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, 18h15-20h00.


Spring 2019

February 21, 2019 - Thumos seminar

Julien Deonna & Fabrice Teroni (Geneva)


February 28, 2019 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Constant Bonard (Geneva)

Extending Gricean communication beyond ostensive signals

The standard picture of communication in philosophy, linguistics, ethology, developmental psychology, and other fields is importantly structured by the distinction between signals that display overt intentions to communicate (ostensive signals) and those that do not (non-ostensive signals). This distinction is generally taken to draw the line between the explanatory scope of the two main models of communication: the code model would account for communication through non-ostensive signals and the Gricean model for communication through ostensive signals. In this paper, I challenge this picture by showing that some non-ostensive signals can be accounted by neither of these models. I focus on examples of non-ostensive emotion expression and in particular laughter. I argue that such cases can be accounted by what I call the extended Gricean model, whose explanatory scope is not restricted to ostensive signals.

N.B: There will be a PhilEAs talk afterwards (room B105) given by Angela Martin (Fribourg) - Ethique animale: Enjeux actuels

March 05, 2019 - Brain and Cognition seminar (CISA cession)

Sander Van der Linden (Cambridge)
Saving the planet because it feels good: The role of warm-glow and intrinsic motivation in sustainable decision-making

March 07, 2019 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Edgar Phillips (Fribourg)

Towards a Romantic View of Love

Recent work on the philosophy of love has seen fairly widespread (not to say universal) agreement that love is a rational attitude, in the sense that there are reasons for loving and love is characteristically responsive to those reasons. A central motivation for this view is the idea that love is intelligible from the lover’s point of view. In this paper, I explain the idea that love is a rational attitude and argue that the most defensible version of this idea will look something like Niko Kolodny's ‘relationship view’. I then argue that that view has trouble making sense of certain variations on an example that Kolodny uses in one of his own arguments—the ‘argument from amnesia’. Considering these variations, I suggest, motivates a reconsideration of the rationalistic view of love and a different take on its first-personal intelligibility.

N.B: There will be a quodlibet afterwards given by Robert Michels (Geneva) - Defining Essentiality

March 14, 2019 - Thumos seminar

Kris Goffin (Geneva)

Implicit Bias & Emotion

The topic of this paper is what I will call “biased emotion”. An example of such an emotion is the following: Ruth believes that racism is a very bad thing and that it would be racist to think that every black man is dangerous. Nevertheless, when she encounters a black man at night, she is afraid.
Some have argued that one is not responsible for one's biased emotions as the psychological mechanism that gives rise to such emotions is unconscious, automatic and reflex-like. I will, however, argue that biased emotions are not merely reflexes but full-blown representational states which reflect a person's goals. For this reason, one can attribute biased emotions to moral agents.

March 21, 2019 - Thumos seminar

Marta Benenti (Torino)

Sad minor chords and emotion knowledge

“The perception of the chord as expressing sadness is possible only for someone who has some idea of what sadness is like from the inside”. (Peacocke 2009:263)
It is particularly difficult to understand how the capacity to recognise something as a felt feeling could translate into the ascription of a perceivable property to an inanimate object.
I will first assess the kind of knowledge of emotions that we are supposed to have in order to recognise a simple sound as expressive. Second, I will explore emotion concepts and offer an account of their use that is compatible with different justified applications to both animated and inanimate beings.
As a result, the relation between knowing what it is like to feel sad and recognising a chord as sounding sad will hopefully sound less mysterious. 

March 28, 2019 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Julia Langkau (Fribourg)

Two Kinds of Imaginative ‘Vividness’

I argue that we should distinguish two phenomena underlying our use of the notion of imaginative vividness: ‘vividness’ of mental images and ‘vividness’ of imaginative experience. While the first refers to the level of accuracy of mental images (visual images and images of other sensory modalities), the second refers to the level of intensity of an imaginative experience. I will argue that accuracy of mental images and intensity of imaginative experiences play different epistemic roles, and I will make a suggestion as to what these roles are

N.B: There will be a PhilEAs talk afterwards (room B105) given by Frédérique de Vignemont (Paris)

April 04, 2019 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Florian Cova (Geneva)

Is there an empirically testable difference between emotions and quasi-emotions?

One popular solution to the paradox of fiction requires postulating that, aside from "genuine" emotions, we are also able to experience "quasi-emotions" that constitute a very distinct emotional phenomenon. However, to motivate such a postulate, one has to show that introducing quasi-emotions into our ontology allows us to best explain certain phenomena, and thus that the quasi-emotions hypothesis must make different (and better) predictions than alternate hypotheses. In this talk, I will discuss whether such predictions can be made, and will review recent attempts at giving an empirical content to the quasi-emotions hypothesis.

N.B: There will be a quodlibet afterwards given by Peter Schaber (Zürich)

April 11, 2019 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Davide Bordini (Liège)

Not in the Mood for Intentionalism

According to intentionalism, the phenomenal character of experience is one and the same as the intentional content of experience. This view has a problem with moods (anxiety, depression, elation, irritation, gloominess, grumpiness, etc.). Mood experiences certainly have phenomenal character, but do not exhibit directedness, i.e., do not appear intentional. Intentionalist philosophers have replied to this challenge in different ways. One standard move is to re-described moods’ undirectedness in terms of directedness towards everything or the whole world (e.g., Crane 1998; Seager 1999). More recently, Mendelovici (2013a, b) has suggested something different: instead of re-describing moods’ phenomenology, she accepts its undirectedness at face value and tries to explain it in intentionalist terms. In this talk, I will discuss these proposals and show why they are not convincing. On these grounds, I will then draw some positive lessons suggested by the discussion.

N.B: There will be a PhilEAs talk afterwards (room B105) given by Peter Lamarque (York)

April 18, 2019 - Thumos seminar

Sebastian Aeschbach (Geneva)

Against Artistic Individualism

Can an artist form the intention to present his artwork to an audience and not care about its response(s)? Or does an artist present artifacts to an audience in order to trigger a specific experience – aesthetic or cognitive? A common claim has it that artists do not and should not create art with the aim of pleasing an audience or, more generally, with the aim of eliciting a specific experience (Zangwill, 2007; Heinich, 1998). Why would artists then take the trouble to reach audiences? Why would the painter wish to present his work in an exhibition, or the poet publish his Ode? Artistic individualism comes in different forms (Collingwood, 1938; Zangwill, 2007). There is the claim that the art-status of an artifact does not depend on relational properties, in particular, it is independent of an audience and its emotions. Another claim is that none of the artist’s intentions ever relates to an audience and its potential aesthetic judgment. The artist in other words should only (form the intention to) create something beautiful or otherwise interesting, irrespective of the pursuit of, say, fame or fortune. We shall reject this view on the basis that it raises the problem of artistic solipsism and the impossibility of “private art”. We shall then distinguish two sets of relevant intentions: the intentions to create a beautiful or an otherwise artistically valuable artifact and the intentions to unveil this artifact to the public. If this distinction holds true, one can reasonably argue – in similar fashion to Grice on language – that some minimal maxims apply to artifacts that are made accessible to an audience. On this view, conceptual art for example needs to make its underlying idea experientiable (Goldie & Schellekens, 2010).

April 30, 2019 - CISA lecture

Ronnie De Sousa (Toronto)

What Computers Will Need to Feel

When we try to compare intelligence in two radically different organisms, we can look at what results they achieve, or we can look at how they do it. The Turing test looks at the former; some of its detractors insist that only the latter counts. Yet perhaps there is just no room for debate about ways and means once we've answered the first question: maybe those tricks could be performed only by being intelligent. On the other hand, perhaps there are only a few basic mechanisms at the ground level of implementation. (Whether you are building a cat or a cathode, you'll have to build it out of molecules.) Neither the most abstract, top-down, nor the most concrete, bottom up approach is going to help us to tell when machines are intelligent in the same sense as we are. We need to look at the middle level of how human goals are set and “rationally” achieved. Emotions contribute in half a dozen crucial ways to both the setting of our goals and their rational pursuit. But each of these contributions of emotions to our capacity for rational thought and action carries a specific cost in potential irrationality. To be intelligent like us, machines will have to have those emotions that also make us stupid.

N.B: the lecture will be given from 12:15 to 13:15 in the room H8.01.D (Campus Biotech)

May 02, 2019 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Ronnie De Sousa (Toronto)

What does Talking do to Feeling?

Two conflicting attitudes are sometimes expressed to the verbalization of our most significant emotional experiences—aesthetic, erotic, or religious. One is that verbalization allows us to savour experience, enhancing its value and enriching its meaning, even when we are tempted to describe it as ‘ineffable’. The other is that verbalizing an intense experience blunts it or reduces it to clichés. How is this difference to be reconciled, or adjudicated? In this talk, I distinguish two questions. One concerns explanation. It is best approached in terms of the different origins and functions of intuitive and analytic modes of thinking, shedding light on the relation between qualitative experience and the need for replicable social sharing served by language. The other question is normative, and derives from ideological assumptions about what is most deeply and authentically human. Opinions on that latter question, I suspect, stem largely from individual temperamental differences.

N.B: There will be a quodlibet afterwards given by Catherine Herfeld (Zürich)

May 09, 2019 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Samuel Lepine (Clermont-Ferrand)

Psychopathy, emotions, and well-being

Psychopathy is a condition in which subjects exhibit important emotional deficits like emotional callousness, reduced empathic responses, and violent behaviors, whereas at the same time they seem to be completely rational. This has led many psychologists to argue that psychopathy is a mental disorder, or more specifically a moral disorder (e.g. Blair et al., 1995a; Raine, 2018). In this paper, I argue that a more comprehensive view of psychopathy as a mental disorder should not focus only on its immoral and violent features, but also and more generally on its emotional deficits. I argue that psychopathy should be understood as a case of emotional blindness, in which subjects are unable to grasp the relevance of some properties for their own motivations, and more generally for their own well-being. Then, I confront this approach with two possible objections. The first is that there are probably successful psychopaths, and the second is that psychopathy could be conceived as an evolutionary adaptation. I argue that none of these two objections is convincing enough regarding empirical data, and that psychopathy is a mental disorder at least according to Wakefield’s framework (1992) where mental disorders are defined as “harmful dysfunctions”.

N.B: There will be a PhilEAs talk afterwards (room B012) given by Juliette Vazard (Genève/Paris)

May 16, 2019 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Lauren Ware (Kent)

The Nature and Value of Emotional Suffering in Criminal Punishment

In some ways, our prisons function as pain factories: people in prison pay for their crimes through suffering the painful loss of liberties and luxuries. Yet what is suffering and with what justification does it play this role in our legal system? A significantly under-explored area in law and emotion research concerns the emotions of those serving sentences. In this paper, I evaluate whether criminal punishment may legitimately induce emotional suffering. I first look at whether differences in the kind or degree of emotional pain suffered impact the nature and justification of the punishment afforded. I then critique a recent argument by Michael Brady that emotional suffering is essential for appropriate, communicative punishment. Building on Brady’s virtue-theoretical perspective on the value of emotional suffering, I argue that communicative punishment committed to the imposition of hard treatment in addition to the pains of remorse and regret may not be justified, and will not be just.

N.B: There will be a PhilEAs talk afterwards (room B105) given by Alain Pe-Curto (Yale)

May 23, 2019 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Robert Schneider (Indiana)

The Rise and Fall of the “Resentment Paradigm”: A Mid-Twentieth-Century Story

In the middle decades of the twentieth century there emerged what I am calling the “Resentment Paradigm.”  With intellectual roots in Nietzsche’s notion of ressentiment (The Genealogy of Morals), but more urgently in response to the historical experience of fascism and other forms of right-wing extremism, largely in Europe but in the US as well, scholars and intellectuals fashioned a well-wrought analysis of these movements and their ideological appeal that hinged on popular resentment against modernizing forces as the decisive explanatory factor.  The main figures in this intellectual enterprise were well-established American academics and public intellectuals: Talcott Parsons, Richard Hofstadter, Daniel Bell, Seymour Martin Lipset, and others; but they also acknowledged the influence of writers associated with the Frankfurt School and especially the important 1950 publication, The Authoritarian Personality, in which Theodor Adorno played a central role.  In the post-WWII era, this paradigm, I will argue, achieved a hegemonic reach when it came to explaining such movements as populism, anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, nativism, and all variations of fascism.  (It was much less deployed to explain movements from the left.)

By the later decades of the twentieth century, however, this paradigm lost its appeal and in most academic and intellectual quarters was largely discredited.  Several factors explain its decline, but they can be summarized in a turn away from an intellectual identification with both a psychological (or in many cases a psycho-analytical) approach and modernization theory.  Historians and social scientists, starting circa-1970, tended to be more attentive to the grievances and interests that animated popular movements, and less inclined to see their protest and discontent as symptoms of a maladjustment to “modernity.”  Interestingly, the decline of this paradigm coincided with the wide-spread social and political protest movements of  “the sixties.”  Indeed, as I will demonstrate, for the most part these movements were not “coded” in terms of “resentment.”  Nor, as I will additionally suggest, was resentment a core emotion among those who identified with them.  In short, the “Resentment Paradigm” “fell” both as an intellectual diagnosis and as a lived experience.

As a coda to my paper, I will point to the revival of “resentment” as an explanation in recent decades for a range of phenomena—from religious fundamentalisms around the world, to nativist, xenophobic movements, to Brexit in the UK and Trump in the US.  But I will also note how our deployment of this term lacks the rigor that once characterized it. And I will propose that we need to rethink our casual and often unthinking reliance on it to explain some of the most puzzling and disturbing movements of our times.    

N.B: There will be a quodlibet afterwards given by Stéphanie Ruphy (Lyon) - Scientific pluralism or scientific metaphysics: why you have to choose

June 05, 2019 - Cultivating negative emotions: the virtues of anxiety and disgust

Are negative emotions such as anxiety and disgust emotions that we should cultivate? In this workshop, we will examine this question by addressing the related issues: Can we distinguish anxiety from other related emotions like stress and fear, empirically speaking? How does goal-relevance impact anxiety felt in social contexts? Which social and epistemic benefits does an emotion like anxiety provide? Can we regulate disgust, and particularly the disgust we might feel towards other people?


14:00-15:15 Charlie Kurth: Emotion cultivation and human agency: The cases of anxiety and disgust

15:15-15:30 Break

15:30-16:00 Ben Meuleman: Differences between stress, fear, and anxiety: Evidence from a virtual height experiment

16:00-16:30 Ryan Murray: Appraisals of goal-relevance and social value in social anxiety

16:30-17:00 Coffee break

17:00-17:30 Juliette Vazard: What we do when we doubt: Epistemic anxiety and open questions

17:30-18:00 Jonas Blatter: Controlling disgust – Virtue or compensatory obligation?

Poster here

N.B: the workshop will take place from 14:00 to 18:00 (Campus Biotech)

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