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 Workshop

10.15 Naomi Eilan, University of 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.

11.45 Steve Humbert-Droz, University of Geneva/Fribourg - 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; 2014; 2015), 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.

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)


April 26, 2018 Thumos seminar

Anthony Hatzimoysis (Athens)

Sartre on Affectivity

N.B.: There will be a PhilEAs talk by Margherita Arcangeli (Berlin) 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)

A Case for Reasoning About One's Emotions

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 (room B108)

May 31, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Julien Deonna & Fabrice Teroni (Geneva)


June 15, 2018 - The Imaginative Workshop


  • Amy Kind (Claremont McKenna College)
  • Patrik Engisch (Fribourg)
  • Julia Langkau (Fribourg)
  • Steve Humbert-Droz (Geneva)

Workshop organized by Fabrice Teroni and Steve Humbert-Droz

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