Département de philosophie

Schedule of Talks

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The Thumos Seminar takes place on Thursdays, 16h15-17h45 at the Bastions (room A206).

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.

The CISA Lecture series take place on Tuesday, 12h15-13h15 at the Campus Biotech (seminar room will be communicated by email to the members).

Archives are available here.


Fall 2017


September 19, 2017 - CISA Lecture serie

Carlos Crivelli (Leicester)

On Extraordinary Claims Requiring Extraordinary Evidence: Basic Emotions Theory and the Doctrine of Facial Expression Universality.

The idea that humans “express” and “recognize” a set of emotions pan-culturally based on their facial expressions has become canonical in many fields of research. This view—popularized since the late 1960s by Basic Emotions Theory (BET)—has also become “received truth” among lay people, educators, and policy makers. Careful scrutiny reveals that the foundational studies for BET were technically flawed and their conclusions were either overstated or erroneous, yet. In the current state of affective science, evidence challenging BET propositions is severely scrutinized, whereas shaky evidence favoring BET is rarely challenged. BET’s 50-year grip on inquiry into basic issues on emotion and facial expression has suppressed inquiry by imposing important limitations in the diversity of samples, methods and theories being tested. My research to date has focused on overcoming the ideological barriers BET imposes by gathering data out of the Western lab, using a variety of methodological approaches and study designs, and testing alternative explanatory frameworks to BET. This approach has led to instances that support Carl Sagan’s celebrated dictum by supplying “extraordinary evidence” that support “extraordinary claims,” instances of facial expressions and emotions that do not accord with the culture-bound presumptions and proscriptions of BET.

N.B.: The talk will take place at the room 144.165 (Campus Biotech)

October 03, 2017 - CISA Lecture serie

Riikka Rossi (Helsinki)

On the poetics of disgust in naturalist fiction

The lecture explores disgust in literature and focuses on naturalist fiction in particular. In the nineteenth-century, naturalist literature received adverse publicity as “disgust literature,” inciting moral indignation and accusations of indecency in reading audiences. By analyzing case studies in French and Finnish literature, I offer an overview to disgust-triggering topics in naturalism and decadence, to their natural, aesthetic and moral aspects and the constellation of emotions within this literary movement. I consider my fictional examples to be illustrative of the complexity of “negative” emotions. While disgust has sometimes been considered as a morally suspect emotion per se, it also unveils a “cathartic” potential; triggering disgust in art can be used for critical purposes. Literature not only depicts emotions but also adjusts our emotions and understanding of reality, thus shaping the emotional communities we live in.

N.B.: The talk will take place at the room 144.165 (Campus Biotech)

October 5, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibeta

Sebastian Aeschbach (Geneva)

Varieties of Ressentiment

Over the past decade, the affective phenomenon of ressentiment regained some interest among philosophers and has been applied in the fields of sociology, transitional justice, and moral psychology. While the effects and sources of ressentiment are intensely debated, a clear account of the very nature of this affective phenomenon is often missing. We defend the view that ressentiment is a sentiment characterized by a reevaluation process. The various ways one indulges in ressentiment-reevaluation determines the different forms taken by ressentiment. An emphasis on the revaluation process departs from the common reduction of this phenomenon to an intense form of malicious hatred. It nevertheless comes with several theoretical benefits in regards to our understanding of self-deception and the complex relation between hostile emotions (e.g. envy) and moral emotions (e.g. indignation).

NB: There will be a Quodlibeta talk by Fabrice Correia (Geneva), untitled Tense Realism in Relativistic Spacetime, afterward at Uni-Bastions (B108).

October 12, 2017 - Thumos seminar

Constant Bonard (Geneva)

Emotional non-natural meaning

In this talk, I shall give an analysis of what I call emotional non-natural meaning, a type of meaning found in jokes, condolences, encouragements, insults, apologies, madrigals, etc.

In order to do so, I will combine basic notions from contemporary philosophy of emotions (especially that emotions possess correctness conditions) with two insights from 1950s philosophy of language. First, Paul Grice's distinction between natural and non-natural meaning and the thesis that the latter requires the ostensive expression of communicative intentions. Second, John Austin's argument that we should always analyze the meaning of an utterance as being part of the many things we can do with words (speech acts).

The two insights from Grice and Austin have been brought together since a long time (most influentially by Searle: 1969; Searle: 1975; Bach & Harnich: 1979), but without the input of recent philosophy of emotion. Thus, I argue, despite their great merits, the aforementioned analyses fail to give a satisfying account of emotional non-natural meaning – either because of inadequate theories of how emotions work (Searle), or because they just don't discuss the specific role that emotions can play within meaning (Bach & Harnich).

This allows taking a fresh look at some the meanings that count the most in our lives.

October 19, 2017 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Fritz-Anton Fritzson (Geneva)

Good/Good For Dualism: A Defence

Both the notion of ‘good for (someone or something)’ and the contrasting notion of ‘good period’ have been criticised by rival camps of philosophers. Some hold that the relational notion of ‘good for’ is problematic and that only the non-relational ‘good’ makes sense. Others hold that it is instead ‘good’ that is the problematic notion and that only ‘good for’ makes sense. I will call the latter camp relational monists and the former non-relational monists. Opposed to both kind of monist are dualists who recognize both ‘good’ and ‘good for’ as equally coherent and intelligible parts of our evaluative thought and discourse, none of which can be eliminated or reduced to the other. In this talk I will defend the dualist position against challenges from both kinds of monist. The structure of my argument is to treat dualism as the default position and then to argue that none of the challenges coming from the different monists are strong enough to warrant abandoning dualism.

NB: There will be a PhilEAs talk by Steve Humbert-Droz (Fribourg), untitled Contre l'imagination de masse, afterward at Uni-Bastions (B108).

October 26, 2017 - Thumos seminar

Clotilde Calabi (Milano)

Aesthetic appreciation as a cognitive feeling

When it was discovered that the "Man with the Golden Helmet" was not an authentic painting by Rembrandt (nor a portrait of his brother Adriaen), but (probably) a work of someone in his circle, its market-value diminished immensely. The painting is still exhibited in the Gemäldegalerie Berlin, though it seems safe to say that the note about the erroneous attribution will likely alter the beholders¹ attitude. Some philosophers who consider aesthetic appreciation an emotion would argue that the work that used to arouse marvel, silent admiration, or a kind of wonder, will now more likely give raise to reflections on the extravagancies of the art-market in a great number of visitors.

I discuss two theories of aesthetic appreciation that consider it a positive emotion. Kendall Walton argues that it is pleasure taken in admiring things and Jessi Prinz argues that it is wonder. Unlike Prinz and Walton, I contend that aesthetic appreciation is not necessarily positive and defend the hypothesis that it is a cognitive feeling. I propose the following:  S appreciates y if and only if S feels that s/he knows that y is valuable/takes y to be valuable within a particular category of objects.

November 2, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibeta

Cain Todd (Lancaster)

Emotional Distortions of Temporal Perception
Abstract: Common sense has it that time can seem to speed up or slow down depending on what kind of affective state we're in e.g. Time flies when we are having fun; time slows down as we see the the car accident unfolding. This paper will look at some psychological and philosophical explanations of this phenomenon and suggest that each are problematic. Psychological explanations relying on an internal clock model fail to explain adequately the role of attention in emotional episodes and also fail to give an account of what attending to time means. Ian Philllips has given a philosophical account of temporal perception that attempts to meet these challenges, but I will argue that, focussing on some features of emotion, his account also faces challenges. I will end by suggesting a different explanation of the phenomena that appeals centrally to some features of attention.

NB: There will be a Quodlibeta talk by Lorenzo Casini (Geneva), untitled The Causal Programme in Constitution Research, afterward at Uni-Bastions (B108).

November 16, 2017 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Juliette Vazard (Geneva)

Epistemic Anxiety, Unreasonable Doubt, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The idea that affective states might have a role to play in epistemic evaluation could be central to understanding anxiety disorders. Anxiety is an adverse emotional response to uncertainty about a possible threat. Doubting a proposition takes the form of an emotional reaction; it is a felt irritation. Anxiety is the motivational force behind epistemic behaviors aimed at resolving those uncertainties that are appraised as unsafe for the subject to have. But when does addressing an uncertainty become maladaptive? In anxiety disorders, anxiety is felt towards a multitude of situations and objects of everyday life, thereby presenting them as “real” uncertainties, (i.e. in need of being attended to and addressed). I will particularly be looking at obsessive-compulsive disorder, and at the processes that might be involved in one’s disposition to feel epistemically unsafe, and experience epistemic anxiety.

NB: There will be a PhilEAs talk by Michal Hladky (Geneva) afterward at Uni-Bastions (B108) untitled Neuroscience without brains - in silico experiments

November 23, 2017 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Maria Silvia Vaccarezza (Genova)

Both sides of the exceptional: on character education and emotions targeting moral exemplarity

By proposing her Exemplarist Moral Theory (EMT), Linda T. Zagzebski (2010, 2012, 2015, 2017) has been among the first who favored a retrieval of admiration after a long philosophical neglect. Largely due to her works, recent philosophical literature has seen a retrieval of interest in analyzing the role morally exceptional individuals play in our everyday moral lives, as well as the way they ground our moral judgements on virtues, values, and right actions.

Within such a new wave, a particularly fruitful line of investigation is now represented by research on how positive moral emotions targeting moral exemplarity (as they are presented, e.g., by Haidt 2003; Kristjansson 2017), and particularly admiration (Zagzebski 2015) affect the way we detect the morally exceptional. From a character educational perspective, research on emotions targeting moral exemplarity is of particular importance, in that it concerns the question of how they can be canalized so as to foster virtue acquisition (see, e.g., Sundari 2015; Croce and Vaccarezza 2017).

In this talk, I will briefly sketch the basics of Zagzebski’s EMT, as well as her account of admiration; then, I will broaden her perspective by taking a richer set of emotions into account. In particular, I aim at defending the constitutive, and not merely instrumental, moral and educational value of (i) positive exemplar-related emotions other than admiration, such as gratitude and moral awe, and (ii) negative exemplarity-related emotions such as jealousy, envy, embarrassment and shame.

NB: There will be a PhilEAs talk by Maude Ouellette-Dubé (Fribourg) afterward at Uni-Bastions (B108)

November 28, 2017 - CISA Lecture serie


November 30, 2017 - Thumos seminar

Antti Kauppinen (Tampere)

What is happiness about?

Recently, many philosophers have argued that happiness consists at least to a large extent in positive emotions. In this paper, I explore the implications of a quasi-perceptual model of emotions for the nature and epistemology of happiness.

NB: There will be a Quodlibeta talk by Hamid Taieb (Genève) afterward at Uni-Bastions (B108).

December 05, 2017 - Graduate seminar

David Sander (Geneva)

Introduction to psychology theories of emotion

NB: The seminar will take place in the room 144.165 (Campus Biotech), from 14:00 to 18:00

December 07, 2017 - Thumos seminar

Peter Poellner (Warwick)

Indistinctness in Emotional Experience

According to a widely held view in the philosophy of emotions, emotional experiences typically purport to disclose evaluative properties. Among those sympathetic to this view, there is considerable disagreement about what ‘disclosure’ amounts to in this context. It is sometimes said, for example, that the relevant sort of disclosure is nonconceptual. I shall argue that this claim is open to different interpretations, which do not necessarily conflict and may apply to different kinds of emotional experiences. I am especially interested in those (arguably frequent) cases where it seems initially plausible to say that, while the experience presents us with evaluative properties, we do not grasp those properties as such (or ‘access’ them) in, or on the basis of, the experience. I shall present some cases that invite this sort of description. If the description is roughly right, this raises interesting questions about the epistemological role of those emotional experiences. While in at least one sense they do not make available reasons that would be available to us were we to grasp the relevant properties, I shall argue that they are not rationally inert or otiose but rather have an important epistemic and practical role.

December 14, 2017 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Patrik Engisch (Fribourg)

There Is Still No Role for Imagination in Fiction

In his book Fiction and Narrative, Derek Matravers provides a forceful critique of what he calls the “consensus view” (CV) in contemporary philosophy of fiction. The central claim of the CV is that there is a conceptual route that starts from the notion of a prescription to imagine and that leads us to an elucidation of the distinction between fiction and non-fiction. Matravers, however, argues that there is no such route: not only does the notion of a prescription to imagine play no role in an account of our engagement with works of fiction, it plays also no role in an account of our processing of their content. In her recent book Only Imagine, Kathleen Stock offers a new defense of the CV. Indeed, she argues that some specific notion of imagination that she calls “F-imagining” is supposed to play a unique role in the way we process the content of fiction. As such, then, the spirit of the CV can be preserved. In my talk, I shall argue that the alternative offered by Stock is problematic and that Matravers’ challenge to the CV still holds.

NB: There will be a PhilEAs talk by Raffaele Rodogno (Aarhus) afterward, untitled Subjectivism and Objectivism about Well-Being, at Uni-Bastions (B108)

December 21, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Daniel Vanello (Geneva)

Two Conceptions of Ethical Practice and the Appropriateness of Emotions

The aim of this talk is twofold. First, I want to introduce and develop an often neglected distinction between two conceptions of ethical practice found in the writings of Bernard Williams and David Wiggins. Second, I want to show that contemporary debates on the appropriateness of emotions are often driven by tacit assumptions deriving from siding with one of the conceptions of ethical practice at the expense of the other.

NB: There will be a Quodlibeta talk by Simone Zurbuchen (Lausanne), untitled Laïcité and Tolerance, afterward at Uni-Bastions (B108).

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