Département de philosophie

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Schedule of Talks

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The Thumos seminar, which is the main research activity of our group, takes place on Thursdays, 16h15-17h45 at the Bastions (room A206). Archives of Thumos seminar are available here.

Members of the Swiss Doctoral School in Affective Sciences get credits if they participate to the seminar and their travel expenses can be reimbursed within Switzerland.

We also indicate events that may be of interest to students of the emotions or that happen on the same day : 

  • The CISA Lecture series take place on Tuesday, 12h15-13h15 at the Campus Biotech (seminar room will be communicated by email to the members).
  • The Quodlibeta takes place on Thursday, 18h15-20h00 at the Bastions (room B108).
  • The Phileas talks usually takes place on Thursday in place of the Quodlibeta at the Bastions (room B108), 18h15-20h00.


Spring 2018

February 22, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Julien Deonna & Fabrice Teroni (Geneva)


March 01, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Anne Meylan (Basel)

The Reasons-Responsiveness Account of Doxastic Responsibility and the Basing Relation

In several papers (2013, 2014, 2015) Conor McHugh defends the influential view that doxastic responsibility, viz. our responsibility for our beliefs, is grounded in a specific form of reasons-responsiveness. The main purpose of this paper is to show that a subject’s belief can be responsive to reasons in this specific way without the subject being responsible for her belief. While this specific form of reasons-responsiveness might be necessary, it is not sufficient for doxastic responsibility.

March 08, 2018 Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Moritz Mueller (Bonn)

Responding to Significance: Dietrich von Hildebrand on emotion

Dietrich von Hildebrand’s writings contain one of the most ambitious and sensitive accounts of our affective lives to be found within early phenomenology. While comparable in scope to Scheler’s treatment of this subject and building on some of his central insights, Hildebrand’s work offers an original and distinctive systematic account both of the ontology and significance of emotion. At the core of this account is the claim that paradigm emotions constitute a form of position-taking (Stellungnahme). In developing this idea and contrasting position-takings with other types of intentional phenomena, Hildebrand offers an account of the nature and normative role of emotions that is substantially continuous with and at the same time crucially modifies central strands of Kantian ethical thought. As position-takings that respond to (antworten auf) the axiological properties of objects and events, emotions are seen alongside paradigm intellectual and volitional phenomena as forms of active engagement with the world, one of whose characteristic manifestations is conceived as expressing what is most definitive of our personhood.

In my talk I critically reconstruct the most central aspects of Hildebrand’s views on emotion. I begin by introducing von Hildebrand’s account of paradigm emotions as affective position-takings, contrast his account with views that conceive of emotions as forms of apprehension or grasp of axiological properties and critically assess Hildebrand’s view of how affective position-takings are to be distinguished from other types of position-taking. I then elaborate an important distinction which Hildebrand draws between different kinds of axiological property to which emotions can be responsive – ‘(dis)value’ and the ‘mere subjectively (dis)satisfying’. In this context, I also discuss some (dis)continuities with those aspects of Kantian ethical thought that inform his proposal and how it is supposed to make emotions intelligible as capable of manifesting the core of their subject’s personhood. I finally assess Hildebrand’s claim that emotions can be morally valuable in their own right and note some difficulties for this account in light of the role he assigns in this context to a specific form of higher-order position-taking that confers moral value on (first-order) emotional responses.

N.B.: There will be a Quodlibet by Joan Vance - Perceptual uncertainty and precision - afterward (room B108)

March 15, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Daniel Vanello (Geneva/Fribourg)

Moral Conflict, Practical Rationality, and the Appropriateness of Emotions

The aim of this talk is to argue that the notion of “appropriateness” of emotions one favours, and its relation to value judgements, is driven by tacit assumptions constituting one’s conception of practical rationality in ethical practice. First, I rely on Bernard Williams’ argument to the effect that moral conflict is structurally different from conflicts of belief to extract two common assumptions about practical rationality. I then argue that the first of these assumptions seems to be at work in the interpretation of the “appropriateness” of emotions in terms of “fittingness”. Finally, by exploring the second assumption about practical rationality, I put pressure on the interpretation of ‘appropriateness” in terms of “fittingness”  by suggesting that there might be an alternative way of understanding the “appropriateness” of emotions and its role in ethical practice.

March 22, 2018 Thumos seminar

Guy Fletcher (Edinburgh)

Prudential Judgements and Motivation?

In this paper I explore in detail how prudential judgments are related to motivation. I proceed by exploring a number of possible theses concerning their interrelation, and grounds of these theses. I argue for the following thesis:

Prudential Judgement Internalism (PJI): At least one type of prudential judgement (judgements about what is best for oneself, among current options) is necessarily connected to motivation in rational agents.

Here is the plan. I begin by arguing for PJI in §2 before considering objections to it in section 3. In sections 4 and 5 I consider the prospects for more ambitious, general, forms of internalism than PJI. I do this by examining possible explanations of the truth of a range of internalist theses including PJI. I argue that the two main ways of extending PJI are implausible and so we cannot sustain anything more ambitious than PJI. In section 6 I make two small amendments to PJI and give its final statement before (§7) closing by discussing the relation between PJI and questions concerning the nature of prudential judgements and the purported anti-alienation constraint on prudential value.

March 29, 2018 - Warwick-Geneva Interdepartmental Workshop

The event is part of the Geneva-Warwick collaboration in the Philosophy of Mind. The collaboration started in 2014 and is meant to foster a strong link between two internationally-renowned departments of Philosophy. Each year one of the departments organises an event where both members of staff and PhD’s can present their work. The event provides a unique opportunity for PhD students and early career researchers on both sides to meet each other and expert philosophers.

Location: PHIL 211 (Batiment des Philosophes)

10.15-11.00   Naomi Eilan (Warwick) - Communication as Joint Action

According to Tomasello’s ‘shared intentionality hypothesis’ (in A Natural History of Human Thinking), the evolutionary roots of the distinctive features of human thinking lie in 'adaptations for dealing with problems of social coordination, specifically problems presented by individual's attempts to collaborate with each other’. A key step in the evolution of such collaboration was the emergence of the capacity for joint action, in particular the capacity for a uniquely human form of joint action -- collaborative communication. I call his approach to communication the Collaborative Communication’ approach and oppose to it something I call the ‘Second Person’ approach, which in my view does better justice to some, though certainly not all of Tomasello’s claims about the importance of social interaction in explaining fundamental aspects of human minds. I will begin to spell out the difference by contrasting the two approaches along three dimensions: (1)The account given of the fundamental motivational structure underpinning the most basic forms of social engagement; (2) The relation between explanations of the capacity for communication, and of what it is to stand in communicative relation, on the one hand, and explanation of the understanding and acquisition of basic mental concepts (3) The account given of the genus ‘communication’ of which distinctively human communication is a sub-species.

 11.00-11.30   Q&A

 11.30-11.35   Break

 11.35-12.20  Steve Humbert-Droz (Geneva) - What Imagination is - The Tricky Case of Supposition

There is a growing consensus that imagination is not only a matter of mental images. In particular, some scholars have argued that supposing is a kind of imagination on the same footing as sensorily imagining. This suggests that our capacity to suppose constitutes a psychological faculty that is irreducible to an already known form of imagination or to a combination of other psychological faculties.

In this talk, I will criticize three “simulationist” accounts, which have it that our capacity to suppose constitutes such a faculty because it simulates/recreates a genuine faculty. The first account is by Mulligan (1999), according to whom supposing simulates judging; the second is by Currie & Ravenscroft (2002), for whom supposing simulates believing; the third and final one is by Arcangeli (2011; forthcoming), who argues that supposing simulates accepting.

By using the mode/content distinction put forward by Searle (1983) and others, I will suggest that the capacity to suppose fails to (i) fulfil the conditions for being a psychological faculty because of its content oriented nature, and (ii) that the simulationist account cannot integrate supposition without losing in explanatory power.

I will finally defend that supposition can be considered as a deliberative strategy that is imaginative only by analogy.

12.20-12.50 Q&A

Workshop organized by Daniel Vanello

March 29, 2018Thumos seminar

Naomi Eilan (Warwick)

Knowing and understanding other minds: on the role of communication

Over the past decade or so there has been increasing interest, in both philosophy and psychology, in the claim that we should appeal to various forms of social interaction in explaining our knowledge of other minds, where this is presented as an alternative to what is referred to as the dominant approach to such knowledge, usually identified as ‘theory-theory’. Such claims are made under a variety of headings: the ‘social interaction’ approach, the ‘intersubjectivity approach’, the ‘second person approach’, the ‘collective intentionality’ approach and more.  A multitude of claims are made under these various headings, both about the kind of social interaction we should be appealing to, and about how exactly this or that interaction provides an alternative to the ‘dominant approach’. Faced with this plethora of claims and characterizations one may well find oneself wondering whether there is an interesting, well formulated debate to be had in this area

I believe that there is a least one such debate, and in my talk I begin to sketch out how I think it should be formulated, and why I think it reveals fundamental issues about the nature of our knowledge and understanding of both our own and others’ minds. The debate turns on pitting two claims against each other. I will call one the ‘Observation Claim’, a claim that does, I think capture a very widely held view, over the ages, from Augustine on, about the basis and nature of our knowledge of other minds, and is rightly labeled ‘dominant’. The other I label the ‘Communication Claim’. It says we should give particular forms of interpersonal communication a foundational role in explaining both self and other understanding and knowledge. Although I think some version of the Communication Claim is right, my main aim is not so much to argue for it but to put on the table some of the central claims I believe would need to be made good if it is to an interesting and serious alternative to the Observation Claim.

N.B.: There will be a PhilEAs talk by Karen Crowther (Geneva) afterward (room B108)

April 12, 2018 Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Hichem Naar (Duisburg-Essen)

Reasons for Love and the Significance of Encounters

The question whether there are reasons for loving particular people (and not others), and what such reasons might be, has been subject to scrutiny in recent years. On one view, reasons for loving particular people are some of their intrinsic qualities. A problem with this view, however, is that it seems to make people replaceable in a problematic way. On another view, by contrast, reasons for loving particular people have to do with our relationship with them. Even if it might avoid the charge that it makes people replaceable, the view nonetheless appears to ascribe people a merely instrumental role in the generation of reasons for loving them. I argue for a view which combines these two views in a way that makes people neither replaceable nor instrumental. On my view (Naar, 2017), reasons for loving particular people are some of their intrinsic qualities as manifested in the context a relationship with us. After spelling out the view, I discuss an important challenge facing it: what’s so special about actually being in touch – via a relationship – with the positive properties of a person that would explain why we have special reasons to love them? I consider a couple of inadequate answers to this question before putting forward my own.

N.B.: There will be a Quodlibet by Katia Saporiti (Zürich) afterward (room B108)

April 19, 2018 - PhilEAs talk

Stacie Friend (Birkbeck)

The Factual Basis of Learning from Fiction

Discussions of the cognitive value of fictional literature usually take for granted that we can learn ordinary facts from fiction, and focus instead on other forms of knowledge or cognitive improvement. I argue that at least some of these other kinds of cognitive value -- such as learning 'what it's like' to have different experiences, or acquiring psychological insight into other human beings -- presuppose a basis in fact. I outline an account of the conditions under which we learn facts from fiction, and deploy it to better understand how fictions may be sources of other forms of cognitive value.

April 26, 2018 Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Anthony Hatzimoysis (Athens)

Anxiety as an Affective State

Among the phenomena of mood, some figure more prominently than others, forming the background of our interaction with the world. According to an influential line of reasoning, there is a set of fundamental moods attendance to which reveals important truths about our existence. And perhaps none of the moods is as revealing about the human predicament as the mood of anxiety. In the first part of my presentation I am going to assess the prospects of contemporary attempts to make sense of moods as intentional states. In the second part, I shall focus on anxiety in relation to fear, with the purpose of clarifying how we may best approach the phenomenology of the relevant experiences.

N.B.: There will be a PhilEAs talk by Margherita Arcangeli (Berlin) - Dispelling the confusion about mental imagery - afterward (room B108)

May 03, 2018Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Jona Vance (Arizona)

Gradable dimensions of emotional experiences

N.B.: There will be a Quodlibet afterward (room B108)

May 17, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Monika Betzler (Münich)

Shared Belief and the Limits of Empathy

The aim of this paper (co-authored with Simon Keller) is to show that (affective) empathy often makes demands of belief. As we will put it, once we empathize we are under a rational requirement to have beliefs that cohere with our empathy. To empathize with another person is to imagine how her situation is like for her, and share in her emotions. Emotions involve ways of seeing the world; fear of cats, for example, involves seeing cats as dangerous. To empathize with another person is, in part, to see the world as she sees it. If I empathize with your fear of cats, then I am under rational pressure to believe that cats are dangerous. The connection between empathy and belief has far-reaching consequences for several debates about the moral and epistemic roles of empathy. Empathy carries distinctive epistemic dangers along with its epistemic benefits; there can be good reasons to avoid empathy; there are epistemic barriers to our ability truly to empathize with others, even those very close to us; the ideal of universal empathy is incoherent; and empathy cannot plausibly be taken to be the basis of morality.

May 24, 2018Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Julia Langkau (Fribourg)

Fiction and Emotions as Construals

It’s uncontroversial that we can be and frequently are moved by fiction. The question I address in this paper is how we can explain the relation between what we care for, or our concerns, and our emotions towards fictional characters. While we might sometimes develop concerns with respect to fictional characters, this is an implausible explanation in other cases, for instance when we sympathise with a character at the very beginning of a novel where we don’t ‘know’ the character yet and cannot possibly have developed a concern. I will argue that in these cases, our concern is either rooted in our non-fictional life or in some aesthetic features of the fiction. A theory of emotions which can nicely explain the connection between concerns rooted in real life and emotions towards fictional characters is Robert C. Robert’s quasi-perceptual theory of emotions, according to which emotions are a kind of construal: they are mental events or states in which one thing is grasped in terms of something else. A construal is a three-place relation: a subject ‘perceives’ (more or less literally) something in terms of something else. The ‘in terms of’ relation can have as its terms a perception, a thought, an image, or a concept. Emotions are a specific kind of construal: they are concern-based, i.e. we have to have a concern about the construed situation. My thesis is that in some cases of emotions towards a fictional character, our concern is about something in our non-fictional life rather than about something in the world of the fiction, while the emotion is still directed towards the fictional character.

N.B.: There will be a quodlibet afterward by Annamaria Schiaparelli (Geneva) - Should All Definitions Be Grounded in Classification?

May 31, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Jona Vance (Arizona)

Predictive coding

June 15, 2018 - The Imaginative Workshop


09.30 – 10.45 – Julia Langkau (Fribourg) - Vivid Text and Vivid Imagination


11.00 – 12.15 – Steve Humbert-Droz (Fribourg/Geneva) What is Imagination? – The Tricky Case of Supposition


02.30 – 03.45 – Patrik Engisch (Fribourg) Non-Cognitivism About Fiction


04.00 – 05.15 – Amy Kind (Claremont McKenna) Inconscious Imagination

Venue: Room B109 (Bâtiment des Bastions, 5 rue de Candolle, Geneva)

Participation is free, and everybody is welcome (it would be helpful if those who plan to come could contact Steve Humbert-Droz, Steve.humbert-drozATunige.ch).

Workshop organized by Fabrice Teroni and Steve Humbert-Droz

Poster here

June 26, 2018 - Workshop: Emotion and Relevance

This interdisciplinary workshop will explore possible bridges and overlaps between neuro-psychological, linguistic pragmatic and philosophical accounts of the relation between relevance and emotion.

Although these disciplines approach relevance in different ways and with different purposes, they all highlight the important role of this notion in emotional experience. In contemporary neuro-psychological accounts, relevance is usually thought to play a key role in the triggering of emotions, since the latter are believed to emerge when the emotional system evaluates a given stimulus as relevant to its concerns. In philosophy, emotional relevance sparks interest in terms of its relation to value: as such, the concept of relevance is suited to assess the role of emotions in ethical, aesthetical and epistemological issues. In contemporary pragmatics, relevance plays a fundamental role in the communication of propositional meaning; recently, however, researchers in the field have started to discuss its contribution to the communication of non-propositional and affective contents.

During the workshop, invited speakers will first present how the notion of relevance plays out in their own accounts of daily emotional experience and then engage in the discussion of possible interfaces between disciplines. The goals of this event are thus to explore the different facets of the relationship between emotion and relevance and, crucially, to discuss further possible interdisciplinary directions of research on the topic.

The workshop is organised by Daniel Dukes (Universities of Geneva and Amsterdam) and Steve Oswald (University of Fribourg) and is proudly and generously sponsored by the Swiss Center for Affective Science and Swissuniversities. The event will be held at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva on the 26th June from 2-6pm. Participation is free but registration is mandatory. If you would like to register, please contact Steve.Oswald(at)unifr.ch before the 19th June.

Location: Campus Biotech – Room H8-01-D


14:00-14:10 Introduction (with Daniel Dukes and Steve Oswald)

14:10-14:30 Neuroscience and psychological theories of emotion and relevance (David Sander)

14:30-14:50 Questions and Clarifications

14:50-15:10 Break

15:10-15:30 Philosophical theories of emotion and relevance (Constant Bonard)

15:30-15:50 Questions and Clarifications

15:50-16:10 Pragmatics, theories of emotions and relevance (Tim Wharton)

16:10-16:30 Questions and Clarifications

16:30-16:50 Break

16:50-18:00 Summary and Discussion

(more information here)

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