PhD Studentship: The role of ‘empathy’ and ‘shared intentionality’ in social enterprise

Pay & Expenses: £13590 per annum (including £1000 research expenses budget) and tuition fees for 3 years


The definition of social enterprise has occupied the thoughts of many researchers over the last decade. One question that remains unanswered is “What motivates certain individuals to come together to set-up and develop social enterprises?” Literature focused on reasons for action indicates that an internal reason to do something must have a rational connection to an individual’s desire or interest in order to motivate action towards ends (Joyce, 2001). However, moral reasons for action can be independent of an individual’s desires, interests and commitments, which suggest that moral reasons are external rather than internal. In order for individuals to be moral, two key elements are required: 1) attunement to others’ emotions through empathy and 2) attunement to others’ ends through joint attention and shared intentionality (Hourdequin, 2012).

Empathy allows us to be aware of the affective state of others without necessarily having a pre-determined internal desire, goal or commitment to alleviate that state. In other words, empathy is not in itself a desire, though it may trigger other-directed desires and provide a reason for action providing a motivational link to others’ goals (Hourdequin, 2012). Shared intentionality emphasises the sharing of perceptions, intentions and goals and involves not just discerning other’s goals but adopting them so that they become joint goals and consequently reasons to act. Empathy and shared intentionality are the basis for human motivational orientations in which other’s ends count as reasons for us to act (Tomasello et al. 2005). This PhD will explore social entrepreneurs’ motivations in order to develop a theoretical overview of what constitutes their reasons for action. It will test the extent to which ‘empathy’ and ‘shared intentionality’ contribute to the set-up and development of social enterprises.

Also Read  PhD Studentships in Law


Applications are welcomed from national or international candidates with a first degree (first or upper second, or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in a relevant subject. The applicant must have excellent oral and written English skills and have experience in conducting research, including research methods training. Additionally, relevant work experience in the third sector would be beneficial.

Deadline for applications:

The deadline for applications is August 31st 2013. Interviews will be held in the week commencing September 9th 2013.

Start date:

A provisional start date would be agreed with the successful candidate after the interview process.

Informal enquiries:

Informal enquiries should be made via email to Dr Fred Seddon at (

For an application form and further details, please go to the Apply link below

Please quote reference: UN13EMPATH

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *