Elena Kalmykova

Researcher at Centre for Multidisciplinary Research on Religion and Society (CRS)

Visiting address:
Engelska parken
Thunbergsvägen 3C
751 20 Uppsala
Postal address:
Teologiska institutionen
Box 511
751 20 Uppsala

Short presentation

I am a philosopher who enjoys bringing together the research of various disciplines for my projects: embodied approaches, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, religious studies, cognitive science, phenomenology. In doing so I rely on my background as a BC in Oriental Studies, MS in Religious Studies and PhD in Philosophy of Religion. In my research I strive to bring together the best of both analytic and continental philosophic traditions.


  • cognitive science
  • embodied approaches
  • faith
  • irrationality
  • phenomenology
  • philosophy of mind
  • philosophy of religion
  • rationality
  • religious studies


I defended my PhD at Uppsala University, and since then worked in Sweden and in the UK (University of Birmingham, University of Leeds). I am a former Marie Curie Fellow (University of Birmingham, UK). My background is interdisciplinary, it comprises degrees in Oriental Studies, Religious Studies and Philosophy of Religion.

My previous project "Bridging Belief and Practice" was funded by European Commission and done in collaboration with researchers at University of Birmingham, University of Leeds, and Uppsala University. The project aimed at bridging the gap between the theoretical and empirical studies of religion, which up till now developed separately, as the studies of beliefs and the studies of practices.


My research interest lay in the following areas:

  • Irrationality
  • Philosophy of mind
  • Phenomenology
  • Philosophy of religion

Basing on the findings and theoretical developments of "Bridging Belief and Practice", I put forward a new interdisciplinary project "Rationality in the Flesh". In short, this research project is intended to investigate the hypothesis that body has its own kind of rationality. It aims to explore the embodied rationality by means of elucidating the under-theorised embodied grounds of human reasoning, and their relation to religious and ideological choices and decisions.

Irrationality is often held responsible for our biased treatment of people of different races and genders, and faults in decision-making. However, recent empirical research shows that irrationality is sometimes preferable to rationality: even simplest decisions, like choosing a meal from menu, cannot be made by emotionless reasoning only; religious faith helps to recover from surgery and is conducive to mental health; faith in success of a relationship makes it more successful. These findings challenge a standard conception of rationality, according to which following reason is a reliable path to knowledge and wellbeing. Is our conception of rationality wrong?

I argue that to understand such cases we have to take the role of human body into account. Body affects human cognition and decision-making through emotions, intuitions, etc., that often go unnoticed by our conscious mind. When offered to choose an object, people prefer that on their right hand side without realising that. Such circumstances, as left and right, insubstantial for rational decision-making, have crucial importance for our body. Bodily influence is structured and predictable, thus I hypothesise that body has its own kind of rationality. This study will develop and test this hypothesis by analysing the cases of irrationality with positive and negative outcomes. It will involve a re-reading of empirical material of religious studies and psychology through the lens of the hypothesis of bodily rationality.

The project will establish a collaboration between the researchers in philosophy, cognitive science and psychology of religion.

Elena Kalmykova