Département de philosophie

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Emma Tieffenbach

Chargée de Cours



I am a researcher working in the field of moral philosophy and philosophy of social sciences, currently based in Switzerland. After an MA in History (Unige, 1998), I obtained a Master of advance studies at the EHESS (2000), followed by a research scholar position in the same institution (2000-2003) were I worked with Monique canto-Serber and Vincent Descombes. In 2002, I went to Georgetown University (Washington, DC) and, the following year, to Columbia university (New York City) as a visiting scholar where I studied under the supervision of Margaret Little, Jon Elster and Joseph Raz. Back to Switzerland, I obtained a three years SNFS grant to work on my Phd dissertation, directed by Kevin Mulligan, on Invisible-hand Explanations. As a lecturer, I taught philosophy of economics at the EPFL (2003-2005) and political philosophy at the university of Neuchatel (2008-2009). After my Phd in 2011, I spent 18 months as a post-doc researcher at the Swiss Centre for Affective sciences (2012-2013). Again at the CISA, I pursued research on the topic of economic values, under the benefit of Marie Heim-Vögtlin subsidy (2013-2015). After another year-long post doc at the University of Basel (2015-2016) with Anne Meylan, I joined the Consumer Decision and Sustainable Behavior Lab at the CISA with a research project on the ethics of nudges (2016-2017). Since 2018, I am an Academic Fellow of the Geneva Centre in Philanthropy, where I publish and teach on the ethics of giving.


  • 2019 (Fall) Chargée de cours (University of Geneva)
  • 2019 (Fall) Chargée de cours (university of Lausanne)
  • 2019 (Spring) Chargée de cours (University of Fribourg)
  • 2018- Academic Fellow at the Centre en Philanthropie (University of Geneva)
  • 2016-2017 Collaboratrice scientifique II (University of Geneva)
  • 2015-2016  Post-doctoral researcher (University of Basel)
  • 2013-2016  SNFS Marie-Heim Vögtlin Post-doctoral researcher (CISA, University of Geneva)
  • 2012-2013  Post-doctoral researcher (CISA, University of Geneva)
  • 2007-2010  Chargée de cours (EPFL, Lausanne)
  • 2008-2009  Chargée d'enseignement (University of Neuchatel)
  • 2005-2008  Collaboratrice scientifique (Sociology, University of Geneva)
  • 2001-2002  Visiting Scholar (Columbia University, New-York City)
  • 2002-2003  Visiting Scholar (Georgetown University, Washington DC)
  • 2000-2003  Chargée de recherche (EHESS, Paris)
  • 1998-1999  Assistante suppléante (History, University of Geneva)


My fields of expertise are the philosophy of the social sciences, the philosophy of economics, and moral and political philosophy. I have conducted several independent research projects, all under the benefits of various SNFS funding programs.

  • My research on Invisible-hand Explanations deals with the explanatory powers of highly idealized economic models (SNFS: 100011-109342).
  • Under the benefit of a Marie Heim-Vögtlin grant (SNFS: PMPDP1_145534), I have conducted a research project on the nature of economics values. In connection to that project, I have developed with Pr Olivier Massin (UZH) a philosophical theory of economic exchanges that highlights the normative dimensions of the act of buying goods or services. Another extension of that project is the article, with Pr Nir Eyal (Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health) on the moral limits of market exchanges. 
  • "The Ethics of behavioral insights" is an NCCR Incentive project in which I discuss the moral flaws attributed to nudging interventions. The project also explores how certain nudges relate to our propensities to emotional experiences. Whether the cost of these emotions can be consistently accommodated within the soft realm of nudges was my basic concern.

 Peer-reviewed publications

  • 2019. La science du don, le "warm-glow feeling", une theorie de l’altruisme impur, Expert Focus, 116-120.
  • 2018. Review of Francesco Guala, Understanding Institutions, The Science and Philosophy of Living Together, Princeton University Press, 2016, 222 p. in Annals of Luigi Einaudi Foundation, vol LI(3).
  • 2018. Petit traité des valeurs (avec Julien Deonna), Paris: Edition d’Ithaque, “Sciences et Métaphysique”.
  • 2018. The explanatory power(s) of Unintended consequences, in Adriana Mica, Arkadiusz Peisert, Jan Winczorek (ed.), Sociology of the Invisible Hand, Peter Lang.
  • 2018. L’utilité, in Julien Deonna & Emma Tieffenbach (ed.), Petit traité des valeurs, Paris : Edition d’Ithaque, collection “sciences et métaphysique”.
  • 2018. Introduction, in Julien Deonna & Emma Tieffenbach (ed.), Petit traité des valeurs, Edition d’Ithaque, collection “sciences et métaphysique”.
  • 2018. Glossaire des valeurs, in Julien Deonna & Emma Tieffenbach (ed.), Petit traité des valeurs, Paris : Edition d’Ithaque, collection “sciences et métaphysique”.
  • 2017. The Metaphysics of Economic Exchanges (with Olivier Massin), in Journal of Social Ontology, 3(2): 167–205.
  • 2016. L’envie (with Florian Cova) in David Sander, Nathalie Herschdorfer (ed.), Emotions, Munro’s Books.
  • 2016. Trades and incommensurability (with Nir Eyal), in The Monist, 99, 387-405.
  • 2016. The Virtual Reality of the Invisible Hand, in Social Science Information, 55 (1), 115-134.
  • 2014. On the cost of Shame, in International Journal of Public Health and Management, 3 (7), 408-411.
  • 2014. Qu’est-ce que l’argent? in O. Massin et A. Meylan (ed.), Aristote chez les Helvètes, Paris : Edition d’Ithaque, collection “Sciences et Métaphysique”.
  • 2013. Invisible-Hand Explanation: From Blindness to Lack of We-ness. In Social Science Information 52 (3), 450-470.
  • 2011. The Sounds of Institutional Facts, in Philosophical Papers Dedicated to Kevin Mulligan, Anne Reboul (ed.).
  • 2010. Searle and Menger on Money, in Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 40 (2), 191-212.
  • 2003. De la main invisible à la Ruse de la Raison: traduction romantique d’une idée des lumières, in Giovanni Bardazzi, Alain Grosrichard (textes réunis par), Dénouement des Lumières et Inventions romantiques, Genève, Droz, 47-67.
  • 2002. La philosophie de l’histoire d’Edmund Burke (1729-1797): de l’ordre spontané à l’anarchie méthodique, in Annales Benjamin Constant 26, 176-206. 
  • 2000. Review of Mary Maynard (ed.), Science and the Construction of Women, University of York, UCL Press, Londres, 1997, in Traverse, Revue d’histoire, 163-165. 
  • 1999. Review of Philippe Carrard, Poétique de la nouvelle histoire. Le discours historique en France de Braudel à Chartier, Dijon, Quetigny/Lausanne, Payot, 1998, in Equinoxe, revue des Sciences humaines, n°21, Spring, 129-131.


  • The Ethics of philanthropy
  • Philosophy of Economics
  • Theoretical philosophy 
  • Political philosophy
  • Economic Sociology
  • Introduction to the Historical Method