the German Literature Archive Marbach he has been working as a research assistant alongside Thiemo Breyer since 2016. Initially, he was associated with the Research Lab of the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne and, since 2022, he has been affiliated with the Husserl Archive at the University of Cologne. In 2021/2022, he held a Research Fellow position at the Center for Subjectivity Research in Copenhagen. Dr. Erik N. Dzwiza-Ohlsen is a founding member of “et al. – a blog for phenomenological philosophy” (2017), editor of “Schriften zur Phänomenologie und Anthropologie” (since 2020), co-founder of the national working group “Transdisciplinary Dementia and Aging Research” and the international network “Phenomenology of Dementia and Aging” (both since 2021). His research interests encompass various fields such as phenomenology, psychopathology, philosophical anthropology, theory of medicine, cognitive sciences, and the theory of expression and language. Currently, Dr. Dzwiza-Ohlsen is engaged in his habilitation project titled “Philosophy of Dementia: Phenomenological, Psychopathological, and Anthropological Perspectives”.

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.