Département de philosophie

english   français

Home       History       Publications      Projects       Workshops       Events      Graduate work     Collaborations


Schedule of upcoming events

On this page, we advertise the research activities that are of interest to members and friends of Thumos, especially the Thumos seminar, which is the main research activity of our group. Thumos seminars take place on Thursdays, 16h15-17h45 at the Bastions (room B214). Archives of the 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 Wednesday, 14h15-16h00 at the Bastions (room B101).
  • The Phileas talks usually takes place on Thursday in place of the Quodlibeta at the Bastions, 18h15-20h00.


Fall 2019

September 26, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Arturs Logins (Geneva)

Emotions and Evidence

According to a popular view in philosophy of emotions, emotions can be epistemically justified. However, despite a widespread agreement on this general point, there has been little further theoretical development on how exactly to think about epistemically justified emotions. In this paper I hope to make some progress toward a better understanding of whether and if yes under what conditions can emotions be justified in properly epistemic sense. The question of whether it is (epistemically) wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone to have an emotion upon insufficient evidence will be one of the more specific questions that I hope to tackle in this paper.

October 3, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Heidy Meriste (University of Tartu)

In Defense of a Unified Conception of Guilt

According to traditional analysis, guilt is conceptually tied to believed norm violations. This idea, however, has been challenged by various counter-examples. In particular, I will take a closer look at two types of counter-examples that have been considered as serious enough to give rise to the suspicion that perhaps we should altogether abandon the attempt to come up with a unified conception of guilt. First I will deal with the cases of, what might be labelled as, pure empathy-based guilt, for which it is allegedly sufficient if one is empathetically distressed about another person’s suffering and recognizes oneself as the cause of that suffering. For example, one might be said to experience such guilt about causing heartbreak by not reciprocating another person’s romantic feelings—even if one does not think that he/she is thereby violating any moral norms. Secondly, I will look at survivor guilt, especially insofar as it can be viewed as an example of the more general category of guilt over unfair benefits. Here, one is not even causally responsible for the death of other people, and it is even harder to see why one might construe oneself as doing something wrong. The aim of my presentation is to preserve the unity of guilt by showing that, despite the appearances, the alleged cases of pure empathy-based guilt and survivor guilt can nevertheless be explained in terms of perceived norm violations—or else, are better described as something other than guilt.

October 10, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Vilius Dranseika (Vilnius University)

Folk Infallibilism about Justification

In experimental philosophy, attributions of knowledge receive much more attention than attributions of justification. In this presentation, I will attempt to look deeper into the folk concept of justification. I will argue, on the basis of a set of several empirical studies, for folk infallibilism about justification. I will also use folk infallibilism about justification to shed some light on recent research on Gettier intuitions.

October 17, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Edgar Phillips (Fribourg)

Making Sense of the Unintelligible

Certain authors make a contrast between ‘intelligible’ and ‘unintelligible’ attitudes. The terms are typically unqualified, suggesting that intelligibility is an absolute notion and that any attitude is simply intelligible or not. I outline two ways of understanding the distinction, one fairly widespread, the other suggested in a recent paper critical of the widespread account. I argue that certain kinds of bizarre or weird affective responses to things can be intelligible (at least to their subjects and perhaps to some others) in a way that neither account easily accommodates. I offer a diagnosis—in short, that it is a mistake to apply the absolute notion of unintelligibility to affective attitudes—and an alternative suggestion about how to think of the contrast between the intelligible and the unintelligible with respect to such attitudes.

October 23, 2019 – Quodlibeta 

Hélène Leblanc


October 24, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Olivier Morin (Max Plank Insitute, Jena)

Information in images

How do images carry information? This question, usually addressed by semioticians or philosophers, can be answered quantitatively. This talk will present a framework that uses information theory to study and predict how the amount of information that images can carry may evolve. This framework focuses on graphic codes—images conventionally associated with meanings, as found in writing systems, pictographs, coin designs, heraldry, digital communication, etc. It considers three forms of information that a visual symbol may carry: complexity, distinctiveness, and specificity. A symbol's complexity assesses the cognitive costs carried by the act of processing and storing it. Its distinctiveness measures to what degree it stands out relative to other symbols. Its specificity quantifies the degree of precision that it is capable of when pointing at objects outside itself. All three types of information can be tracked using measures derived from information theory. These allow us to bring an evolutionary and quantitative perspective to classical semiotic questions. Do letter shapes show a tendency to simplify during the evolution of writing systems? Do visual symbols face the same trade-off between informativeness and simplicity as natural languages do? How specific do signals have to be for communication to be possible? These questions will be addressed using a mix of quantitative cultural history, experimental laboratory work, as well as a large-scale online communication project. Beyond the particular topic of graphic codes, the goal of this work is to make the cognitive sciences relevant to scholars whose main interests lie outside the laboratory and beyond psychology.

October 31, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Francesco Orsi (University of Tartu)

An explanatory objection to the fitting attitude analysis of value (Francesco Orsi & Andrés Garcia)

The fitting attitude analysis (FA) states that for objects to have value is for them to be the fitting targets of attitudes. The following paper presents an objection to the analysis according to which value and the fittingness of attitudes differ importantly in terms of their explanations. Whereas the fittingness of attitudes holds, inter alia, in virtue of both the properties of attitudes and those of their fitting targets, the explanation of value tends to have a different content. In particular, objects have value in virtue of the features that make them valuable and these need not involve attitudinal properties. If this is right, then there are reasons to doubt the claim that for objects to have value is for them to be the fitting targets of attitudes. Insofar as value is a property, it appears to be distinct from the property of objects being the fitting targets of attitudes.

The conference is followed by a Phileas Talk: Anne Meylan (Zurich) Bastions Main Building room B108 - 18.15 See here for additional info

November 4, 2019 – Emotion, Expression, and Language, a Workshop with Mitch Green

Mitch Green (University of Connecticut)

Benjamin Neeser (Geneva)

Cristina Soriano (Geneva)

Constant Bonard (Geneva and Antwerp),

The workshop consists of a main talk by Mitch Green, three shorter prensentations on topics related to Green's work by Benjamin Neeser, Cristina Soriano, and Constant Bonard,  commentaries on the three talks by Mitch Green, and a roundtable discussion.

Schedule and abstracts here.

November 5, 2019 – CISA Seminar (additional info here)

Luke Russell (University of Sydney)

What is Forgiveness?

There are many contexts in which people are encouraged to forgive. Forgiveness is praised by Christians, by therapeutic psychologists, and by political theorists. The moral and practical attitude that we ought to take towards forgiveness depends on what forgiveness is, but there turns out to be deep disagreement on this issue. In this talk I will explore some recent philosophical disagreements about the nature of forgiveness. For example, is forgiveness is an internal emotional change or an external behavioural change? Is forgiveness a conscious and intentional commitment, or can forgiveness just happen? Does forgiveness, like apology, have to be communicated? Is forgiveness compatible with continuing to punish, or does forgiving preclude further punishment?

November 7, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Luke Russell (University of Sydney)

The Function of Blame and the Point of Forgiveness

Miranda Fricker has proposed that the function of blame is to create a shared understanding between victim and perpetrator. She also claims that forgiveness is the removal of blame feeling, and that forgiveness is justified whenever blaming is not the best available means of producing shared understanding between victim and perpetrator. In this paper I argue that blame is polyfunctional, and hence that Fricker overlooks a wide variety of reasons that count for or against forgiving. Just as blamers might be  trying to achieve many independent goals, forgivers might be trying to secure a range of quite different outcomes.

November 13, 2019 - Quodlibeta

 Guillaume Fréchette (Geneva)


November 14, 2019 – We co-organize the workshop Well-Being and Affective States (Université Clermont Auvergne)

November 21, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Constant Bonard (Geneva)

What Do Emotions and Moods Represent? Distinguishing Personal  and Sub-Personal, Narrow and Broad Contents

According to Julien Deonna and Fabrice Teroni’s attitudinal theory of emotion (2012, 2015a, 2015b, 2016), the content of emotions does not represent evaluative properties. This claim is denied by their closest rivals: the motivational (e.g. Scarantino 2014) and the perceptual (e.g. Tappolet 2000, 2016, Prinz 2004, Döring 2006) theories of emotion. Another claim made by Deonna and Teroni is that moods don’t have a representational content. This claim is more widely accepted among philosophers of emotion, but is nevertheless contentious and many philosophers refuse it (e.g. Dretske 1995, Crane 1998, Prinz 2004, Tye 2008). I believe that some clarity can be brought in both these debates by making two distinctions concerning representational contents. The first is Dennett’s (1969) distinction between the personal and sub-personal levels of explanation. For Deonna and Teroni, it is at the personal level that emotions don’t represent evaluative properties, but their account seems compatible with the claim that sub-personal affective mechanisms nevertheless represent evaluative properties. This distinction might make the aforementioned disagreement between the attitudinal theory and the motivational theory disappear, even though other incompatibilities would persist. We can also apply Dennett’s distinction to moods: Deonna and Teroni claim that they don’t represent anything at the personal level, but the claim that moods’ sub-personal mechanisms possess a representational content is not in contradiction with their claim. This might also dissipate certain apparent disagreements with representationalists about moods. The second distinction is Recanati’s (2007: 133ff) distinction between a narrow or a broad content (or ‘overall content’). Deonna and Teroni reserve the expression ‘content’ for the narrow content, but several authors (e.g. Dretske 1995, Tye 2008, or sometimes Searle 1983) use ‘content’ to denote a broad content, which encompasses the narrow content as well as features of the psychological mode. With this distinction in mind, we can say without contradiction that emotions represent evaluative properties as part of their broad content and agree with Deonna and Teroni that emotions don’t represent evaluative properties as part of their narrow content. This allows countering some criticisms made by rival theorists (e.g. Rossi and Tappolet 2018). Furthermore, applying the narrow/broad content distinction to moods allow claiming that moods don’t have any narrow content, but that they nevertheless have a broad content, and that the latter has a representational function. Again, this might also dissipate certain apparent disagreements with representationalists about moods and make Deonna and Teroni’s theory compatible with some versions of ‘intentionalism’ or ‘representationalism’ (e.g. Dretske 1995).

November 27 - Quodlibeta

 Baptiste Le Bihan (Geneva)


 November 28, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Eric Cullhed (Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study and Uppsala University)

The moving, the miserable, and the cutesy

I plan to carry proverbial owls to Athens and will try to make a contribution to the debate on the emotion being moved that was pioneered by Julien Deonna in a 2011 essay. The focus of my talk will be why certain ostensibly distinguishable emotions tend to be lumped together with being moved in everyday language use as well as in scholarly contexts. I will especially address the claims that empathic concern and responses to cuteness are each “a part of“ being moved  (see doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00723 and doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00387 respectively). Examples will be drawn from Greek and Roman literature, especially the Homeric epics.

December 5, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Andrew Reisner (Uppsala University)

Wellbeing as the foundation of theoretical reason

This talk bring together diverse material for my in progress monograph, The Pragmatic Foundations of Theoretical Reason. The book aims to explore the possibility that a pluralistic theory of normative reasons for belief and a fairly traditional set of views about theoretical rationality can both be explained by appeal to a general picture of theoretical reason which has wellbeing at its foundations. The aim of this talk is to look at some of the core arguments that motivate the project and to look at some of the most serious, obvious difficulties for which, at present, I have no very complete solution. 

The conference is followed by a Phileas Talk: Andreas Brekke Carlsson(Oslo) Bastions Main Building room B108 - 18.15 See here for additional info

December 11, 2019 - Quodlibeta

 Florian Cova (Geneva)


December 12, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Roberto Keller (Geneva)

Bringing Correctness into Focus

An emotion’s correctness conditions are often minimally stated as follows: admiring x is correct iff x is admirable. In this talk, I will propose a refinement of this biconditional statement through the notion of focalisation, namely the property of an emotion of focalising one’s attention on some particular features of its intentional object. This will yield the following restatement where (i) x is the intentional object and (ii) y is the set of properties of the intentional object on which one’s attention is drawn by the occurrence of the emotion: admiring x in a respect y is correct iff x is admirable with respect to y. The rationale for this refinement is that emotions apprehend their intentional object as having a given evaluative property in a given respect, namely in virtue of those features on which the emotion focalises. For this reason, for an emotion to be correct, it is not sufficient for the object to exemplify the relevant evaluative property in some unspecified way: it must exemplify it in the same respect on which the emotion focalises. This richer and more fine-grained understanding of correctness can promptly respond to a challenge to emotions such as admiration, contempt, pride and shame, which have been argued to be systematically incorrect.

The conference is followed by a Phileas Talk: Constant Bonard (Geneva) Bastions Main Building room B108 - 18.15 See here for additional info

December 19, 2019 – Thumos Seminar

Patty Van Cappellen (Duke)

Reaching to the Sky or Getting on Your Knees: Emotions Expressed in the Full Body

Emotions are expressed nonverbally, and not only in the face, but in the full body. In addition, the body reciprocally influences the construction of an emotional experience. These two statements, although central to many emotion theories, have not received enough empirical attention. In this talk, I will present some relevant and recent results from a larger project studying the embodiment of emotions and of religious experiences.

First, we documented full body expressions of various positive (e.g., joy, awe, hope) and negative (e.g., sadness, guilt) emotions by asking participants to position a small mannequin according to how they would express these emotions. Postures were coded for multiple dimensions of expansiveness, arm and head position, and other features. Results document distinct postures for these emotions as well as different meanings. We then focused on specific body postures varying on body’s orientation (upward vs. downward) and space (expansive vs. constrictive), to study whether they would be differentially associated with the experience of positive and negative emotions in the real-life context of church attendance (among Christians) and in the context of prayer (among Christians, Hindus, and Muslims). Finally, in two studies we directly manipulated postures in the lab and tested whether they would modify the affective and physiological responses to music. We find the strongest support for an association between positive emotions and bodily postures that are expansive and oriented upward. Together, this research advances our limited knowledge of full body emotional expression, and especially that of positive emotions. It also highlights the importance of studying mind-body connections to more fully understand emotional and religious experiences.




Home       History       Publications      Projects       Workshops       Events      Graduate work     Collaborations