Ansgar Beckermann

Ansgar Beckermann (* 1945 in Hamburg) is a German philosopher and one of the main proponents of the philosophy of mind in Germany. Other areas of research are epistemology and logic.

Beckermann studied from 1964 to 1970 philosophy, sociology and mathematics at the Universities of Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main. In 1974 he received his doctorate with the thesis " Reasons and Causes"; 1975 to 1981 he was a research assistant at the University of Osnabrück. After professorships at the University of Göttingen and the University of Mannheim Beckermann was from 1995 to 2012 professor at the University of Bielefeld. From 2000 to 2006 he was president of the Society for Analytical Philosophy.

Physicalism and the metaphysics of mind

Beckermann describes himself as a representative of a physicalist monism. Physicalism claims that all entities are physical entities. This means, firstly, that all objects are composed of the fundamental physical particles. Beckermann has noted, however, that a comprehensive physicalism must be extended to properties. Only if a physicalist claims that arise all the properties from the properties of the fundamental physical objects, you can physicalism adequately from property dualism delimit. However, by this thesis of physicalism seems to be set to a reductionist theory. Beckermann accepted that such reductionism is faced with serious objections.

In particular, the experience levels ( the qualia ) oppose by Beckermann a reductive analysis. Many mental states have the property to be experienced in a certain way. Beckermann tries to explain this aspect of consciousness by the following example:

"And if someone says he still does not know where the qualitative character derives about a judgment of taste, we can address this lack of understanding as follows: We give him a sip to drink wine, then let it suck a peppermint and then give him a sip of the same wine with the remark that what has changed now, this is the qualitative character of your judgment of taste ".

A reductive theory of consciousness would be complete only if also the experience aspect could make themselves understood by a scientific analysis. Yet this does not seem to be possible. It is true that about the neuroscience find neural correlates of consciousness, so explain with what state of consciousness goes hand in hand which operation in the brain. But this does not explain why something is experienced.

Since such a statement performance does not seem possible, threaten reductive approaches to fail. Now, however, it is plausible that physicalism is set to the reducibility of consciousness. This issue has caused to discuss emergenztheoretische positions following CD Broad Beckermann.

In contrast to the Qualia Becker holding the phenomenon of intentionality not a problem for physicalism. The intentional content of mental states let be understood as part of a measurement theoretical approach.

Freedom and knowledge

Beckerman says that physicalism and determinism are compatible with the idea of free will. Although the determinism implies predestination our will, but this must not be understood as a refutation of the idea of ​​freedom. Rather, we can understand the conformity of will and thought in " freedom."

In an influential essay Beckermann has also attacked the philosophical concept of knowledge. Traditionally, "knowledge " is defined as true, justified opinion, Plato had discussed this definition at the end of the Theaetetus. 1963 Edmund Gettier showed, however, that this definition is incorrect as there are cases of true, justified opinions which do not represent knowledge. Since then, numerous attempts have been made to find a new definition. Beckermann but makes a logical error in this determination of "knowledge" attention:

"If we define knowledge as justified true belief, then we define knowledge with the help of two conditions, one of which - truth - for the purpose of our recognition efforts is, while the other - Justification - is a criterion by which we want to find out whether we have achieved this goal. This [ ... ] is, however illegitimate. Because in principle it is not allowed a goal and the criteria by which we make sure that the goal was reached to include in the definition of the same term. In other words: Systematically the ordinary language concept of knowledge is an incoherent hybrid concept - a concept in which two features are combined, are not on the same level and therefore may not be aggregated. "

In contrast, Becker man proposes to dispense with a definition and give "knowledge" as a central concept in the theory of knowledge:

"We should be bolder [ ... ] be and do without the concept of knowledge altogether. There are in epistemology no interesting question and not an interesting thesis, which we could not formulate even without this term. What is the goal of our cognitive efforts? Truth. How can we determine which of our statements and beliefs are true? For example, by checking whether these statements and beliefs are justified. For various reasons, we are interested in the truth of statements and beliefs and for the justification of propositions and beliefs. But the question whether statements and beliefs are true and justified, plays in our cognitive efforts for good reasons do not matter. In other words, if one understands knowledge in the sense of true and justified belief, then this term is not only incoherent, but - fortunately - even uninteresting and dispensable ".


  • Ansgar Beckermann (eds.): Analytical theory of action. Volume 2 (action statements ). Suhrkamp, Frankfurt 1977, ISBN 3-518-06399-5; 1985, ISBN 3-518-28089-9
  • Reasons and causes. For supposedly fundamental difference between mental action explanations and scientific- causal explanations. Scriptor Verlag, Kronberg 1977, ISBN 3-589-20395-1 (dissertation)
  • Descartes about the real difference between body and soul - a study on Cartesian dualism. 2 Department of the University of Osnabrück, 1982
  • Descartes ' metaphysical proof of the duality. Analysis and critique. Alber, Freiburg / Munich 1986, ISBN 3-495-47608-3
  • Hans Flohr, and Jaegwon Kim (eds.): Emergence or Reduction? Essays on the prospects of nonreductive physicalism. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1992, ISBN 3-11-012880-2
  • Introduction to Logic. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1997, ISBN 3-11-014774-2; 2nd revised and expanded edition 2003, ISBN 3-11-017965-2
  • Analytical Introduction to the philosophy of mind. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999; 2nd revised edition 2001, ISBN 3-11-017065-5; 3rd revised edition 2008, ISBN 978-3-11-020424-7
  • Dominik Perler (ed.): Classics of philosophy today. Reclam, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-15-010557-9