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Sophie Kikkert

I'm a Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities ‘Human Abilities’ in Berlin. Previously, I was a PhD candidate and seminar teacher in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). 

I am interested in what it takes to have and exercise abilities, and in how the abilities that agents have and believe they have affect their opportunities, aspirations and choices.

My research centres on the way in which ability attributions are subject to social norms and expectations, and on how we find out about our own and others' abilities. I am also interested in the relation between theories of ability and disability.

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My research lies at the interface of social philosophy and the topic of abilities. Currently, I focus on three interrelated projects. First, I investigate how features of the social world (such as the fact that someone belongs to a particular social group) may influence agents’ epistemic access to their abilities and options, and thereby their decisions. Second, I examine how (and how much) we can learn about others’ abilities based on their performance during (practical) tests. And third, I aim to develop a better understanding of the relation between theories of ability and disability.

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'Ability's Two Dimensions of Robustness'  (2022). Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society,

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 that 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. 


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Manuscripts in Preparation

A paper on general abilities, disability, and normality

A paper on ability-knowledge and epistemic disadvantage

A paper on the logic of ability and possibility

A paper on the epistemology of ability (with Tom Schoonen)

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I aim to create an inclusive environment in which students are encouraged to develop and actively exercise their analytical skills. I hold a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education and enjoy reflecting on practices that make studying philosophy accessible and exciting. During my time at the LSE, I have won two departmental teaching awards for my work as a seminar teacher for the following 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: radical scepticism; personal identity; free will; theories of truth; consciousness; animal sentience; arguments for the existence of God; the ethics of belief; utilitarianism; Kantian ethics; death and the meaning of life.

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: models; the value-free ideal; (causal) explanation; prediction; individualism and holism; social ontology and social kinds; hermeneutical injustice; rational and structural explanation; institutions; objectivity; bias and discrimination.

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