DFG Emmy-Noether Group

A Sensible World
The Problem of Secondary Qualities in and around the School of Brentano

This is the homepage of the Research Group “A Sensible World. The Problem of Secondary Qualities in and around the School of Brentano.”

It is supported by the Emmy-Noether program of the DFG and hosted by the Department of philosophy at Humboldt University Berlin.

It aims to explore the phenomenological, metaphysical, and epistemological debates about secondary qualities in the Austro-German tradition, more specifically the work of Franz Brentano and his first-generation students such as Edmund Husserl and Alexius Meinong, as well as the writings of the (often less well-known) students of these students, including Vittorio Benussi, Hedwig Conrad-Martius, Moritz Geiger, Alois Höfler, Edith Stein, and Stephan Witasek, among many others.

The project, which is meant to last for up to 6 years, will organize a series of conferences and workshops, and will also run a regular reading group.


May 3, 2023:
Launch of our new reading group on Ingarden’s Streit um die Existenz der Welt
April 21, 2023:
New talk in the Monthly Phenomenology series: Jonathan Mitchell

Research Project

The Problem of Secondary Qualities

The problem of secondary qualities emerges from a clash between our ordinary and scientific beliefs. Our perception shows us a world containing sensory qualities such as colours, sounds, etc.: a sensible world. However, physics teaches us that the world is just a dark and silent heap of particles; colours, sounds, etc., are only derived “secondary” qualities, mere appearances arising from the action of the physical “primary” qualities on our senses. Hence the problem: Do colours, sounds, etc., exist independently of us, and if not, to what extent do their appearances provide us with an adequate knowledge of reality?

In and around the School of Brentano

Network History of Philosophy

This project will develop a “network history of philosophy.” This approach does not focus on “big names”, but on series of authors; it starts from specific problems and explores the various solutions that members of a certain tradition gave to them. This will show that the problem of secondary qualities did not only find an interesting treatment in major figures of the Brentano School – e.g. Brentano, Husserl, and Meinong – but that there are also other, less well-known heroes in this story, such as Conrad-Martius, Geiger, or Höfler. This will contribute to a broader, topical programme of rewriting the canon in the history of philosophy.


Conferences and Workshops

Opening Conference:

“Secondary Qualities in the Austro-German Tradition and Beyond”

Reading Group

Summer Semester 2022-2023 :

Ingarden’s Streit um die Existenz der Welt


Hamid Taieb
Research Group Leader

Lina de Boer
Doctoral Research Fellow

Twan Stiekel
Doctoral Research Fellow

Alexandra Pop
Student Assistant