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 B214). 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.


Fall 2018

September 20, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Arturs Logins (Geneva)

Reasons without (good) reasoning
The reasoning view proposes to explain normative reasons in terms of good patterns of reasoning. In this paper I examine the reasoning view in detail. In particular, I introduce three counter-examples to one recent version of this view. More generally, I suggest that the reasoning view suffers from the same sort of problems that its proponents tend to attribute to some rival approaches.

September 21, 2018 -  CISA Doctoral Students Day

More information here.

September 25, 2018 - Brain and Cognitive seminar

Elena Semino (Lancaster)

Linguistics and communication about chronic pain

September 27, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Kris Goffin (Geneva)

Better Scared than Sorry: A Pragmatic Account of Emotional Representation

Emotional representations seem to be very unreliable. For instance, we are often afraid when there is no danger present. This is the emotional unreliability problem: if emotional representations are so unreliable, what function do they have in our representational system? I present the pragmatic account of emotional representation, which shows that emotional representations are reliable in the “pragmatic sense”. Instead of seeking an optimal balance between minimizing inaccurate representations and maximizing accurate representations, emotional representations are only reliable in so far as they maximize accurate representations. They detect phenomena, based on little evidence, which implies that they often present false alarms. When it matters, however, an emotional representation will detect the phenomenon. Careful reasoning aimed at minimizing false beliefs results in fewer false alarms, but it might miss some phenomena that emotional representations would have detected. Often one is better scared (and possibly wrong) than sorry.

N.B.: There will be a Quodlibet by Jiri Benovsky (Fribourg) - Dual-aspect-pan-proto-psychism - afterward (room B108)

October 04, 2018 - Conference on negative emotions

Riikka Rossi (Helsinki)

Sharing Disgust and Shame. Narrative Empathy and Negative Emotions
Can narrative empathy - the sharing of feeling induced by reading - cultivate a reader’s responsiveness to other people’s needs? The studies on narrative empathy have provided varied views on empathy and reading fiction. While it has been argued that novel reading can build better world citizens, many commentators have challenged the moral efficacy of fiction. Fiction may create an ideal site for depicting and triggering “ugly feelings” and morally suspect emotions. In storytelling empathy can also be employed as a tool for manipulation. Moreover, both theoretical and empirical studies show that negative emotions constitute an essential resource for aesthetic experience in novel art.
In this presentation I investigate narrative empathy and negative emotions in the light of an empirical case study on a reading group and the readers’ emotional responses to realist novels. In my analysis on the novels and the reading group, I demonstrate how the positive outcome of reading connects to the triggering and depicting of negative emotions. By exploring the transfer of emotions in the novels and the reading group, I illuminate how the sharing of disgust, shame and other negative emotions can contribute to the community-building function of fiction.
This conference is organised by Pr. Patrizia Lombardo
N.B.: The conference will take place at Phil102 (Batîment des Philosophes), 14:15-15:45.

October 04, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Mikko Salmela (Helsinki)

The Rational Appropriateness of Hetero-induced Pride and Shame

In their article “Pride, shame, and group identification” (2016), Alessandro Salice and Alba Montes Sánchez argue that people sometimes feel proud and ashamed of the actions of others whom they perceive to belong to the same group as themselves. The authors maintain that the social self is the target of emotion whereas the other is merely its focus – a “background object having import to which the target is related in such a way as to make intelligible the target’s having the property defined by the formal object” (Helm 2010, p. 58). We raise two worries, one minor and one major, about this account. Our minor worry relates to the intentional structure of these emotions. We suggest with Hume that hetero-induced emotions have two intentional objects instead of only one: both the self and the grammatical object (e.g. beautiful house) that merge in an indexical description of the latter as “my” (e.g. my beautiful house) or “mine”. Our major worry concerns the rational appropriateness of hetero-induced pride and shame that Salice and Montes Sanchez do not discuss at all. Following D’Arms and Jacobson (2000), we argue that the question of appropriateness concerns both the shape and size of an emotion. Regarding shape, we suggest that members of we-mode groups (Tuomela, 2013) may take literal credit or blame for the actions of their fellow group members and feel rationally appropriate pride and shame about those actions. However, in I-mode groups, it is typically possible to take only emotional credit or blame for the actions of others, feeling proud or ashamed of one´s identity as a group member but not of the actions of others. Regarding the size of these emotions, we suggest that agents are justified in expressing these emotions more intensely than others who feel proud or ashamed by virtue of those actions.

October 09, 2018 - Brain and Cognitive seminar

Janet Bultitude (Bath)

Neglecting a painful limb: Attention bias in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

October 11, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Jonas Blatter (Bern)

Moralising Emotions: Emotions in interpersonal morality

I argue that emotions can constitute moral wrongs towards their objects. There are several approaches to evaluating emotions on a moral basis. A consequentialist approach is arguably the most straight-forward, but also lacks any true directedness and basis for claims of the object against the subject. A virtue ethical approach offers more options for different kinds of considerations, be they prudential, out of a virtue like kindness, or for the sake of personal growth. However, virtue theory by its nature focuses on agents, and hence the subjects of emotions and not their object. In this talk, I present an approach based on interpersonal moral considerations to explain what is morally problematic about unfair emotions; and I address two major challenges to such an approach: (1) the No-Harm challenge, which is based on an apparent lack of morally relevant harm to the object, and (2) the No-Control challenge, which is based on the principle of ought–implies–can and the apparent lack of control over our emotions.

October 16, 2018 - Brain and Cognitive seminar

Robert Shepherd (Melbourne)

From a “jolt to the head” to the gift of hearing: Taking neural prostheses to the clinic

October 18, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Michele Ombrato (Geneva)

Emotional Reactions Over Time and Sustained Emotional Engagement

In most theories, emotion episodes are explicitly or implicitly construed as kinds of affective reactions or responses - viz., phenomena whose occurrence is contingent on the causal impact of specific elicitors on subjects who harbour the relevant sensitivities. In this talk, we shall argue that this construal should not be taken to fully capture the causal structure of emotion episodes as occurrents with temporal extension. More precisely, we shall argue that emotion episodes differ from other kinds of affective reactions - e.g., pain, thirst, hunger, fatigue, sensory pleasure - in that their continuous occurrence over time or persistence further requires sustained engagement (of interest and attention) with emotional (emotion-eliciting) situations. We shall conclude by suggesting that recognising the involvement of both elicitation and engagement as elements of the causal structure of emotion episodes allows us to correctly theorise the relation between the affective constituents and the cognitive constituents of emotion episodes. Furthermore, getting clarity about the relationship between elicitation and engagement - viz., between reacting to and engaging with emotional situations - provides us with a vantage point of view on the mixture of passive elements and agential elements which characterises the phenomenology of emotional experience as opposed to experience associated with other kinds of affective reactions.

October 25, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Matilde Aliffi (Birmingham)

Emotions and Epistemic Responsibility

In the first act of Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear, the King, looking for flattery, asks his daughters to express their love for him. When the third-born Cordelia turns down his request for flattery, the King reacts in a wave of anger and pride, and he vehemently disclaims his parental care for Cordelia. King Lear's emotion of anger seems utterly disproportionate and even irrational. There is nothing extremely offensive in Cordelia's speech that justifies such a tremendous rage. More precisely, the King's anger appears to be epistemically irrational: it is presenting information that is not well supported by the evidence. If this is the case, is the King epistemically responsible for his anger?
In this talk, I am going to explore the thesis that we, as King Lear, are epistemically responsible for our emotions, provided that we enjoy some level of control for them. Drawing on the extant discussion on the normativity of beliefs (such as Alston, 1988; Feldman, 2000; Olson, 2015) I distinguish three types of control of emotional states: synchronic, diachronic and fine-tuning control. I then distinguish different types of epistemic norms, and I develop an account of the types of responsibility that subjects enjoy for their emotions.

N.B.: There will be a Quodlibet by Arturs Logins - Emotional Lotteries and Problems of Confidence. A New Approach to the Lottery Paradox and Belief - afterward (room B108)

October 30, 2018 - Brain and Cognitive seminar

Diego Vidaurre (Oxford)

Characterizing brain network dynamics in rest and task

October 30, 2018 -  joint session LgBIG meeting & Thumos seminar

Steve Humbert-Droz (Geneva-Fribourg) & Michal Hladky (Geneva)

Imaginary invalid! Deflating the model bubble

Models and simulations are widely used in science offering methods complementary to experiments and hypothesis testing. Philosophers of science are attempting to answer the following related questions. What are models? How do scientists generate knowledge with models? How do scientists build and use models? There is a variety of alternative accounts that can be roughly classified as representational, teleological, epistemic. In all of these cases, the existence of an intentional agent is explicitly or implicitly postulated.

Our aim is to expose the problems of overcharged definitions of models, provide an alternative deflationary account and show how it contributes to clarify the notion of imagination under constraints deployed in scientific contexts.

In the first part, we introduce definitions of models (and simulations) from the literature in philosophy of science and discard those using epistemic and pragmatic/teleological notions. Then, we expose the representationalist accounts based on the notions of fiction and imagination. To conclude this section, we introduce the deflationary mapping account which will be compared with representational accounts in the third section.

The second part is dedicated to the notions of imagination and fiction as studied in philosophy of mind. We introduce the best candidates for being imaginative mental states (supposition, mental images, projection into fiction) as well as Walton's intentionalist account of fiction based on games of make-believe. Semantic accounts of fictions will be excluded.

In the third part, we expose several arguments against representation, fiction and imagination accounts of models in science. Arguments against representational definitions are based on considerations from philosophy of science. We argue that model relation between source and target structures based on isomorphism is preferable to representation, as it supports the change of direction in the context of building and of using scientific models. Furthermore, representation on its own is not sufficiently restrictive to justify inferences leading from observations of source systems to conclusions about targets. Also, in case of complex theories, scientists might not be able to fully represent them mentally. Finally, there are examples of scientific modelling in which causally and explanatory relevant entities are not represented, but inferred.

Arguments against fiction and imagination accounts are based on considerations from philosophy of mind. Philosophers of science often refer to Walton's theory of make-believe, but fail to consider several of its problematic features. In the context of science, the personal experiential character of imagination might not be required and might even be undesirable. Intentionalists could attempt to avoid this issue by modifying Walton’s account. Either imagination is reduced to supposition or the notion of games of make-believe to rule following. In either case, imagination properly speaking does not seem to characterise scientific modelling. We argue that fiction accounts, independently from the consideration of imagination, are incompatible with scientific practice. The intentions of authors of fictions need not be constrained by the world, contrary to those of the authors of scientific models. Similarly, we evaluate scientific models on the basis of their similarity with the world, something that obviously contrasts with the way we evaluate fictions.

The deflationary mapping account of models avoids these problems and has several independent advantages. It can be systematically applied in the definitions of simulations and of computer simulations by simple restrictions on its domain. It can feature in analyses of more complex phenomena as we will demonstrate in the next section.

The fourth part illustrates how the deflationary mapping account can be used to characterise cases in which scientists use imagination in order to derive conclusions about the world. As pointed out above, the simple representation relation is not sufficient to provide epistemic justification. Similarly, not all kinds of imagination can lead to knowledge. We introduce the notion of imagination under constraints that corresponds to the use of imagination in scientific contexts.

This application demonstrates that the explanatory relation between models and imagination should be reversed. It is not the imagination that clarifies what models are but rather model relations that characterise the notion of imagination under constraints. The intuitions of philosophers of science proposing definitions of models in terms of imagination can be explained by a simple correlation. It is often the case that scientists deploy imagination when using models. The alternative non-minimal definitions can be explained in analogous manner. When using models, scientists might think in terms of similarity, use mathematical expressions to describe their systems, evoke specific goals (solving equations) and so on. Philosophers aim to capture these phenomena by introducing these correlated terms in the definitions of models. However, this leads to a multiplicity of accounts that are arguably too narrow and mutually exclusive. The deflationary mapping account, on the other hand, is general and modular. Combined with other elements, it can be used in the analysis of diverse activities – such as imagination under constraints.

N.B.:The event will take place at Phil102 (i.e. Batiment des philosophes), 12:15-14:00.

November 01, 2018 -Thumos reading group

Jonathan Mitchell (Warwick) - The Psychosemantics of Emotional Experience

We read and discuss a paper on emotions by Jonathan Mitchell

N.B.: The event will take place at B107 (Uni-Bastions, 1st floor), 10:00-12:00

November 01, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Jonathan Mitchell (Warwick)

Emotional Intentionality and the Attitude-Content Distinction

Typical emotions share important features with paradigmatic intentional states, and therefore might admit of distinctions made in the theory of intentionality. One such distinction is between attitude and content, where we can specify the content of an intentional state separately from its attitude, and therefore the same content can be taken up by different intentional attitudes. According to some philosophers, emotions do not admit of this distinction, although there has been no sustained argument for this claim. Moreover, the consequences of this view have not been explored, and so it is not clear what challenges are faced by those who accept it. This paper argues that on a Goldie-inspired reconstruction of the phenomenology of emotions, the attitude-content distinction does not apply to emotional experience. The main thesis is as follows: the way values figure in emotional experience is such as to intelligibly motivate felt valenced attitudes – as having the power to motivate such responses – and it is this feature which blocks application of the attitude-content distinction. I also consider two challenges the view faces and suggest ways it can respond.

November 13, 2018 - Brain and Cognitive seminar (CISA cession)

Louis Charland (Ontario)

Anorexia Nervosa as a Passion: A contemporary case study in psychopathology and the affective sciences

November 15, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Louis Charland (Ontario)

The Distinction between Passion and Emotion: A Distinction We Ignore at Our Philosophical Peril

Contemporary English speaking philosophers and scientists do not typically refer to “passions” as constituents of the affective life. Indeed, with very few exceptions, the prevailing view in the history of “emotion” and the affective sciences appears to be that the term “passion” has been superseded by the term “emotion.” Admittedly, vestiges and variants of the term “passion” remain in ordinary parlance, not only in English, but also in other European languages. Nevertheless, as a theoretical category in the philosophy of “emotion” and the affective sciences, “passion” appears to have been relegated to the proverbial dustbin of history. In this seminar, we examine some of the perils of overlooking the distinction between” passion” and “emotion” in both historical research and contemporary theory.

November 20, 2018 - Brain and Cognitive seminar

Pascal Fries (Ernst Strüngmann Institute)

Rhythms for cognition: Communication through Coherence

November 22, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Juliette Vazard (Geneva-Paris)

Apart from radical skeptics, persons suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) probably manifest one of the most extreme forms of unreasonable doubting. What are the cognitive and affective mechanisms responsible for generating the need and motivation to suspend our judgment, reassess our beliefs, and gather further evidence to support or reject them? Given that OCD’s disabling symptoms are thought to result from a dysfunctional tendency towards doubt, uncertainty, and indecision, this disorder certainly holds some answers to these questions. The type of (unreasonable) doubt which I will consider is not a theoretical or “paper” doubt, but a doubt that is motivated and acts as a reason for mental and physical action. I will make a suggestion as to the kind of affective state providing motivational power to this doubt. In particular, expanding on views from Christopher Hookway and Jennifer Nagel, I will argue that doubt is triggered by an emotion which is sensitive both to the epistemic risk and to the practical cost associated with considering a given proposition as accurately representing reality. I then go on to propose an explanatory model to account for the instances in which this mechanism goes wrong and generates a doubt that is unreasonable (i.e. unjustified by the evidence at hand). To do this, I have chosen to look at what might be considered a distorting mirror of unreasonable doubt, namely the pathological doubt of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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

November 27, 2018 - Brain and Cognitive seminar

Roza Umarova (Freiburg)

Predictors and signatures of stroke recovery: insights from spatial neglect

December 04, 2018 - Brain and Cognitive seminar

Melanie Wilke (Göttingen)

Action-perception dissociations

December 06, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Demian Whiting (Hull)

Urges of the heart

“The noble personages, being somewhat further away, abandoned themselves to their emotions with hardly more discretion. Each gave free rein to the urges of his or her heart”. (Patrick Süskind, Perfume, p.246) 

Emotion has long been suspected to play a key role in the generation of human behaviour, but the exact nature of the role has been harder to pin down. In this paper I aim to do just that. A standard view in metaphysics has it that dispositional properties or powers have categorical bases, properties of objects that ground or explain or realize the way objects are disposed to behave when certain circumstances obtain (e.g. Prior et al, 1982). But if this is true of objects in general, then the same must be true of people specifically. So, the question arises: what in the case of ourselves might play the role of a categorical basis for our behavioral dispositions? I will argue that emotion is the best candidate – indeed it turns out to be the only viable candidate – for the categorical basis for how we are disposed to behave. Time allowing, I will also sketch out some possible implications of the view advanced in the paper for how we should understand emotion’s role in the formation of moral thought, virtue, and vice, taking, as commonly supposed, that such things involve dispositions to behave in certain ways.

Prior, E., Pargetter, R., & Jackson, F. (1982). 'Three theses about dispositions'. American Philosophical Quarterly, 19, 251 - 257.
Süskind, P. Perfume. (1986). Penguin Books: London.

December 11, 2018 - Brain and Cognitive seminar

Peggy St.Jacques (Sussex)


December 13, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Magalie Schor (Geneva)


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

December 18, 2018 - Brain and Cognitive seminar

Yael Hanein (Tel Aviv)

Printed EEG and EMG electronic-tattoos for neurological applications

December 20, 2018 -  Thumos seminar

Maude Ouellette-Dubé (Fribourg)

Moral Understanding and Experiential Understanding

Moral epistemology, similar to epistemology in general, is characterized by a search for knowledge and questions such as “does moral knowledge exist and, if yes, how can we gain some?”, “what is good and how can we know?” or again “what is a morally right action?” are central for it. Again, in trying to answer these questions the moral inquiry centers on how and whether we can gain moral knowledge, that is, how we can come to have a justified true moral belief. While it is uncontroversial that moral epistemology echoes a search for moral knowledge, some have questioned whether this needs to be so. Over and above moral knowledge, some defend the view that the primary goal of our moral inquiry should be to gain moral understanding (Hills 2009, 2011). The account of moral understanding favored along this view is explanatory understanding or “understanding why”. In this case, the agent is said to understand when she grasps the reasons “why P” and in the case of moral understanding “P” will have moral content: “understanding why lying is wrong”, “understanding why an action is right”. There are many reasons to favor the pursuit of moral understanding over that of moral knowledge. For instance, moral understanding is considered central in an account of morally worthy action. Again when an agent has moral understanding she is more reliable because she has a systematic grasp of the subject at hand and, presumably, an ability to make good judgements about new cases.

I suggest that to define moral understanding solely in terms of explanatory understanding makes us fail to recognize another kind of understanding which I will call “experiential understanding”. Such understanding, if it is not a necessary condition to have moral understanding, at least contributes to it importantly. In presenting my account of experiential understanding I hope to show that it is important to fully account for the whole of the moral understanding process and that it values the epistemic role of moral emotions.

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