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Sophie Kikkert

I'm a PhD student and teacher in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics. I am interested in what it means to have and exercise abilities, and in how the abilities agents have and believe they have affect their opportunities, aspirations and choices.

My research investigates, among other things, the way in which ability attributions are subject to social norms and expectations, and how these norms are reflected in the epistemic practices by which we aim to find out about them. 

When I'm not reading, writing or teaching I like to spend my time on hiking and camping trips and on taking care of my small urban garden and Minnie the cat.

 

Research

Papers in Progress

'Ability, Possibility and Distribution over Disjunction'

Kenny (1976) argues that ability can’t be captured by a modal system with a possible world semantics, because it fails to obey two key theorems that govern possibility. I reconstruct Kenny’s argument as a quadrilemma and respond that while there is a ‘thin’ sense of ability that does behave like possibility, there is another, ‘thick’ sense of ability which does not. Yet also the ‘thick’ sense can be represented within the possible world semantical framework.

'(Dis)ability, Test-cases and Normality'

How do we distinguish agents who lack an ability from agents whose ability is (structurally) masked? I argue that modal accounts of ability would do well to adopt an important insight from the literature on disability: An agent’s internal constitution does not necessitate her being dis- or enabled. Nor is it sufficient to say that whether an agent has an ability simply depends on the context of enquiry. When attributing an ability to an agent within a given context, we rely on social norms. These norms sometimes require careful revision.

  

'Ability's Two Dimensions of Robustness'

I individuate two dimensions along which abilities can be robust. Dimension I distinguishes the successful exercise of abilities, which requires local control, from cases of lucky success. Dimension II concerns the global availability of relevant acts, which ensures an agent has the option to perform some act across a variety of scenarios. I show how this framework resolves a point of tension in the literature regarding the strength of the robustness required for ability and explain how it provides insight in the relation between ability possession and exercise. 

  

 

Teaching

A committed teacher, I aim to create an inclusive environment in which students are encouraged to actively exercise and develop their analytical skills. At the LSE, I have obtained a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education, and I enjoy reflecting on pedagogic practices that make studying philosophy accessible and exciting. Over the past few years, I have won two departmental teaching awards for my work as a class teacher on the following year-long courses:

'The Big Questions: Introduction to Philosophy'

In 2018-19 and 2019-20 I was responsible for weekly, introductory seminars for three classes of undergraduate students from a range of academic backgrounds. Topics included free will, truth, personal identity, meaning in life and ethics. Part of my role was to help students develop their essay-writing and argumentation skills.

Philosophy of the Social Sciences

In 2020-21, I taught weekly seminars to ca. 30 students from LSE's Philosophy and PPE programmes. Topics included social ontology, laws and causation in the social sciences, rational and structural explanation, institutions, and discrimination.

 
Stack of Books

CV