Département de philosophie

Emotions and the Understanding of Value

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What are the relations between amusement and the comical, shame and the degrading, fear and danger? The emotions just listed seem not only to be typically triggered by the values that I have mentioned in connection with them, it also looks like these emotions might provide special understanding of these values. Adequately articulating the relations – causal, epistemic, logical, etc. - between emotions and values has been at the centre of my career up to now. It has led to the production of numerous articles and culminated in a monograph on the emotions (co-authored with F. Teroni) recently published with Routledge. This monograph introduces the reader to the philosophy of emotions and also develops an original conception of the relation between emotions and value properties – one which we advertise under the name of the Attitudinal Theory of Emotions. Additionally, the book touches on a number of connected topics, including the metaphysics of values, the epistemic standing of our access to values through emotions, the relation between character traits, emotions and values, etc. A significant part of the present project pursues questions concerning the relation between emotion and value that were either left pending in the book, that have arisen since its publication in the light of the comments and criticisms it has received, or that were simply neglected. All of them, to be addressed in the four distinctive subprojects, are unified by the underlying thought that our emotional engagement with the world plays a privileged role in our understanding of value. Although none of the subprojects argue directly for this claim, they all illustrate different facets of how emotions may be said to contribute to this understanding.

Subproject 1, "Emotional attitudes and the epistemology of value" asks whether the attitudinal theory of emotion has the resources to account for the widespread idea that emotions are sometimes enough to justify our judgments of value. According to the attitudinal theory that we have put forward, emotions do not represent values. If that is the case, it should be wondered how emotions could endow the relevant value judgements with even prima facie justification. Developing the account in such a way that it can meet this challenge is thus at the centre of this subproject.

Subproject 2, "Emotion, Attention and value" focuses on three questions: first, on the role affective dispositions play in providing objects of (dis)value to our attention. Second, on the way in which the active body on the one hand and the emotional object on the other hand may compete for attention in emotion. Third, in connection with subproject 1, on the role of emotions in providing justification for targeted and sustained attention to be exercised on particular aspects of one's environment.

Subproject 3, "Emotions, well-being and value", explores the role of emotion in well-being. It makes the hypothesis that human emotions -on the assumption that they are felt evaluative attitudes- are constitutively linked to well-being in a sense that satisfies the three central intuitions that have characterised the philosophical literature on well-being since its inception (pleasure, desire satisfaction, objective value).

Subproject 4, "Being Moved", empirically investigates the ramifications of a claim I have been defending in print, according to which the expression 'being moved' designates a distinct emotion-type which is typically triggered by instances of positive core values. One aspect of this investigation will focus on the hypothesis that the emotion known as 'elevation' in the psychological literature is just a species of 'being moved', while another will focus on the nature of core values and the way these relate to other values, in particular moral values, in subjects' overall pattern of value attachments.

These subprojects have connections with other projects or pre-projects in which I am already engaged or potentially engaged as applicant (details can be found in the 'state of personal research' section). Getting my SNF professorship renewed would allow me to reap the benefits of all the efforts I have put in building up these various projects.

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