Thumos seminar (archives)


Here you can find all the past programs of the Thumos seminar. The actual program is available here.






First semester


September 23
December 9

October 1
December 20

Second semester



February 24
May 19

February 25
May 27







First semester

September 24
December 20

September 20
December 20

September 19
December 21

September 19
December 23

September 17
December 17

Second semester

February 4
May 7

February 21
June 5

February 22
June 26

March 2
June 15

March 3
June 3







First semester

September 25
December 18

September 20
December 20

September 20
December 20

September 19
December 2

September 20
December 20

Second semester

February 19
May 21

February 14
June 12

February 21
May 23

March 1
June 22

February 21
June 3



Spring 2022

February 24, 2022 – Thumos Seminar

Julien Deonna & Fabrice Teroni (Geneva)


March 3, 2022 – Thumos Seminar

Margherita Arcangeli (Paris, in collaboration with Jérôme Dokic)

Affective Memory. A Little Help From Our Imagination

When we remember a past situation, the emotional import of the latter often transpires in a modified form at the phenomenological level of our present memory. When it does, we experience what is sometimes called an “affective memory.” Theorists of memories have disagreed about the status of affective memories. Sceptics claim that the relationship between memory and emotion can only be of two types: either the memory is about a past emotion (the emotion is part of what is remembered), or it causes a present emotion (the emotion is a separable effect of the memory). We argue that there is a third option, which points to an emotional way of representing the past situation. Drawing from Peter Goldie’s account of mental narratives, we show that three levels of mental perspective are involved in memories: the perspective of the represented subject (the character, if there is one), the perspective of the representing subject (the author), and the intermediary perspective of the narrator (who may remain virtual). Affective memories are cases in which the narrator’s emotional perspective has direct implications for the author’s emotional perspective, even if the former typically differs from the latter.

March 10, 2022 – Thumos Seminar

Eric Cullhed (Uppsala)

On the Deeply Moving and the Merely Touching

Critics often link yet distinguish between ‘moving’ and ‘touching’ artworks. Julien Deonna’s account of being moved as a response to the thin goodness of exemplified final, important and impersonal thick values presupposes either that the difference is simply a matter of varying intensity, or that being touched is an unrelated affective experience. This article challenges these views, drawing on two forgotten analyses of the relation and divergence between being moved and touched in the works of Dietrich von Hildebrand and Willard Gaylin. It is argued that Deonna’s characterization of being moved successfully delineates an affective experience, but one that amounts to a subtype of a somewhat broader emotion category. A satisfactory account of the good that moves us must include an analysis of two additional phenomena which we tend to label ‘being touched’: one responding to the personal value of being loved, the other to the particular value of individuals.

March 17, 2022 – Thumos Seminar

Jonas Blatter (Bern)

What Considerations are Reasons for Affective Attitudes?

In a 2018 paper, Barry Maguire argues that the normative support relation for affective attitudes, what he calls the fit-making relation, does not exhibit the necessary features the fit-makers to count as reasons for affective attitudes. He argues that reasons are gradable and contributory, both features the fit-making relation lacks. He arrives at this conclusion by comparing the fit-making relation for affective attitudes to reasons for actions. I argue that this is a mistake and that we should rather draw the analogy to reasons for belief. Doing so, it becomes clear that the fit-making relation is more analogous to the relation between beliefs and their truth-makers, and not to reasons for belief, e.g. evidence. I argue further that there are supporting considerations, analogous to evidence for belief, that are both gradable and contributory. Hence, there are considerations that count as reasons for affective attitudes.

March 24, 2022 – Thumos Seminar

Juliette Vazard and Steve Humbert-Droz (Genève)

Imagining with Hope

Descriptions of episodes of hope typically involve the presence of mental images or immersive imagination as an exploration of the hoped-for outcome, to the point that it seems hard to explain what goes on in the mind of a hopeful individual without referring to imagination. Accordingly, most contemporary philosophical accounts of hope involve an element of imagination or “fantasizing” as input, part, or output of hope. This being said, there is no systematic view of the interaction between the emotional processes constituting hope and the processes constituting imagination. How do the affective processes that are part of hope exactly interact with the processes required to produce a mental image, or even an immersive exploration of a desired outcome? In this paper we bring together the philosophy of mind literature on the nature of imagination and the philosophy of emotion literature on the nature of hope, in order to clarify the exact role and value of imagination in hope.

This talk is followed by Julia Langkau's PhilEAs Talk

March 25, 2022 – Michele Ombrato's Thesis Defence (Bâtiment Colladon, 14h15)

March 31, 2022 – Thumos Seminar

Isabel Kaeslin (Fribourg)

Spontaneous Aversion and Attraction in 'Good Thinking'

I argue that spontaneous emotional responses, in the form of spontaneous aversion or attraction, have been a neglected kind of mental state in our philosophy of mind, and that this has led to overly cognitivist views in ethics and epistemology. Spontaneous aversions and attractions play the important role of keeping our character flexible, by disrupting engrained habits and beliefs. This gives rise to a hitherto neglected virtue, the virtue of flexibility.
Being flexible is not only a virtue in how we act, but also a virtue of our thinking and believing. I suggest that what is most characteristic about cognitive states is their impetus toward coherence. The better trained our cognitive capacities are, the more our cognitive states tend toward coherence. That is, a purely cognitive way of making decisions would tend to maximal coherence (between the various beliefs, but also between beliefs and other attitudes). By contrast, the nature of feeling states is best captured by a description of their phenomenology, that is, what it is like to be in that state. We can individuate and characterize the core features of a feeling state by ‘merely’ referring to how it feels to experience it. The better trained our feeling capacities are, the more clearly and more strongly a feeling state appears to us.
The argument I am going to give in this talk is roughly the following. If we took ‘the best way of thinking’ to be only done by our cognitive capacities, it would amount to the claim that the best way of thinking is ‘maximally coherent thinking’. However, as I will argue, the norms for good thinking are not exhausted by maximally coherent thinking. Other norms, even such that go against coherence, are just as essential in achieving virtue in thinking. And for some of them, we need our spontaneous emotional responses to get there.

April 7, 2022 – Thumos Seminar (exceptionally in Bâtiment Colladon)

Justin D'Arms (Columbus)

Sentimentalist theories hold that values like ‘funny’ and ‘prideworthy’ are response dependent. According to my preferred version, to be funny or prideworthy is to be a fitting object of amusement or pride. The Alethic View of emotional fittingness holds that emotions involve various thoughts, some of which are evaluative, and that for an emotion to be fitting/correct is just for those thoughts to be true. This talk will briefly explain Rational Sentimentalism and the Alethic View, and then discuss some problems for the Alethic View. Some of the problems are due to the response-dependence of various values. I’ll suggest a way for the Alethic View to cope with these problems by becoming more sentimentalist. But doing so abandons some of what made the Alethic View seem substantive and attractive to begin with. Moreover, the Alethic View seems to mis-characterize what is wrong with unfitting emotions. So we should try to understand the idea that emotions can be fitting/correct to their objects without the Alethic View.

April 14, 2022 – Thumos Seminar

Cain Todd (Lancaster)

Are there Aesthetic Emotions?

There has been a recent debate about the existence of a class of purportedly distinctive aesthetic emotions. Interestingly, it has largely been carried out within an interdisciplinary context by empirical researchers and to some extent independently of traditional philosophical disputes concerning the nature and character of what is usually referred to as aesthetic experience. In this talk I examine the dispute, while considering more generally the relation between supposedly paradigmatic aesthetic experiences and (aesthetic) emotions. I will argue that there is no distinctive class of aesthetic emotions, but that both affective and non-affective states can be marked by a distinctively aesthetic ‘character’ or ‘mode’. In addition to articulating this ‘mode’, I will make some remarks about the relationship between empirical and philosophical explanations of the phenomena at issue.

This talk is followed by Lorenzo Cocco's PhilEAs Talk

April 28, 2022 – Thumos Seminar

Edgar Phillips (Paris)

A Stain on one's character: Identity, change and the persistence of guilt

Philosophical discussions of moral responsibility for actions typically focus on articulating the conditions that must obtain at the time of acting for an agent to be, having acted, responsible for what they have done. Less has been said about how responsibility, along with related conditions such as blameworthiness and guilt, persists over time and what if anything might condition, and in particular lessen, our responsibility for our past actions. Recent treatments of the latter issue have claimed that responsibility is sustained over time by psychological continuity, meaning psychological change can render an agent no longer responsible for their past actions (Khoury 2013, Khoury and Matheson 2018, Matheson 2014). I argue that this view rests on a mistaken conception of blame and blameworthiness as concerned with the agent’s moral character (narrowly and individualistically construed) rather than the moral significance of their actions as such. I bring this out through considering the nature of a victim’s anger and of a wrongdoer’s remorse, and the ways in which such anger and remorse seek resolution not merely in a change in the wrongdoer's psychology but in their addressing the wrong through (for instance) repentance, atonement and reparative action.

This talk is followed by Giovanni Merlo's PhilEAs Talk

May 5, 2022 – Thumos Seminar

Hanno Sauer (Utrecht)

Criteria of Moral Progress

Moral progress occurs when things change for the better, morally speaking. The topic of moral progress has recently experienced a resurgence of interest in several disciplines. However, making judgments of moral progress raises a number of epistemic questions which thus far have not been systematically addressed in the literature. We dub these criterial problems, and argue that addressing them is important if we want to avoid errors in making judgments about moral progress. In this paper we address four important criterial problems for making moral progress judgments. First, questions of what the unit of analysis is for moral progress judgments: what is undergoing morally progressive change? Second, questions of timescale: over what period of time is moral progress occurring, and is this relevant for justifying claims of moral progress? Third, what moral criteria are being used to make moral progress judgments and how are these criteria justified? Fourth, how should we make progress judgments when there has been morally progressive change from the point of view of one moral standard but morally regressive change from the point of view of another? We analyze each of these epistemic problems for making moral progress judgments, assess whether they lead to skepticism about such judgments, and suggest possible solutions to each problem.

May 12, 2022 – Thumos Seminar

Maria Silvia Vaccarezza (Genoa, in collaboration with Ariele Niccoli)

Let the donkeys be donkeys: in defense of inspiring envy

Once upon a time, Aesop says, there was a donkey who wanted to be a pet dog. The pet dog was given many treats by the master and the household servants, and the donkey was envious of him. Hence, the donkey began emulating the pet dog. What happened next? The story ends up with the donkey beaten senseless, chased off to the stables, exhausted and barely alive. Who is to blame for the poor donkey’s unfortunate fate? Well, there could be disagreement upon this, but I think emulation is to blame. And it’s on the kinds of envy-related emulation that I focus on in this talk.
More analytically, I aim at vindicating the role of envy for moral exemplars within an exemplarist character educational framework. In the first section, I recall the central tenets of an exemplarist account of moral progress, and highlight how negative emotions, in general, have suffered a bad press within character education, with exemplarism being no exception. Then I provide a brief outline of standard strategies of defending envy by appealing to useful taxonomies of envy (e.g., Taylor 1988; Protasi 2016; Fussi 2018). After that, I put forward my 'Donkey Objection' by recalling Aesop’s fable on "foolish imitation", so as to show that when envy triggers mere emulation, it can bear devastating effects such as conformism and a lack of self-worth and personal integrity.
In response to this objection, I bring into play a distinction between two rival forms of imitation—emulation and inspiration—and I coin the label of "inspired envy" for those forms of imitation by inspiration triggered by envy that lead to self-improvement avoiding morally detrimental consequences.

This talk is followed by Sven Rosenkranz's PhilEAs Talk

May 19, 2022 – Thumos Seminar

Ronnie De Sousa (Toronto)

Attitudinalism and the Objectivity of Values

Two rival views of emotions and their relation to values have recently gained prominence. On the ‘perceptualist’ model (P), emotions are apprehensions of the values instantiating their formal objects. On the ‘attitudinal’ (A), each emotion is a distinct attitude, the evaluative force of which generates the value ascribed to the emotion's target. After framing the debate in Part I, I begin, in Part II, by defending (P) against Jean Moritz Müller's charge of is incoherence. Part III explains why I nevertheless endorse a view very close to Müller's own. Müller's version of (A), however, is not radical enough. Contrary to what he and others take for granted, formal objects are not value properties, but non-normative properties of situations, particulars or states of affairs. Part IV defends that more radical version of (A) against an argument adduced by Rossi and Tappolet against the version of (A) propounded by Deonna and Teroni. Contrary to Rossi and Tappolet's contention, there is no need for value properties to be represented in the content of emotional attitudes. Part V offers brief reflections on two consequences of this radical view. One is the problem of explaining what is commonly meant by a ‘value’, as distinct from an individual preference. The second is that insofar as any values deserve to be thought of as objective, some do so more than others.


May 23-25, 2022 - Conference in Honour of Ronald de Sousa

Program here. Practical information here.


May 26, 2022 – No seminar (Ascension)


May 31 - Jun 02 – SoPhA Jeunes Chercheurs



Jun 22 - Symposium on 'The Philosophy of Envy'



Jun 23-24 - Conference on Political Emotions



July 11 - Mini-workshop on imagination

Program here


Autumn 2021

September 23, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Joffrey Fuhrer (Geneva)

What makes a life meaningful? Folk intuitions about the content and shape of meaningful and happy lives

During this talk, I will present the results of two studies about what makes a life meaningful or happy. It is often assumed that most people want their life to be “meaningful”. But what exactly does this mean? Though numerous researches have documented which factors lead people to experience their life as meaningful and people’s conceptions about the best ways to secure a meaningful life, investigations in people’s concept of meaningful life are scarce. Through two experimental studies, we have investigated the folk concept of a meaningful life by studying people’s third-person attribution of meaningfulness and comparing it with the attribution of happiness. We draw on hypotheses from the philosophical literature, and notably on the work of Susan Wolf (Study 1) and Antti Kauppinen (Study 2), testing different factors such as morality, the life direction, having a goal considered important or being fulfilled (among other factors).

September 30, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Juan Pablo Bermudez (Neuchâtel)

What is the feeling of effort about?

For agents like us, the feeling of effort is a very useful thing. It helps us sense how hard an action is, control its level of intensity, and decide whether it makes sense to continue or stop performing it. While there has been progress in understanding the feeling of mental effort and the feeling of bodily effort, this has not translated into a unified account of the feeling of effort. To advance towards a general theory, I defend the single-feeling view, which states that the feeling of effort is one and the same for both mental and bodily actions. This feeling represents the expected costs, both mental and physical, of performing a given action. Cost-based approaches have recently become influential for the feeling of mental effort. Here I focus on arguing that our sense of bodily effort does not simply represent physiological processes, but rather represents the expected costs of a bodily action. Through this talk I discuss the role of the feeling of effort (and affective states more broadly) in action guidance and the sense of agency. I also discuss how the single view can help us in defining efforts themselves.

October 7, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Per-Erik Milam (Gothenburg)

Pluralism about Forgiveness

There seems to be a fairly widely held belief that there are multiple types of forgiveness—that is, many people seem to be pluralists about forgiveness. However, while pluralism seems common, it is rarely argued for. Sometimes it is mentioned in passing; other times multiple types are described without explaining their relation to one another. Moreover, among those who have offered apparently pluralistic accounts of forgiveness, the descriptions of the different types often hint at a deeper, unifying monism. My aim in this paper is to consider whether—and, if so, how—we should be pluralists about forgiveness and to evaluate whether any of the current accounts of forgiveness are pluralisms of this sort. I begin by explaining why (I think) many forgiveness theorists are attracted to pluralism. I then briefly describe the few explicitly pluralist accounts of forgiveness in the literature and contrast them with competing monist accounts. I then identify a variety of reasons for and ways of being a pluralist about other things, from moral value to species to gods. Finally, I consider which of these reasons for and ways of being a pluralist makes the most sense for the would-pluralist about forgiveness and I briefly make the case againstforgiveness pluralism and describe what I take to be the best non-pluralist option available.

October 14, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Stéphane Lemaire (Rennes)

How emotions evaluate

Beyond the contingency of people’s emotional responses to their surroundings, philosophers and psychologists have searched for some systematicity. A central and very plausible hypothesis is that emotions result from or involve an evaluation of their circumstances and in particular of their intentional object. A further thesis that is often assumed by philosophers is that this evaluation is in terms of values. This axiological view is upheld by judgmentalists, low- and high-level perceptualists, and those who think that emotions are responses to intuitions of values. However, I argue that the axiological view must be rejected because it must rely either on non-conceptual or conceptual representations of values while these are constructed from material outside perception. I then introduce an alternative view according to which the evaluation that is responsible for our emotions is conative and assess the relevance of objects to goals. One key point is here to make sense of the mental states that goals are supposed to be and their different links to desires and emotions. I finally consider whether this is just another version of the axiological view as some have claimed and show some potential normative consequences of the view.

October 19, 2021 – CISA Seminar

Constant Bonard (Paris)

The meaning of slurs: considering affects thoughtfully

CISA, Campus Biotech, 15:00 - 16:00. Room H8.01 D

October 28, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Juliette Vazard (Geneva)

Anxious hopes, hopeful anxieties, and emotional valence

For creatures like us, entertaining possible future scenarios of how our life might play out is often accompanied or “charged” with emotions like hope and anxiety. Both hope and anxiety necessarily require that one does not know whether the target event (the desired end, the threat) will in fact occur or not. While hope has traditionally been viewed as a “positive” emotion, anxiety is considered a “negative” emotion. However, insofar as hope involves an awareness of the risk of non-attainment of the hoped-for outcome, and anxiety involves an awareness of the possibility of non-occurrence of the dreaded outcome, these emotions potentially carry both a positive and a negative kind of evaluation, and thus potentially both a positive and a negative valence. Recently, some philosophers have indeed argued that hope is always constitutive of anxiety (Miceli & Castelfranchi, 2015), and that anxiety is sometimes constitutive of hope (Stockdale, 2019). As a result, it is argued, the valence of both anxiety and hope is not as clear as we thought. I call these two claims the Constitutive claim of hope and anxiety, and the Unclear Valence claim. These claims, as I will show, have important implications for questions regarding the relation between emotional evaluation and emotional phenomenology.

November 11, 2021 – Thumos Seminar (exceptionally in room B112)

Laura Silva (Geneva)

The Epistemic Role of Outlaw Emotions: Beyond Justification

Outlaw emotions are emotions that stand in tension with one’s wider belief system, often allowing epistemic insight one may have otherwise lacked. Outlaw emotions are thought to play crucial epistemic roles under conditions of oppression. Although the crucial epistemic value of these emotions is widely acknowledged, specific accounts of their epistemic role(s) remain largely programmatic. There are two dominant accounts of the epistemic role of emotions in general: The Motivational View and the Justificatory View. Philosophers of emotion assume that these dominant ways of accounting for the epistemic role(s) of emotions in general are equipped to account for the epistemic role(s) of outlaw emotions. I argue that this is not the case. My argument gives us reason to suspect that focus on justification in outlaw emotion cases may be misguided. I end by sketching an alternative proposal for the epistemic role of these emotions that is not justificatory, nor motivational.

November 18, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Roberto Keller (Geneva)

Natural Goodness, Reasons for Attitudes, and the Normative Bedrock

It has become increasingly common to think of reasons for attitudes as the the building blocks of normativity. Various considerations can be adduced in favour of this view. Thinking of goodness or duty as reducible to, respectively, reasons to favour or to reasons to intend can for example help us make sense of important normative phenomena such as normative supervenience, normative relevance, and normative guidance. This view can also help us find unity among different types of normative properties and explain why we see some important kind of discontinuity between the normative and the descriptive. The aim of this talk is to show that these views are put under great strain when confronted with instances of natural normativity—the normativity that applies to plants, animals, and life processes more generally—and that those who wish to understand normativity in terms of reasons for attitudes face a challenging dilemma.

November 25, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Kourken Michaelian (Grenoble)

Remembering as imagining the (nonpersonal) past

According to the simulation theory of memory, to remember is to imagine an event from the personal past. McCarroll has recently argued that simulationism is unable to account either for forgetting or for infantile amnesia. While this talk will demonstrate that the simulation theory is in fact able to account for both phenomena, its implications with respect to infantile amnesia, in particular, do suggest that modifications to the theory are in order. Existing simulationisms presuppose that one can only remember the events of the personal past. This presupposition now appears to be unmotivated, and the chapter therefore proposes a radicalized simulation theory that holds that to remember is simply to imagine an event from the past, regardless of whether that event belongs to the personal past.

December 9, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Michele Ombrato (Geneva)

Emotions as variants of interest

It is often assumed that occurrent emotions are ‘episodic’ attitudes–i.e., that they are, at once, cognitive-cum-affective episodes and attitudes held towards emotional situations. I will suggest that this identification is ontologically problematic and that it leads to an artificial restriction of the scope of accounts of emotion to emotion episodes during which a single attitude happens to be retained–e.g., episodes of ‘fear’, or ‘anger’, or ‘shame’ etc. I will then put forward an alternative ontological framework articulating the relations between emotion attitudes understood as the proper referents of terms such as ‘fear’, ‘anger’ or ‘shame’, and emotion episodes as complex, dynamic cognitive-cum-affective episodes. On the proposed ontological framework, emotion attitudes feature as attitudinal-evaluative components of emotion episodes, and more precisely, as active states of interest which drive and constrain the way in which emoting subjects exercise control over the occupation of their attention. Finally, I will show how this reframing of the relations between emotion attitudes and emotion episodes may allow us to theorise emotion episodes that span ‘changes in attitude.’ My proposal will be that such ‘multi-attitude’ emotion episodes result from cycles of interest-driven exploration of the value or personal significance of emotional situations, cycles that may, over time, crystallise in different emotion attitudes. In so far as multi-attitude emotion episodes result from a single causal process or mode of production, they are emotional wholes or unities vs mere sequences of discrete episodic emotions.


Spring 2021


February 25, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Julien Deonna & Fabrice Teroni (Geneva)


March 4, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Roberto Keller (Geneva)

Norms, Errors, and Defects

The aim of this talk is to shed light on the distinction between two forms of badness stemming from norm-violation: incorrectness and defectiveness. These notions are closely associated and they can sometimes be used interchangeably: a misspelling can be properly described both as an error or as a defect in spelling. As revealed by the case of mental states, however, this is not always the case: to qualify a mental state such as belief as incorrect is not to qualify it as defective and vice-versa. This observation will serve as a starting point in the articulation of the different forms of failure which are respectively captured by incorrectness and by defectiveness. Through a principled explanation of the difference between these notions, not only will we be in a position to explain why they sometimes diverge and why they sometimes overlap, we will also be in a position to sharpen our understanding of the claim that mental states like belief are constitutively governed by norms.


March 11, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Sarah Arnaud (Montréal) & Jesse Prinz (New York)

The Relationality of Emotions

While emotions are generally understood as internal episodes, emotion researchers widely acknowledge that they depend on socialization and cultural environments, and many emotions are social in nature or triggered by social elicitors. There is thus an internalist and individualist theory of where emotions are located, and a more externalist and social understanding of the conditions that elicit and condition our emotions.

Though logically consistent, we think there is some tension between these views. A social understanding of the conditions that bring emotions about invites consideration of more externalist theories of emotions as well as methodologies that make external relations more salient. In this work, we introduce such a theoretical orientation and exemplify a new methodology for studying emotion recognition that is more suited to this orientation. It is our view that emotions can be fruitfully regarded as inherently relational, and that this relationality is also important for emotion recognition. We do not aim to refute the non-relational orthodoxy, so much as to make space for the fruitfulness of this alternative perspective. Viewing emotions as relations opens up new avenues of research.
We have two main goals here: empirical and theoretical. Empirically, we aim to introduce a new experimental paradigm for studying emotion recognition. We hope that part of the project will interest researchers of any theoretical persuasion. For us, this paradigm arose out of a theoretical stance. Our theoretical goal is to articulate that stance as a starting place.


March 18, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Rodrigo Diaz (Bern)

How do you feel about it? Emotional awareness and evaluative judgment

Most emotion researchers agree that each emotion type is associated with a particular value or evaluative property (Lazarus, 1991): Fear is related to danger, anger is related to offense, and so on. This way, my fear of snakes relates to the danger of snakes, and my anger towards racists relates to the offensiveness of their racism. Going a step further, some philosophers have claimed that our capacity to make evaluative judgments is based on emotion (Prinz, 2007; Tappolet, 2016). On this view, one cannot properly grasp the danger of snakes without having experienced fear, and one cannot understand the offense of racism without knowing anger. This view is known as (Value) Sentimentalism.

If, as Sentimentalism posits, evaluative judgment depends on emotion, a lack of awareness of one’s own emotions (i.e., Alexithymia, see Bagby, Parker, & Taylor, 1994) should lead to problems making evaluative judgments. Here, I present the results of an experimental- philosophical study showing that participants’ ability to identify their own emotions, as well as their tendency to think about emotions, significantly predict their ability to identify the value of emotional stimuli. This suggests that, in line with Sentimentalist claims, evaluative judgments are based on emotion.

March 25, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi (London)

Aristotle on Cognitive Conflict and Action Regulation

I argue that, for Aristotle, humans do not always control their actions by assessing the truth and falsity of perceptual appearances (contra among others Moss 2012 and McCready-Flora 2013). In partic- ular, taking an evaluative appearance (an appearance of goodness, or pleasantness) to be false does not necessarily restrain one from acting on it. Conversely, we normally do not act on non-evaluative apperances that we take to be false. If this thesis is persuasive, it suggests that we should look more closely at the way in which human rationality controls action. Its control, if it is effective, must go beyond its ability to discriminate truth and falsity.

April 15, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Jean Moritz Müller (Bonn)

The Spontaneity of Emotion

It is a commonplace that emotions are characteristically passive. As we ordinarily think of them, emotions are ways in which we are acted upon, that is, moved or affected by aspects of our environment. Moreover, we have no voluntary control over whether we feel them. In this paper, I call attention to a much-neglected respect in which emotions are active, which is no less central to our pretheoretical concept of them. That is, in having emotions, we are engaged with the world insofar as we respond to aspects of our environment. In this context, to say that an emotion is a response to x is tantamount to saying that x is a reason for which we have it. Elaborating this claim in light of a historically prominent conception of the active/passive distinction, I will argue that emotions are a form of spontaneity in virtue of their responsive character and contrast in this respect with perceptions, which are fundamentally receptive. While this proposal is prima facie opposed to the ordinary image of emotions as passive, I will show that it actually allows us to make proper sense of it.

April 22, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Federico Lauria (Lisbon)

Interest and the Affective Springs of Inquiry: The 'Chiaroscuro' Epistemic Emotions

Interest and curiosity drive exploration, information-gathering, and inquiry, hereby contributing to epistemic success and virtue. How are we to understand interest and curiosity’s epistemic role? This article offers an affective approach to this Spring of Inquiry Puzzle. We argue that interest and curiosity are experiences of anticipated epistemic value/reward or, if one prefers, of potential cognitive improvement (the “chiaroscuro” view). We develop this account with the help of three appraisals: epistemic goodness, epistemic gap, and high cognitive coping. This view offers an elegant typology of epistemic emotions. On the one hand, interest and curiosity differ from epistemic emotions of “darkness”, such as confusion, as the latter are experiences of cognitive obstacles or absence of epistemic value. They also differ from epistemic emotions of “light”, like eureka moments, i.e. experiences of actual epistemic value or actual cognitive improvement. Between darkness and light, they are the chiaroscuro epistemic emotions. We delineate our account in both metacognitive and first-order terms, which helps to address recent qualms concerning the metacognitive nature of epistemic emotions. This typology offers a new piece to regulative epistemology. It appears that interest and curiosity are vital in our quest for information.

This talk is followed by Emanuela Ceva's PhilEAs talk 'La corruption politique : un problème d’éthique institutionnelle'

April 29, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Laura Luz Silva (Geneva)

Do Emotions Play a Distinctive Epistemic Role?
Debate regarding the epistemic role of emotions focusses on whether emotions can provide justification for evaluative beliefs. A prevalent objection to the view that emotions can do so stems from the observation that, as emotions are reason-responsive attitudes themselves, it seems that those very reasons that stand in justificatory relations to emotions, stand also in justificatory relations to evaluative beliefs with similar content. The Superfluity Objection claims that emotions are epistemically dispensable in the justification of evaluative beliefs, for the very reasons that stand in support of an emotion can justify the relevant evaluative belief directly. Responses to this objection have been offered in the literature, but none of these responses secure emotions a non-superfluous, or indispensable, epistemic role. I develop a novel response to the Superfluity Objection that takes steps towards doing just that.


May 6, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Michael Milona (Toronto)

Perceptualism, Attitudinalism, and the Content of Emotions

Perceptualism is the view that emotions are perceptual experiences of value. According to perceptualism, emotions have evaluative content much as ordinary sensory experiences have empirical content; and it lends itself naturally to the position that emotion types (anger, fear, etc.) are individuated by their respective evaluative contents. Although perceptualism has gained substantial support in recent decades, it has also been subject to important critiques. This paper explores an interlocking set of objections called the Attitudinalist Challenge. According to the challenge, everyday ways of talking and thinking about emotions conflict with the thesis that emotions have evaluative content. Attitudinalist maintain that while perceptualists correctly identify emotions as evaluations, they are evaluative at the level of attitude. This paper defends and develops perceptualism in the face of this challenge. One key lesson is that perceptualists should deepen their analogy with sensory experience. For according to a plausible version of perceptualism, different types of emotion are differentiated by virtue of their evaluative content in the same way that different types of sensory experience (visual, auditory, etc.) are differentiated by their contents. A second lesson is that perceptualists should distinguish between the representational guise of emotions (which is uniform across emotions) and the formal objects of emotions (which vary). This distinction can likewise be motivated by the core analogy with sensory experience. Having argued how perceptualists should answer the Attitudinalist Challenge, the paper closes with a challenge for versions of attitudinalism that share perceptualism’s commitment to the view that emotions are evaluative experiences.


May 20, 2021 – Thumos Seminar

Arina Pismenny (Gainesville)

Emotional Injustice

This paper, written in collaboration with Gen Eickers and Jesse Prinz, aims to explicate the concept of emotional injustice. This phenomenon takes multiple forms. We examine the ways in which social and cultural norms regulate emotional experiences, expressions, and ascriptions of emotional states to others. Modeling the concept of emotional injustice on the concept of epistemic injustice, we delineate three types. ‘Affective silencing’ occurs when unjust social norms enjoin individuals from experiencing or expressing a given emotion (‘boys don’t cry’; ‘girls don’t get angry’). Hermeneutical injustice occurs when the systemic oppression of a certain group results in their being deprived of concepts adequate to their emotional experience. For example, historically, under the medical model, female unhappiness was interpreted as depression, a mental disorder, even when it might have been better understood as a justified response to external barriers to flourishing. The third type we discuss is dynamic hermeneutic injustice. This is the misconstrual of a person’s emotional state in accordance with a stereotype. For example, white people often attribute anger to Black people who are not experiencing or expressing anger.

We have three main goals in this paper. First, to explicate the concept of emotional injustice, showing that some emotion norms are unjust, some conducive to justice, and some are neutral. Second, we identify several different kinds of emotional injustice, illustrating each. Third, we outline suggestions for redressing and mitigating emotional injustices.




Fall 2020

October 1, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Raamy Majeed (Auckland)

What Can Emotional Plasticity Tell Us About Social Biases?

Emotions that are quick, automatic and pre-reflective are typically explained by positing special evolved systems in the brain, i.e. ‘modules’. This framework, however, is ill-equipped to explain such emotions when they are responses to social or cultural cues, as as evolved modules are thought to be incapable of undergoing any significant form of socio-cultural learning. In this paper, I propose a developmental framework to accommodate such emotions. In particular, I argue such emotions can be explained by developmental modules: modules that aren’t innate, but form as a product of development, and which are crucially shaped by our socio-cultural environment. I end by exploring the implications of this approach for tackling some implicit social biases.

October 8, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Rebecca Wallbank (Uppsala)

Puzzles of Trust

It is prevalently assumed that when another person fails to do as we trust them to, we will feel betrayed. In fact upon many accounts such a liability to feel betrayal is an identifying feature of trust. It is also prevalently assumed that trust leaves us liable to feeling gratitude when it is fulfilled. But this seems inconsistent. Betrayal arises when someone fails to do something which we believe that they ought to have done for us, but we don’t tend to feel gratitude in circumstances in which they succeed, instead we tend to feel satisfied and treated fairly, perhaps relieved. So which is it, is trustworthy behaviour something that it makes sense for us to be grateful for or something which it makes sense for us to simply expect? Let’s call this Puzzle 1. It is also prevalently assumed that being trusted is an honour and something we can feel insulted by in the absence of and yet it is also widely assumed that trust is offered by people with no real discrepancy as to whom they place their trust in. But why would we feel honoured by this? Let’s call this Puzzle 2. There are various other puzzles about trust, but in focusing on these two I’ll expose how they are symptomatic of various concerning, and prevalently false assumptions about the nature of trust, how it arises and in what ways it is valuable to us. In this presentation I’ll address these misconceptions offering, what I regard to be, a more plausible account.

This talk will be directly followed by Magalie Schor's PhilEAs talk

October 15, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Helen Landmann (Hagen)

The bright and dark side of being moved

Feelings of being moved (i.e., being moved, overwhelmed, stirred) can be elicited by helping behavior and close relationships. Some scholars therefore consider being moved as a pro-social emotion (i.e., elicited by moral virtue and enhancing pro-social behavior). This, however, may constitute the bright side of being moved only. I report a series of studies showing that feelings of being moved can be elicited by effort, collective efficacy, and martyrdom as well. These studies further show that feelings of being moved can be associated with collective action, appreciation of extremist propaganda, and acceptance of violence, thus exemplifying the dark side of being moved.

October 22, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Laura Silva (Geneva)

Two-faced Anger

The orthodox view of anger takes desires for revenge or retribution to be central to the emotion. In this paper I develop an empirically informed challenge to the retributive view of anger. In so doing I argue that a distinct desire is central to anger: a desire for recognition. Desires for recognition aim at the targets of anger acknowledging the wrong they have committed, as opposed to aiming for their suffering. In light of the centrality of this desire for recognition, I argue that the retributive view of anger should be abandoned. I consider and dismiss two types of moves that can be made on the part of a proponent of the orthodox view in response to my argument. I propose that a pluralist view, that allows aims for both retribution and recognition in anger, is to be preferred.

October 29, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Alex Grzankowski (Birkbeck, London)

In what sense do emotions have content?

The majority position has it that emotions represent, and typically they are taken to represent things as instantiating value properties. But this positions raises a difficult question. Namely, how might emotions represent such properties? It seems implausible that they might track them, for example, and even the existence of such properties is a well known matter of dispute. Rather than answering this question directly, I want to explore the possibility of side stepping it. More specifically, I will consider the prospect of Interpretationism about the contents of the emotions. I think there are good reasons not to be an Interpretationist about the contents of many of our mental states (e.g. memory and judgement), but emotions look like a more interesting candidate. Rather than thinking of the emotions as information bearing structures that encode and store, I want to offer some reasons for taking the intentional stance. At the end of the talk I will to gesture at a more radical conclusion by asking why we think it is important that emotions have contents in the first place.

November 12, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Andreas Mueller (Bern)

Are there reasons for emotions?

Our emotions are subject to various forms of normative assessment and critique. This suggests that there are normative reasons for emotions. The thesis that there are such reasons is often endorsed and is presupposed, e.g., by the buck-passing account of value, but it is rarely explicitly defended. Most worked out accounts of normative reasons focus on practical or epistemic reasons. In this talk, I address some of the challenges for the attempt to extend such accounts to the case of reasons for emotions. In particular, I discuss accounts that draw a close connection between reasons and reasoning and explore whether, like intentions and beliefs, emotions can be regulated by a process that qualifies as reasoning.

November 19, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Constant Bonard (Geneva & Antwerp)

Are the Belief-Desire Theories of Emotion Dead?
Watch a recording of this talk here.

What I call ‘the belief-desire theories of emotion’ – BDTE for short – constitute a research program whose core commitment is that we can characterize, analyze, and better understand emotions through belief-desire pairs. BDTE were in vogue in the 1980s, but have since then been criticized heavily by philosophers working on emotions – I have listed no less than 40 objections. In the present philosophical landscape, it seems that nobody defends this theory anymore. The objections may have been fatal to BDTE. However, I argue, a modest, non-reductive version of the BDTE is safe from all the objections I know of.
The version of the BDTE I am thinking about claims that, in normal cases, an emotion episode involves a component – the emotion elicitation component, often called the appraisal process – which is describable in terms of belief-desire pairs, or at least in terms of cognition-conation pairs. This component gives a partial causal explanation of the other emotional components of that episode (action tendencies, physiological changes, motor reactions, and subjective feeling). I call it the Etiological Cognition-Conation Account (ECCA).
After having provided reasons in favor of rescuing the BDTE research program, I briefly present the ECCA. I then expose the main objections to BDTE under three categories: (1) beliefs are not necessary for emotion elicitation; (2) desires are not necessary for emotion elicitation; (3) belief-desire pairs are not sufficient for emotion elicitation. Along the way, I show how the ECCA can answer. BDTE may not be dead after all.


November 26, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Jacques Vollet (Geneva)

Epistemic Akrasia and Justification

Can it be rational to be epistemically akratic, that is, to believe that p and that it is not rational to believe that p? Intuitively, no. However, you can have misleading higher-order evidence that your evidence does not support your belief. In such cases, we might think, epistemic akrasia is rational, for your evidence supports the belief that p and the belief that it is not rational to believe that p. But, if so, why is it that epistemic akrasia seems irrational? According to a recent proposal, this can be explained by fact that epistemically akratic responses manifest the bad disposition to “fail to correctly respond to a special class of conclusive and conspicuous reasons” (Maria Lasonen-Aarnio 2020). I will argue that this explanation fails. I will suggest a different approach, according to which although epistemic akrasia can be propositionally justified (ex ante rational), it cannot be doxastically justified (ex post rational).

December 3, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Tricia Magalotti (Rice)

Why do we care so much about emotional experience?

I have the intuition that a life without emotional experience would not be a life worth living. Perhaps this is an overstatement. But the slightly less dramatic intuition that removing emotional experience from one’s life would result in a drastic reduction in the value of one’s life seems to be widely shared. There is a special kind of regard that we have for emotional experience. However, it is not immediately obvious what is the source of the significance we place on emotional experience. In this talk, I will consider several potential explanations for why we hold emotional experience in such high regard. I will advocate for the hypothesis that the best explanation for the elevated standing that we accord to emotional experience is that it involves a special kind of value, the value of “feeling the world as it is,” where this kind of value implicates various different domains of value, including epistemic, practical, moral, and aesthetic.

December 10, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Juliette Vazard (Geneva)

How do questions come to mind? Anxiety, Questioning, and the Reflective mode of cognition

We can fail as rational inquirers by asking ourselves the wrong questions, by inquiring into irrelevant epistemic possibilities. While there is a vast number of possibilities we are ignorant about at a given time, when we inquire we move from a state of mere ignorance to one of explicit uncertainty about a specific question. In this talk I support the view that some emotions provide a framework to our inquiries, by making specific uncertainties salient, presenting them as pressing, relevant, and in need to be resolved. I focus on the emotion of anxiety, and in particular on epistemic anxiety. To support my hypothesis, I look at cases of unreasonable questioning, cases in which our capacity to inquire into the relevant questions is – temporarily or chronically – undermined. For both pathological and everyday cases of unreasonable questioning of a certain type, it seems that anxiety is the mechanism which prompts an interrogative attitude and a motivational push towards inquiry, by making salient an uncertain (and threatening) possibility. However, while malfunctioning anxiety may bring salience to uncertainties which are irrelevant (because too remote, for instance), fitting anxiety constitutes one of the ways in which (relevant) questions are brought to our attention.

December 17, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Conor McHugh (Southampton)

Logic and Norms of Reasoning

Logic is often thought to bear some important normative connection to (theoretical) reasoning. But it’s not obvious how this connection is to be made out. As Gilbert Harman famously pointed out, one is not necessarily required or even permitted to believe the logical consequences of what one believes - after all, these consequences might be uninteresting, or highly implausible. Subsequent literature has taken up the challenge implicitly set by Harman: to identify a plausible ‘bridge principle’ linking facts about logical consequence to normative facts of a certain kind. My first aim in this paper is to argue that, by failing to clearly distinguish norms governing belief from norms governing reasoning, this literature overlooks one natural approach to thinking of logic as normative for reasoning. My second aim is to take some steps towards developing and defending a version of this approach.

Spring 2020

February 4-5th, 2020 – CISA's Annual Research Forum

Details and program here

February 27, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Emanuela Ceva (Geneva)

Individual responsibility under systemic corruption: A coercion-based view

Should officeholders be held individually responsible for submitting to systemically corrupt institutional practices? We draw an analogy between individual action under coercive threats and individual participation in systemic corruption, and argue that the occupants of institutional roles who submit to corrupt practices are not excused by the existence of a systemic coercive threat. Even when they have good personal reasons to accept the threat, they remain morally assessable and, in the circumstances, they are also blameworthy for their actions in their institutional capacity.

March 3, 2020 – CISA Lecture

Emanuela Ceva (Geneva)

Negative moral emotions and the transformation of relationships dynamics in processes of transitional justice

This paper asks the question of the role of moral emotions in processes of transitional justice in countries emerging out of periods of violence or past wrongdoing. The discussion of the criteria for the moral assessment of processes of transitional justice has recently gained momentum among political and legal philosophers. An equally lively emerging debate concerns the role of moral emotions (such as resentment, envy, anger, guilt, shame, but also sympathy and empathy) as a driver of people's interactions. The philosophical studies of the relations between these two debates are currently quite sparse. This is an unfortunate lacuna because interpersonal or intergroup interactions in contexts of post-conflict transition are quite apparently ridden with (positive and negative) emotions, whose moral significance needs further research. By bringing together recent studies in the political theory of transitional justice and the role of moral emotions in analytic philosophy, this paper contributes to developing the normative research in this field. It does so by investigating, in particular, the potential for a positive role of negative moral emotions to bring about changes in the relationships dynamics between the parties involved in past wrongdoing, and how institutions of transitional justice may elicit such potential and change. In so doing, the paper contributes to the studies concerning social transformation by outlining the normative requirements of an "interactive political morality" for transitional contexts

March 5, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Antoine Rebourg (Geneva)

The Contours of Self-Control

Across both philosophical and empirical literature, self-control is standardly defined as the ability to master inclinations (typically desires or emotions) that conflict with what we judge best to do.
This rough characterization has lent itself to diverse qualifications and debates regarding the mechanisms, temporal structure, and “targets” of an exercise of self-control. A popular view in cognitive sciences, which has recently received philosophical support by Sripada (forthcoming), is that self-control consists in certain mental control mechanisms that are deployed in situations of motivational conflict.
My talk is divided into two parts. In a first, critical part, I argue that this narrow focus falls short on both conceptual and empirical grounds. Notably, I claim that it does not tell the whole story about what we concretely do when we ordinarily control ourselves. In a second, constructive part, drawing from the classical toolkit of action theory and moral psychology, I put forward a reductive but surprisingly handy account of self-control.

Reference: Sripada C. (forthcoming). ‘The Atoms of Self-Control.’ Noûs

March 5, 2020 – PhilEAs Talk

Artūrs Logins (Zurich)


March 12, 2020 – Thumos Seminar (cancelled, talk moved to next week)

March 19, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Juliette Ferry Danini (Sorbonne University)

Do we really need more empathy in medicine?

It is often claimed that we need more empathy in medicine – by philosophers, health practitioners or patients alike. Empathy is indeed often presupposed to be something good, a virtue to display and to act on. It is believed to be especially beneficial to patients that their health practitioners feel empathy for their plight. Among many approaches, narrative medicine (Charon 2001) and the phenomenology of illness (Carel 2008; 2016) notably promote empathy in medicine. The biomedical model and the medical curriculum have specifically been argued to be causing a deficit in empathy in medical practitioners. Several empirical studies have claimed that medical students lose their capacity to feel empathy throughout their studies. For instance, about this decline in empathy, one study asks “how can we stop the rot?” (Spencer 2004). As many have commented, empathy however can be a fuzzy concept. Emotional empathy (feeling what the other is feeling, putting yourself in her shoes) is often distinguished from cognitive empathy (knowing what the other is feeling) and compassion (caring for the other person’s wellbeing). Emotional empathy is usually what is put forward in the context of medicine. We want health professionals to feel our plight. There is thus a normative claim – it is morally better for health professionals to feel empathy – and a descriptive claim – the biomedical education is detrimental to our capacity to feel empathy. In this talk, I argue that neither of these claims are fully convincing.
Note first that based on a review of the literature by Pedersen (2009), there is no consensus as to whether empathy does decline during the medical curriculum. A more pressing problem is that empirical measures of empathy use ambiguous definitions of empathy. What it means is that they measure bundles of things which sometimes appear to be very different from empathy. For instance, several questionnaires measure one’s likeliness to be anxious during emergencies as something akin to empathy: becoming anxious in emergency situations increases one’s empathy level. The claim according to which the decrease in empathy in medicine is bad – akin to “rotting” – is seriously weaken when put in perspective with what questionnaires actually measure.

In the second part of this talk, I turn to consider normative questions regarding empathy. Is it true that empathy is a good guide for our moral actions? In the context of medicine, does empathy help health professionals caring for and treating their patients? Overall, is empathy likely to improve medicine? Following Bloom (2016), I argue that empathy has been oversold as a moral guide for our actions. Empathy suffers from a number a biases and does not lead us to the best decisions, especially in the case of medicine. Furthermore, emotional empathy can have harmful side effects. Notably, asking for continuous emotional labour in the context of rising health problems in the medical community is not without risk.
Finally, I turn to consider the claim according to which patients heal faster when their health professionals feel empathy – suggesting that empathy should be used as a powerful placebo (Howick et al. 2018). I argue that similar measuring problems as mentioned previously affect this type of studies.
In brief, in this talk, I argue that empathy is not something to look forward as a promise for better care and better medicine. At the end of this talk, I argue that compassion – simply having the best interest of patients in mind, without necessarily feeling what they are feeling – is a better goal for medicine. However, talking about compassion is not useful if one does not acknowledge the importance of work conditions and the health system within which clinical medicine happens.

Bloom, Paul. 2016. Against Empathy. New York: HarperCollins.
Carel, Havi. 2008. Illness: The Cry of the Flesh. Stocksfield: Acumen.
———. 2016. The Phenomenology of Illness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Howick, Jeremy, Andrew Moscrop, Alexander Mebius, Thomas R Fanshawe, George Lewith, Felicity L Bishop, Patriek Mistiaen, et al. 2018. “Effects of Empathic and Positive Communication in Healthcare Consultations: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 111 (7): 240–52.
Pedersen, Reidar. 2009. “Empirical Research on Empathy in Medicine - A Critical Review.” Patient Education and Counseling 76: 307–22.
Spencer, John. 2004. “Decline in Empathy in Medical Education: How Can We Stop the Rot?” Medical Education 38 (9): 916–18.

[The talk by Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen (Lund) is sadly cancelled]

March 26, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Markus Kneer (Zürich)

Happiness and Well-Being: Is It All in Your Head? Evidence from the Folk

Despite a voluminous literature on happiness and well-being, there is still no scholarly consen- sus on whether happiness and well-being are purely psychological phenomena, or for that matter whether they are identical. Commentators frequently defend their views by reference to intuitions about the nature of happiness or well-being, raising the question of how representative those intuitions are. In a series of studies we examined lay intuitions involving a variety happiness and well-being-related terms to assess their sensitivity to psychological (internal) versus external conditions. We found that all terms, including ‘happy’, ‘doing well’ and ‘good life’, were far more sensitive to internal than external conditions, sug- gesting that for laypersons, mental states are the most important part of happiness and well-being. But several terms, including ‘doing well’, ‘good life’ and ‘enviable life’ were also sensitive to external condi- tions, consistent with dominant philosophical views of well-being. ‘Happy’, by contrast, appears to be ambiguous: for many participants, but not all, it was completely insensitive to external conditions, sug- gesting that the folk are divided about whether happiness is purely a psychological notion or equivalent to well-being. Overall, our findings suggest that lay thinking about matters of well-being divides between two concepts, or families of concepts: a purely psychological notion associated with ‘happy’, and one or more notions related to the philosophical concept of well-being that concern how well a person’s life is going and are generally thought to involve both psychological and external conditions. Strikingly, even though the folk do not generally seem to endorse mental state views of well-being, they seem clearly to regard mental states as more important for well-being than external conditions.

April 2, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Laurent Jaffro (Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Blame and Forgiveness

In what way is ceasing to blame a necessary condition for forgiveness? What initially interested me in the subject was the need to clarify what forgiveness requires as a change in the relationship with the offender. The result was rather that my attention was drawn to the complexity of blame and the need for an analysis that does not reduce it to one or the other of its dimensions.
I draw attention to the costs of confining philosophical discussion about blame to the sense of censure or reproach. Distinctions like that between angry and detached blame, between external and internal blame, between expressed and silent blame, are certainly useful but may be considered as approximations of a more crucial distinction between blame as a speech act with perlocutionary effects and blame as moral disapproval and attribution of moral responsibility, be it tacit or explicit. A philosophical account of blame should not neglect the latter in favour of the former.
I will be arguing that:
a. Taken in the sense of moral disapproval and attribution of responsibility for a fault, as distinct from the second-personal expression of disapproval, ceasing to blame is not a necessary condition for forgiveness. On the contrary, as a specific response to wrongdoing, distinct from excuses and forgetting, forgiveness preserves the victims’ judgement that a serious wrong has been inflicted to them and does not change the fact that they attribute responsibility for this wrong to the offender. The one who forgives, while deciding not to retaliate in any way (or, if taking revenge is not an option, while ‘overcoming’ resentment in some other way), does not, however, waive the judgement of culpability.
b. Taken in the sense of reproach, second-personal censure, ceasing to blame is a necessary condition for forgiveness. To those who offer their forgiveness and simultaneously reproach you for the same misconduct, you might legitimately point out some inconsistency.
However, my claim is not that the problem rests upon a misunderstanding about blame and that all is needed is to specify in what sense the term is used. The semantic network of blame would benefit from being presented as a conceptual complex that goes from weaker to stronger forms, from the less personal to the more personal, from calm disapproval to angry censure.

April 7, 2020 – CISA Lecture

David Garcia (Complexity Science Hub Vienna and Medical University of Vienna)

Computational Affective Science: Collective Emotions in the Digital Traces After a Terrorist Attack

April 9, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Céline Boisserie-Lacroix (EHESS) and Marco Inchingolo (Institut Jean Nicod)

Empathy for a reason? From understanding agency to phenomenal insight

The relationship between empathy, understood here as a cognitive act of imaginative transposition, and reasons, has been discussed extensively by Stueber (2006; 2011; 2012; 2017). Stueber situates his account of empathy as the reenactment of another person’s perspective within a framework of folk psychology as guided by a principle of rational agency. We argue that this view, which we call agential empathy, is not satisfying for two main reasons that we will examine consecutively. First, agential empathy cannot satisfactorily account for the case of emotional actions, which requires to take into account the phenomenal dimension of the mental states they stem from. We argue that Stueber overlooks this aspect, which is not reducible to understanding the reasons behind an agent’s behavior. We introduce the notions of experiential empathy and phenomenal insight to account for the imagined representation of the subjectively felt dimension of the target’s experience. Second, in virtue of his restrictive view of empathy, Stueber partly misconstrues this process: action explanation is not all there is to say about empathy. We argue that we have to go beyond the scope of agential empathy to do justice to the epistemic richness of empathy. Experiential empathy can in principle be available independently from reasons explanations: the main epistemic achievement of empathy can be indeed a matter of phenomenal insight only.

April 23, 2020 – Thumos Seminar

Magalie Schor (Geneva)

A Virtue Epistemology of Emotions

According to popular contemporary cognitive theories in the philosophy of emotions, emotions consist essentially in evaluations of their intentional object. The idea often defended is that emotional responses provide subjects with an epistemic access to the values instantiated in their surroundings. Given this epistemic aspect of emotions, some philosophers have recently raised the question of whether emotions could have a positive value for knowledge, for instance, by positively and reliably contributing to the acquisition of evaluative knowledge. The aim of the paper is to explore further the epistemic status of emotions. I will defend in a virtue epistemologist fashion that, similarly to beliefs, emotions, when some conditions are met, may be counted as kind of epistemic achievements, namely acquisitions of a kind of factual knowledge. As such, we may conclude that some instances of emotions are more than mere contributors of evaluative knowledge, they are constituents of it.

April 30, 2020 – Workshop "Fittingness" & Thumos Seminar (Broadcasted on Zoom)

10.00-11.30 - Jonathan Mitchell (Manchester), Two Objections to the Bodily-Attitudinal Theory of Emotion

14.15-15.45 - Roberto Keller (Geneva), Fitting Normativity for the FA Analysis

16.15-17.45 - Oded Na'aman (Jerusalem), Meaningful Suffering

What actually arouses indignation over suffering,” Nietzsche writes, “is not the suffering itself, but the senselessness of suffering.” Though the distinction between meaningful and senseless suffering is only rarely discussed in contemporary moral philosophy, it is clearly significant. In this paper, I develop a fittingness-based account of meaningful suffering that explains the distinctive burden of senselessness and the way meaning can make suffering more bearable. In developing the account, I also argue that the common account of the distinction between rational and a-rational attitudes in terms of judgment-sensitivity is flawed; the distinction between rational and a-rational attitudes should be drawn, instead, in terms of fittingness. Meaningful suffering is a rational attitude in the sense that it purports to be fitting to what it is about; senseless suffering might occasionally be justified but it is not about anything at all. When suffering is meaningful it expresses the agent’s evaluative perspective on the world, it is the suffering of the person, unlike senseless suffering, which befalls the person.

May 7 - Thumos seminar

Toni Ronnow-Rasmussen (Lund)

In Defence of Good-for Unitarianism.

The general aim is to argue that the expression good-for expresses a much richer notion than what traditionally has been thought to be the case. By “richer” is meant that the scope of good-for is considerably larger than what is usually believed to be the case. For instance, no one denies there are close connections between what is good for us and such notions as well-being or welfare. The question is if the notion of good-for admits of other things than e.g., well-being as being good for you. In Personal Value (2011), it was suggested that this was indeed the case; good-for can appropriately be ascribed to a range of things—things that have a personal rather than impersonal value, but which are not constitutive of someone’s wellbeing or welfare. One way of understanding this suggestion is to think that ‘good for’ is an ambiguous word. Sometimes it is used with a sense that should be confined to cases involving well-being, sometimes we employ it to a wider group of objects that carry so-called personal values. On this approach—what we might refer to as Disunitarianism about good-for—we should distinguish between “well-being good-for” and “personal value good-for”. A disunitarian view on good-for, admits that non-instrumental good-for denotes two or more notions. However, it denies the Unitarian idea that good-for can be given a single unambiguous conceptual analysis. Disunitarianism’s scepticism against a rich non-ambiguous notion of good-for is by no means far-fetched. In fact, it might be true. It might be correct that the notion of personal value is sometimes expressible in terms of what is good for someone, but it does not follow from this that when we think something is good for someone in the “well-being sense”, we use “good for” with the same meaning. I shall therefore consider some arguments suggesting why I was wrong in thinking that good-for has the same meaning when we talk about what is well-being constitutive and what has personal value. However, I shall also consider some reasons in favour of Good-for Unitarianism.

May 14-15, 2020 – Workshop "Knowledge and its Limits at 20" ***NEW DATE: November 5-6, 2020***

June 25-26 – The Political Role of Moral Emotions


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 and 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.

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)

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)

Unreasonable Doubt as a failure of affective experience

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

November 29, 2018 - PhilEAs talk
Parwana Emamzadah (Geneva)
« Modisme » parisien : la philosophie du langage de Raoul le Breton

Le « modisme » désigne tout un courant de grammairiens philosophes principalement actifs, et en vogue, à la Faculté des arts de l’Université de Paris, entre 1270 et 1320. La grammaire qui jusqu’alors était considérée comme une discipline propédeutique qui enseigne à parler et à écrire correctement devient, dès la seconde moitié du 13e siècle, objet de spéculation théorique, au point d'être considérée comme une science. En effet, la récente diffusion de tout un corpus de textes aristotéliciens, encore inconnu un siècle plus tôt, livra suffisamment d’outils conceptuels pour que la grammaire devienne une discipline scientifique. Ainsi, fortement influencés par les Seconds Analytiques, ainsi que par la Métaphysique, la Physique et le De anima, les grammairiens « modistes » ont élaboré un système qui fait de la grammaire une discipline dont les principes, construits autour de la notion de « mode », et en particulier de « mode de signifier », sont conçus comme universels. Je présenterai dans un premier temps les fondements de cette théorie. Dans un second temps, je m'appliquerai à montrer que chez certains de ces auteurs, le « modisme » recouvre bien plus qu'une doctrine grammaticale. Il s'agit d’une théorie linguistique globale qui considère à la fois la syntaxe, la sémantique et même la pragmatique. Pour ce faire, je m'appuierai sur une sélection d'extraits de l'œuvre grammaticale et logique de Raoul le Breton, l'une des figures emblématiques de ce courant, dont je tenterai de reconstruire la philosophie du langage.

The talk will take place at 18h15 in the room B002

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)

Nothing Special About Fictional Emotions

In this talk, I address the following issue. What is special about fictional emotions – do they really differ from ordinary ones? And, if so, how and why? Trying to answer this question, I start by articulating the thesis found in the literature on the topic according to which there is an important difference between fictional and ordinary emotions: fictional emotions typically do not lead the subject to action. We do not flee the movie theater when we fear monsters on the screen. I argue against this thesis and show that it goes wrong especially because it doesn’t seriously consider interactive fictions such as videogames and role-playing games. Addressing this mistake, I expose what is interesting in interactive fictions and how considering them enables us to conclude to a parallelism between emotions elicited in both fictional and ordinary real-life contexts: emotions do not significantly differ in action motivation as a function of the fictional or real nature of the context. They rather vary according to the kind of interactivity afforded by the situation which elicits them, be it real or fictional. I show that this interactive context variability hypothesis, as I call it, is better in explaining and predicting whether the action motivated by the emotions will be effective or not. Furthermore, I show how this hypothesis provides a better explanation of why emotions differ in this way depending on the interactivity of the context.

N.B.: There will be a Quodlibet afterward (room B108) and then a "pot de fin d'année" in the central building of Uni-Bastions.

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.

Spring 2018

February 22, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Julien Deonna & Fabrice Teroni (Geneva)


March 01, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Anne Meylan (Basel)

The Reasons-Responsiveness Account of Doxastic Responsibility and the Basing Relation

In several papers (2013, 2014, 2015) Conor McHugh defends the influential view that doxastic responsibility, viz. our responsibility for our beliefs, is grounded in a specific form of reasons-responsiveness. The main purpose of this paper is to show that a subject’s belief can be responsive to reasons in this specific way without the subject being responsible for her belief. While this specific form of reasons-responsiveness might be necessary, it is not sufficient for doxastic responsibility.

March 08, 2018 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Moritz Mueller (Bonn)

Responding to Significance: Dietrich von Hildebrand on emotion

Dietrich von Hildebrand’s writings contain one of the most ambitious and sensitive accounts of our affective lives to be found within early phenomenology. While comparable in scope to Scheler’s treatment of this subject and building on some of his central insights, Hildebrand’s work offers an original and distinctive systematic account both of the ontology and significance of emotion. At the core of this account is the claim that paradigm emotions constitute a form of position-taking (Stellungnahme). In developing this idea and contrasting position-takings with other types of intentional phenomena, Hildebrand offers an account of the nature and normative role of emotions that is substantially continuous with and at the same time crucially modifies central strands of Kantian ethical thought. As position-takings that respond to (antworten auf) the axiological properties of objects and events, emotions are seen alongside paradigm intellectual and volitional phenomena as forms of active engagement with the world, one of whose characteristic manifestations is conceived as expressing what is most definitive of our personhood.

In my talk I critically reconstruct the most central aspects of Hildebrand’s views on emotion. I begin by introducing von Hildebrand’s account of paradigm emotions as affective position-takings, contrast his account with views that conceive of emotions as forms of apprehension or grasp of axiological properties and critically assess Hildebrand’s view of how affective position-takings are to be distinguished from other types of position-taking. I then elaborate an important distinction which Hildebrand draws between different kinds of axiological property to which emotions can be responsive – ‘(dis)value’ and the ‘mere subjectively (dis)satisfying’. In this context, I also discuss some (dis)continuities with those aspects of Kantian ethical thought that inform his proposal and how it is supposed to make emotions intelligible as capable of manifesting the core of their subject’s personhood. I finally assess Hildebrand’s claim that emotions can be morally valuable in their own right and note some difficulties for this account in light of the role he assigns in this context to a specific form of higher-order position-taking that confers moral value on (first-order) emotional responses.

N.B.: There will be a Quodlibet by Joan Vance - Perceptual uncertainty and precision - afterward (room B108)

March 15, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Daniel Vanello (Geneva/Fribourg)

Moral Conflict, Practical Rationality, and the Appropriateness of Emotions

The aim of this talk is to argue that the notion of “appropriateness” of emotions one favours, and its relation to value judgements, is driven by tacit assumptions constituting one’s conception of practical rationality in ethical practice. First, I rely on Bernard Williams’ argument to the effect that moral conflict is structurally different from conflicts of belief to extract two common assumptions about practical rationality. I then argue that the first of these assumptions seems to be at work in the interpretation of the “appropriateness” of emotions in terms of “fittingness”. Finally, by exploring the second assumption about practical rationality, I put pressure on the interpretation of ‘appropriateness” in terms of “fittingness” by suggesting that there might be an alternative way of understanding the “appropriateness” of emotions and its role in ethical practice.

March 22, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Guy Fletcher (Edinburgh)

Prudential Judgements and Motivation?

In this paper I explore in detail how prudential judgments are related to motivation. I proceed by exploring a number of possible theses concerning their interrelation, and grounds of these theses. I argue for the following thesis:

Prudential Judgement Internalism (PJI): At least one type of prudential judgement (judgements about what is best for oneself, among current options) is necessarily connected to motivation in rational agents.

Here is the plan. I begin by arguing for PJI in §2 before considering objections to it in section 3. In sections 4 and 5 I consider the prospects for more ambitious, general, forms of internalism than PJI. I do this by examining possible explanations of the truth of a range of internalist theses including PJI. I argue that the two main ways of extending PJI are implausible and so we cannot sustain anything more ambitious than PJI. In section 6 I make two small amendments to PJI and give its final statement before (§7) closing by discussing the relation between PJI and questions concerning the nature of prudential judgements and the purported anti-alienation constraint on prudential value.

March 29, 2018 - Warwick-Geneva Interdepartmental Workshop

The event is part of the Geneva-Warwick collaboration in the Philosophy of Mind. The collaboration started in 2014 and is meant to foster a strong link between two internationally-renowned departments of Philosophy. Each year one of the departments organises an event where both members of staff and PhD’s can present their work. The event provides a unique opportunity for PhD students and early career researchers on both sides to meet each other and expert philosophers.

Location: PHIL 211 (Batiment des Philosophes)

10.15-11.00 Naomi Eilan (Warwick) - Communication as Joint Action

According to Tomasello’s ‘shared intentionality hypothesis’ (in A Natural History of Human Thinking), the evolutionary roots of the distinctive features of human thinking lie in 'adaptations for dealing with problems of social coordination, specifically problems presented by individual's attempts to collaborate with each other’. A key step in the evolution of such collaboration was the emergence of the capacity for joint action, in particular the capacity for a uniquely human form of joint action -- collaborative communication. I call his approach to communication the Collaborative Communication’ approach and oppose to it something I call the ‘Second Person’ approach, which in my view does better justice to some, though certainly not all of Tomasello’s claims about the importance of social interaction in explaining fundamental aspects of human minds. I will begin to spell out the difference by contrasting the two approaches along three dimensions: (1)The account given of the fundamental motivational structure underpinning the most basic forms of social engagement; (2) The relation between explanations of the capacity for communication, and of what it is to stand in communicative relation, on the one hand, and explanation of the understanding and acquisition of basic mental concepts (3) The account given of the genus ‘communication’ of which distinctively human communication is a sub-species.

11.00-11.30 Q&A

11.30-11.35 Break

11.35-12.20 Steve Humbert-Droz (Geneva) - What Imagination is - The Tricky Case of Supposition

There is a growing consensus that imagination is not only a matter of mental images. In particular, some scholars have argued that supposing is a kind of imagination on the same footing as sensorily imagining. This suggests that our capacity to suppose constitutes a psychological faculty that is irreducible to an already known form of imagination or to a combination of other psychological faculties.

In this talk, I will criticize three “simulationist” accounts, which have it that our capacity to suppose constitutes such a faculty because it simulates/recreates a genuine faculty. The first account is by Mulligan (1999), according to whom supposing simulates judging; the second is by Currie & Ravenscroft (2002), for whom supposing simulates believing; the third and final one is by Arcangeli (2011; forthcoming), who argues that supposing simulates accepting.

By using the mode/content distinction put forward by Searle (1983) and others, I will suggest that the capacity to suppose fails to (i) fulfil the conditions for being a psychological faculty because of its content oriented nature, and (ii) that the simulationist account cannot integrate supposition without losing in explanatory power.

I will finally defend that supposition can be considered as a deliberative strategy that is imaginative only by analogy.

12.20-12.50 Q&A

Workshop organized by Daniel Vanello

March 29, 2018- Thumos seminar

Naomi Eilan (Warwick)

Knowing and understanding other minds: on the role of communication

Over the past decade or so there has been increasing interest, in both philosophy and psychology, in the claim that we should appeal to various forms of social interaction in explaining our knowledge of other minds, where this is presented as an alternative to what is referred to as the dominant approach to such knowledge, usually identified as ‘theory-theory’. Such claims are made under a variety of headings: the ‘social interaction’ approach, the ‘intersubjectivity approach’, the ‘second person approach’, the ‘collective intentionality’ approach and more. A multitude of claims are made under these various headings, both about the kind of social interaction we should be appealing to, and about how exactly this or that interaction provides an alternative to the ‘dominant approach’. Faced with this plethora of claims and characterizations one may well find oneself wondering whether there is an interesting, well formulated debate to be had in this area

I believe that there is a least one such debate, and in my talk I begin to sketch out how I think it should be formulated, and why I think it reveals fundamental issues about the nature of our knowledge and understanding of both our own and others’ minds. The debate turns on pitting two claims against each other. I will call one the ‘Observation Claim’, a claim that does, I think capture a very widely held view, over the ages, from Augustine on, about the basis and nature of our knowledge of other minds, and is rightly labeled ‘dominant’. The other I label the ‘Communication Claim’. It says we should give particular forms of interpersonal communication a foundational role in explaining both self and other understanding and knowledge. Although I think some version of the Communication Claim is right, my main aim is not so much to argue for it but to put on the table some of the central claims I believe would need to be made good if it is to an interesting and serious alternative to the Observation Claim.

N.B.: There will be a PhilEAs talk by Karen Crowther (Geneva) afterward (room B108)

April 12, 2018 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Hichem Naar (Duisburg-Essen)

Reasons for Love and the Significance of Encounters

The question whether there are reasons for loving particular people (and not others), and what such reasons might be, has been subject to scrutiny in recent years. On one view, reasons for loving particular people are some of their intrinsic qualities. A problem with this view, however, is that it seems to make people replaceable in a problematic way. On another view, by contrast, reasons for loving particular people have to do with our relationship with them. Even if it might avoid the charge that it makes people replaceable, the view nonetheless appears to ascribe people a merely instrumental role in the generation of reasons for loving them. I argue for a view which combines these two views in a way that makes people neither replaceable nor instrumental. On my view (Naar, 2017), reasons for loving particular people are some of their intrinsic qualities as manifested in the context a relationship with us. After spelling out the view, I discuss an important challenge facing it: what’s so special about actually being in touch – via a relationship – with the positive properties of a person that would explain why we have special reasons to love them? I consider a couple of inadequate answers to this question before putting forward my own.

N.B.: There will be a Quodlibet by Katia Saporiti (Zürich) afterward (room B108)

April 19, 2018 - PhilEAs talk

Stacie Friend (Birkbeck)

The Factual Basis of Learning from Fiction

Discussions of the cognitive value of fictional literature usually take for granted that we can learn ordinary facts from fiction, and focus instead on other forms of knowledge or cognitive improvement. I argue that at least some of these other kinds of cognitive value -- such as learning 'what it's like' to have different experiences, or acquiring psychological insight into other human beings -- presuppose a basis in fact. I outline an account of the conditions under which we learn facts from fiction, and deploy it to better understand how fictions may be sources of other forms of cognitive value.

April 26, 2018 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Anthony Hatzimoysis (Athens)

Anxiety as an Affective State

Among the phenomena of mood, some figure more prominently than others, forming the background of our interaction with the world. According to an influential line of reasoning, there is a set of fundamental moods attendance to which reveals important truths about our existence. And perhaps none of the moods is as revealing about the human predicament as the mood of anxiety. In the first part of my presentation I am going to assess the prospects of contemporary attempts to make sense of moods as intentional states. In the second part, I shall focus on anxiety in relation to fear, with the purpose of clarifying how we may best approach the phenomenology of the relevant experiences.

N.B.: There will be a PhilEAs talk by Margherita Arcangeli (Berlin) - Dispelling the confusion about mental imagery - afterward (room B108)

May 03, 2018 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Jona Vance (Arizona)

Gradable dimensions of emotional experiences

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

May 17, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Monika Betzler (Münich)

Shared Belief and the Limits of Empathy

The aim of this paper (co-authored with Simon Keller) is to show that (affective) empathy often makes demands of belief. As we will put it, once we empathize we are under a rational requirement to have beliefs that cohere with our empathy. To empathize with another person is to imagine how her situation is like for her, and share in her emotions. Emotions involve ways of seeing the world; fear of cats, for example, involves seeing cats as dangerous. To empathize with another person is, in part, to see the world as she sees it. If I empathize with your fear of cats, then I am under rational pressure to believe that cats are dangerous. The connection between empathy and belief has far-reaching consequences for several debates about the moral and epistemic roles of empathy. Empathy carries distinctive epistemic dangers along with its epistemic benefits; there can be good reasons to avoid empathy; there are epistemic barriers to our ability truly to empathize with others, even those very close to us; the ideal of universal empathy is incoherent; and empathy cannot plausibly be taken to be the basis of morality.

May 24, 2018 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibet

Julia Langkau (Fribourg)

Fiction and Emotions as Construals

It’s uncontroversial that we can be and frequently are moved by fiction. The question I address in this paper is how we can explain the relation between what we care for, or our concerns, and our emotions towards fictional characters. While we might sometimes develop concerns with respect to fictional characters, this is an implausible explanation in other cases, for instance when we sympathise with a character at the very beginning of a novel where we don’t ‘know’ the character yet and cannot possibly have developed a concern. I will argue that in these cases, our concern is either rooted in our non-fictional life or in some aesthetic features of the fiction. A theory of emotions which can nicely explain the connection between concerns rooted in real life and emotions towards fictional characters is Robert C. Robert’s quasi-perceptual theory of emotions, according to which emotions are a kind of construal: they are mental events or states in which one thing is grasped in terms of something else. A construal is a three-place relation: a subject ‘perceives’ (more or less literally) something in terms of something else. The ‘in terms of’ relation can have as its terms a perception, a thought, an image, or a concept. Emotions are a specific kind of construal: they are concern-based, i.e. we have to have a concern about the construed situation. My thesis is that in some cases of emotions towards a fictional character, our concern is about something in our non-fictional life rather than about something in the world of the fiction, while the emotion is still directed towards the fictional character.

N.B.: There will be a quodlibet afterward by Annamaria Schiaparelli (Geneva) - Should All Definitions Be Grounded in Classification?

May 31, 2018 - Thumos seminar

Jona Vance (Arizona)

Predictive coding

N.B: this thumos seminar will be given at the Campus Biotech (room H8.01 E)

June 15, 2018 - The Imaginative Workshop


09.30 – 10.45 – Julia Langkau (Fribourg) - Vivid Text and Vivid Imagination


11.00 – 12.15 – Steve Humbert-Droz (Fribourg/Geneva) What is Imagination? – The Tricky Case of Supposition


02.30 – 03.45 – Patrik Engisch (Fribourg) Non-Cognitivism About Fiction


04.00 – 05.15 – Amy Kind (Claremont McKenna) Inconscious Imagination

Venue: Room B109 (Bâtiment des Bastions, 5 rue de Candolle, Geneva)

Participation is free, and everybody is welcome (it would be helpful if those who plan to come could contact Steve Humbert-Droz,

Workshop organized by Fabrice Teroni and Steve Humbert-Droz

Poster here

June 26, 2018 - Workshop: Emotion and Relevance

This interdisciplinary workshop will explore possible bridges and overlaps between neuro-psychological, linguistic pragmatic and philosophical accounts of the relation between relevance and emotion.

Although these disciplines approach relevance in different ways and with different purposes, they all highlight the important role of this notion in emotional experience. In contemporary neuro-psychological accounts, relevance is usually thought to play a key role in the triggering of emotions, since the latter are believed to emerge when the emotional system evaluates a given stimulus as relevant to its concerns. In philosophy, emotional relevance sparks interest in terms of its relation to value: as such, the concept of relevance is suited to assess the role of emotions in ethical, aesthetical and epistemological issues. In contemporary pragmatics, relevance plays a fundamental role in the communication of propositional meaning; recently, however, researchers in the field have started to discuss its contribution to the communication of non-propositional and affective contents.

During the workshop, invited speakers will first present how the notion of relevance plays out in their own accounts of daily emotional experience and then engage in the discussion of possible interfaces between disciplines. The goals of this event are thus to explore the different facets of the relationship between emotion and relevance and, crucially, to discuss further possible interdisciplinary directions of research on the topic.

The workshop is organised by Daniel Dukes (Universities of Geneva and Amsterdam) and Steve Oswald (University of Fribourg) and is proudly and generously sponsored by the Swiss Center for Affective Science and Swissuniversities. The event will be held at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva on the 26th June from 2-6pm. Participation is free but registration is mandatory. If you would like to register, please contact Steve.Oswald(at) before the 19th June.

Location: Campus Biotech – Room H8-01-D


14:00-14:10 Introduction (with Daniel Dukes and Steve Oswald)

14:10-14:30 Neuroscience and psychological theories of emotion and relevance (David Sander)

14:30-14:50 Questions and Clarifications

14:50-15:10 Break

15:10-15:30 Philosophical theories of emotion and relevance (Constant Bonard)

15:30-15:50 Questions and Clarifications

15:50-16:10 Pragmatics, theories of emotions and relevance (Tim Wharton)

16:10-16:30 Questions and Clarifications

16:30-16:50 Break

16:50-18:00 Summary and Discussion

(more information here)


First semester 2017-2018 (Semptember 19 - December 21)

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).


Second semester 2016-2017 (March 02 - June 15)

March 2, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibeta

Tristram Oliver-Skuse (Geneva)

Not Quite Neosentimentalism

This paper advocates a version of neosentimentalism which is motivated by the desire to explain why affective experiences can sometimes be required for an agent to have a privileged epistemic stance on an evaluative property. For instance, sometimes "really getting" that something is disgusting requires being disgusted by it.
I start by arguing that perceptual theories of the emotions cannot explain this privilege on their own. Since they only tell us about emotions (rather than telling us about the evaluative properties) they do not rule out the possibility of non-affective ways of achieving a privileged perspective.

As a result we should look to theories of evaluative properties for an explanation. The most promising start is traditional sentimentalism, which says that evaluative properties are affective properties of some sort. However traditional issues with sentimentalism rule out it's explanatory potential for our problem.

I claim that we ought to explain the privileged in terms of features of our evaluative concepts rather than of evaluative properties, in effect endorsing neosentimentalism. I discuss different ways of formulating neosentimentalism, arguing that the best claims that some of our evaluative concepts are partly individuated by having affective input conditions. For instance, our concept of the disgusting is possessed only by those who take experiences of disgust to indicate that their targets are disgusting.

I show how this quasi-neosentimentalist view explains our target phenomenon and conclude by considering some objections to it.

N.B: There will also be, at 18h15, in Uni Bastions B108, a Quodlibeta talk by Richard Dub (Geneva) - Psychosis, Emotion, Conviction

March 9, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Phileas talk
Pirjo Lyytikäinen (Helsinki)
Moods and Existential Feelings in Literature

When we consider a literary text as a whole, we often have a feeling of breathing an emotional atmosphere. But how can we understand the concept of tone or mood when it refers to the general genre-constitutive or genre-dependent emotional atmosphere of whole texts? This phenomenon has been connected to Martin Heidegger’s concept Stimmung or attunement and Matthew Ratcliffe has developed the concept of “existential feeling” relying on Heidegger’s ideas. Although he is primarily interested in the pathological changes in the sense of being that occur in depression patients, he also refers to a few examples of literature and film. In my paper, I examine his approach in view of its utility in the analysis of emotion effects in literature. I will exemplify the functioning of mood in a literary text by referring to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher where the immersion into the gloomy and melancholic atmosphere of horror is perhaps the main interest of the whole story.

N.B: There will also be a Phileas talk by Martine Nida-Rümelin (Fribourg) - Le rôle justificatif des intuitions - afterward. See the PhilEAs site for details
March 10, 2017 - The arts, the emotions and mental states
The colloquium will stand at Uni-Bastions, B111
Oragnisator: Patrizia Lombardo
9.15 Patrizia Lombardo, University of Geneva - Introduction
9.30 Richard Dub, University of Geneva, CISA - Emotions of unreality in literature and film
10.30 Matthew Phillips, University of Cambridge, CISA - Empathy's Messes
11.30 Pirjo Lyytikäinen, University of Helsinki - Emotion Effectsin Literature: Written Emotions in Poe’s“The Fall of the House of Usher”
14.15 Moe Touizrar, McGill University, Montréal - Fictional transliterations: cross-modal representations of sunrise in music
15.15 Gregory Currie, University of York - Film, theatre and the link between perception and imagination
16.15 Conclusion
March 16, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Phileas talk

Arturs Logins (Geneva)

Peace and Love or How To Dissolve The Lottery Paradox While Maintaining All Of Its Intuitive Premises

I will defend the view that that a proposition p has high evidential probability on one's evidence entails that one is justified, in a sense, in believing p. According to the view that I will put forwards there is a variety of sorts of epistemic justification: beliefs can be appropriate or permissible in a number of distinct senses. Having a high evidential probability corresponds to one kind of epistemic justification. This pluralist conception allows us to maintain the view that high evidential probability can justify one in believing something while replying to the challenge from the Lottery Paradox.

N.B: There will also be a Phileas talk by Constant Bonard (Geneva) afterward. See the PhilEAs site for details

March 23, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Phileas talk

Elena Cagnoli (Geneva)

Aristotle’s Akrasia as a Moral and Rational Failure

Akratic action is a puzzling and philosophically enticing phenomenon in part because it is hard to describe. According to some, akratic actions are actions against one’s best judgement (Davidson 1980). According to others, they are actions against one’s knowledge and according to others still they are actions against one’s intentions (respectively Aristotle as reconstructed in Wiggins 1978, and Holton 1999). In this paper, I challenge a widespread interpretation of Aristotle’s account of akrasia: the thesis that akratic actions are by definition bad actions that go against one’s decisions (prohaireseis). I argue, instead, that akratic actions are bad actions against one’s principles (archai) and one’s wishes (boul¯eseis). Since our decisions are connected with our wishes, this entails that many (but not all) akratic actions are against our decisions. Akratic actions are never in accordance with a decision, but they may not involve a decision at all.

I show that Aristotle’s accounts of impetuous akrasia, stubborn actions and inverse akrasia support this interpretation. Impetuous akratics do not necessarily form a decision, but they act against their correct wishes. Stubborn and opinionated people are similar to akratic people because they act against their correct wishes and principles while sticking to their bad decisions. Inverse akratics, i.e. people who act against bad decisions, are for Aristotle potentially praiseworthy and rational because they might act in accordance with a correct wish. This is why Aristotle denies that inverse akrasia is in fact a form of akrasia. If my argument is correct, it shows that a close study of Aristotle’s views on different kinds of akrasia sheds light on his account of practical rationality. On his view, practical rationality is primarily a matter of coherence between one’s actions, wishes and principles and only secondarily a matter of coherence between one’s actions and decisions.

N.B: There will also be a Phileas talk by Baptiste LeBihan (Geneva) afterward. See the PhilEAs site for details
March 30, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibeta

Emma Tieffenbach (Geneva)

Incommensurability and trade

Some thinkers oppose the exchange of money for human organs and tissue, surrogacy services, and works of art, and the “commodification” of many areas of cultural life. One source of concern is said to be the alleged “incommensurability” of money with the relevant value-bearers, sometimes put in terms of their “incomparability”, “non-substitutability”, “non-tradability”, “(market)-inalienability”, or “irreplaceability”. Whichever term is used, the objection may be summed up as follows: the fact that value-bearers A and B (e.g. a kidney and $10,000) are incommensurate (or incomparable, non-tradable, and so forth), or that they are perceived as such, provides a sound, powerful reason to ban or at least to refuse trade between them. Let us refer to this type of objection to certain exchanges as the incommenurability objection. This article’s main contention is that the incommensurability objection fails. Our argumentative strategy is as follows: We present seven conceptions of incommensurability (and the like), which we call (a) “no betterness and equality”, (b) “no common scale”, (c) “no ground for comparison”, (d) “occasion for reasonable regret”, (e) “betterness regardless of numbers”, (f) incompatibility, and (g) and “status difference”. We then review candidate rationales for banning or avoiding trade of one value bearer for another on grounds of their incommensurability (and the like), and show the failure of these accounts on each of these conceptions of incommensurability (and the like).

N.B: There will also be a Quodlibeta's talk afterward.
April 3, 2017 - Thumos seminar
Neil Sinhababu (Singapore)
Experientialism about Moral Concepts
I present an experientialist account of moral concepts, on which moral judgments are beliefs about when moral feelings represent objective facts. For example, wrong actions are objectively represented by the feeling of guilt, while virtue is objectively represented by the feeling of admiration. Experientialism is suggested by an elegant empirical model of moral psychology. It fits into a cognitivist, externalist, and Humean picture of moral judgment, providing an alternative to views that analyze moral concepts in terms of reasons. It also provides new support for ethical hedonism
The seminar will take place exceptionally on Monday
April 6, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Phileas talk

Mary Carman (Geneva)

Affectivity and the rationalisation of emotional actions

One way in which emotions motivate action is through their affective nature and how they feel, but can the affective element of emotion also provide reasons for action that rationalise the action in some way? If we think that emotions have a rational role in action in virtue of their intentional nature, such a question might seem like a non-starter: the obvious answer is ‘no’. The question, however, is not a clear-cut one because the answers can and do vary along with what the relevant dimension of affect is taken to be. So, in this paper, I examine different ways the affect of emotion could bear on our actions, and respond to a recent challenge to the widespread (and correct) assumption that the affective element, alone, does not have rational bearing on our action choices.

N.B: There will also be a Phileas talk by Pekka Väyrynen (Leeds) afterward. See the PhilEAs site for details
April 13, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Phileas talk

François Jaquet (Geneva)

Evolution, Impartiality, and Well-Being

Given the impact that our moral beliefs have on our survival prospects, natural selection must have had a considerable influence on their content. According to Sharon Street this raises a dilemma for moral realists. Either evolution doesn’t track moral truth (which would lead to moral skepticism) or it does (but this is empirically implausible assuming the truth of realism). In response to this challenge, Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer concede that most of our moral beliefs were selected for. Still, they pinpoint one that probably wasn’t: the belief that everyone’s well-being matters equally from the moral point of view. As they were selected for, the former beliefs are unjustified, but the latter is epistemically irreproachable for it is produced by reason alone, a reliable process if any. Unimpressed, Guy Kahane points out that this belief is empty of content unless combined with an account of well-being. Unfortunately, most of our beliefs about well-being too were presumably selected for, which raises a new dilemma for de Lazari-Radek and Singer. Either evolution does not track truths about well-being (which would lead to well-being skepticism) or it does (but this is empirically implausible assuming the truth of well-being realism). In this talk, I will take side with de Lazari-Radek and Singer against Kahane, putting forward a mixed theory that combines an objectivist view in metaethics with a subjectivist account of well-being. Realists will escape Street’s ethical dilemma as suggested by Lazari-Radek and Singer. And they can ignore Kahane’s well-being dilemma.

N.B: There will also be a Phileas talk by David Papineau (London) afterward. See the PhilEAs site for details
April 27, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibeta

Steve Humbert-Droz (Fribourg)

Experiencing Make-Believe

Contemporary discussions about imagination make room for a non-visual aspect of imagination, propositional (or cognitive) imagination. Following Kendall Walton, literature calls “make-believe” (or “belief-like imagining”) this hidden face of imagination which seems to recreate some properties of beliefs. Make-believe is used to explain our engagement in fiction, our pretending in games, mindreading and hypothetical deductions.

Many philosophers have presented make-believe as an attitude/mode which recreates the epistemic aspect of a belief, namely its inferential role in cognition: “The idea is that instead of adding P as a belief I can add it ‘in imagination’, and since imagination preserves the inferential patterns of belief, I can then see whether a new imagining, Q, emerges as reasonable in light of this.” (Currie & Ravenscroft 2002: 12-13); “It is this capacity of imaginings to mirror the inferential patterns of belief that makes fictional storytelling possible.” (idem, 13) – the same idea can be found in Nichols & Stich’s single code theory.

My claim will be that the inferential role is neither a distinctive nor an essential property of imagination. I will defend that belief-like imagining is essentially a recreation of the phenomenal aspect of belief. This claim paves the way for a unification of modes of imagination under the recreation of an embodied experience, as Roger Scruton brought it to light: “Imagination is a species of thought, involving distinctive features that recur even when the thought is as it were 'embodied' in an experience, as in imagery and 'seeing as'. We might say that it is a characteristic of imagination that it is liable to this kind of embodiment in experience” (Scruton 1974: 113).

May 3, 2017 - Julien Deonna and Fabrice Teroni's inaugural lecture
Julien Deonna (Geneva) & Fabrice Teroni (Geneva)
Émotions et valeurs

Quels sont les liens entre les émotions et les valeurs ? Comment cette question se décline-t-elle en philosophie de l’esprit, en métaphysique et en théorie de la connaissance ? Quelles sont les conséquences des réponses à ces questions pour la nature du bonheur ?

The lecture will take place at 18h00 in room B111 (Uni Bastions).

May 4, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Phileas talk
Raffaele Rodogno (Aarhus)
Is the study of well-being a ‘cultural curiosity’?

The point of this paper is to show that both the current philosophy of well-being, in the form of theories such as hedonism, desire satisfaction, and Objective List, and the current science of well-being, in the form of theories such as Objective Happiness, Life Satisfaction, and Eudaimonistic approaches, fail to be practical in one or two different ways. In particular, I argue that philosophy fails to provide what I will call a material epistemology of well-being, i.e., directions as to how we are to find out what the sources of an individual’s well-being and ill-being are. I show that the science of well-being fares better in that respect but that it too is practically inert in some other sense. Both the science and philosophy of well-being typically provide comparative well-being judgements. I show, however, that the practices that well-being centrally animates (parenting, friendship, and other caring relationships) revolve around absolute judgements and, in particular, threshold well-being/ill-being judgements, e.g., “my friend/child/partner is doing badly (and needs help)”. I sketch a new approach aimed at remedying these shortcomings, in view of a more practical study of well-being.

N.B: There will also be a Phileas talk by Matti Eklund (Uppsala) afterward. See the PhilEAs site for details
May 9, 2017 - Lecture series
Aaron Meskin (Leeds)
Dual Character Art Concepts

There is an ongoing and apparently irresolvable debate about the concept of art. Some have claimed that the concept is essentially evaluative; more specifically, that the concept is linked to positive evaluation. Some have claimed that the concept is essentially descriptive. Others say that the concept of art has two distinct senses — one evaluative and one descriptive. Moreover, it is often held that settling this issue is key to answering the central question in philosophical aesthetics: what is art? We aim to dissolve this debate by showing that it stems from an overly limited menu of options. On the basis of a series of experimental studies, we argue that the concept of art is neither an ordinary evaluative concept nor an ordinary descriptive concept. Instead, the concept of art has a distinctive normative element — it is what Knobe, Prasada, and Newman (2013) call a “dual character concept”. The same is true of some, but not all, subconcepts of art.
The lecture will take place from 12h15 to 13h15 in room 144.165. More information here.
May 11, 2017 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibeta

Florian Cova (Geneva), François Kammerer (Paris Sorbonne) & Maxence Gaillard (Rikkyo University)

Philosophers of mind have been discussing whether we should distinguish phenomenal from access consciousness. Arguing that we should, Ned Block famously advanced the "overflow argument", according to which phenomenal consciousness can occur without, and thus overflow access consciousness. According to Ned Block, that phenomenal consciousness can overflow access consciousness is the best explanation for a range of psychological phenomena, namely the fact that people report seeing more than they can report in Sperling's famous experiments. However, a careful inquiry led us to conclude that this claim is nothing more than a psychological urban legend, and that the relevant data actually never existed. We thus conducted the required experiments and the results suggest that there might actually be no empirical basis for the overflow argument
May 18, 19, 20, 2017 - Phasing Out NCCR Affective Sciences
You will find here the program for the international scientific conference, on 18 & 19 May
You will Find here the program for the public event for "la Nuit des Musées", on 20 May

May 30-31, 2017 - Workshop on Negative Emotions

Thumos, the Genevan research group on the emotions, is organizing a 2-day conference on negative emotions on the 30th and 31st of May at the The Swiss Center for the Affective Sceinces (Campus Biotech).

In our two-day conference, we aim to explore the good things about negative emotions by fostering interdisciplinary discussion on the topic. Each speakers will discuss one specific 'negative' emotion such as disgust, contempt and envy. They will examine questions relating to what may be problematic about them, what their redeeming features are, and whether they can contribute to our lives.

30th May

Jealousy Ronald de Sousa

Embarrassment — Sandy Berkovski

Anger — Mary Carman

Contempt — Macalester Bell

31th May

Anxiety — Charlie Kurth

Pain — Jennifer Corns

Boredom — Tristram Oliver-Skuse

Regret — Carolyn Price

More information here.

June 2, 2017 - Thumos seminar

Jona Vance (Arizona)

Phenomenal commitments: A puzzle for experiential theories of emotion

This paper raises and responds to a puzzle for experiential theories of emotion. Experiential theories entail that some emotions just are experiences. The puzzle is to explain how subjects could be rationally evaluable in virtue of their emotional experiences, as experiential theories entail in conjunction with the desideratum that subjects are rationally evaluable in virtue of their emotions. Component theories entail that no emotions just are experiences. On some component theories, the experience component of emotion is distinct from the rationally evaluable component. These theories do not face the puzzle. As a result, these component theories have a potential advantage over experiential theories. In response to the puzzle, I defend experiential theories of emotion. Like many others, I argue that the rational evaluability of subjects in virtue of their emotions requires rationally evaluable subjective commitments. Unlike many others, I argue that the commitments need not be even partly constitutive of emotions. Instead, I suggest that emotional experiences are rationally evaluable because of their relation to other commitments the subject makes and the norms that govern those commitments.

The seminar will take place exceptionally on Friday at 10:15.

June 6, 2017 - Thumos seminar / CISA Lecture

Colin Leach (Connecticut)

At 10:00, Thumos discussion's group on the recent paper of Leach and Gausel Concern for self‐image and social image in the management of moral failure: Rethinking shame

At 12:00, CISA lecture on Police Force | Black Protest: Tracing systems of appraisal, emotion, coping

Since the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman for killing 17-year old Trayvon Martin, the US is again grappling with the moral, political, and social issues of police use of force and Black protest against it (e.g., the Black Lives Matter movement). Guided by temporal models of cognitive appraisal (e.g., Lazarus, 1991; Scherer, 2001) and social psychological models of dynamic coping (e.g., van Zomeren, Leach, & Spears, 2012), several recent studies use cognitive, behavioral, neurological, and physiological indices to trace Black and White participant’s appraisal, emotion, and coping in response to images of police force and Black protest. Findings are consistent with the view that a dynamic, multi-system, temporal process leads individuals to be psychologically “moved” by social events that are personally relevant enough to sustain their attention and to stimulate emotion, motivation, and coping. Methodological, theoretical, and ethical implications will be discussed.

June 8, 2017 - Alain Pe-Curto's Dissertation Defense

Alain Pe-Curto (Geneva)

Values Under Construction

The Defense will start at 14.15, room B109.

June 12, 2017 - Thumos seminar

Bas van Fraassen (Princeton)

The Self

The question What is the Self? should be asked in the first person: What Am I? With that condition, which I regard as essential, I shall argue, it is literally impossible to arrive at an adequate conception of my Self. But among superficial conceptions there is still better and worse. For example, I am embodied; but identification with the body fares very poorly as a view of the Self. To arrive at a more tenable view, while evading metaphysical riddles, I propose to adapt a Wittgensteinian phrase: I am not a thing, but I am not nothing. I exist, but I am not a thing among things.

The seminar will take place exceptionally on Monday at 16:00, room B108 (Uni-Bastions).

We are thankful to Patrizia Lombardo who co-organises this event.

June 14, 2017 - Quodlibeta special

Bas van Fraassen (Princeton)

After Hempel’s Dilemma: On the Evidence of Things Unseen

The debate over the reality of theoretically postulated entities began more than half a century ago (famously, Hempel 1958). Although ostensibly about questions of ontology, that debate shifted to topics in epistemology, which became ever more contentious, and remain so still. I shall argue that traditional assumptions about evidence and inference bedeviled this debate. Following Hermann Weyl and Clark Glymour I shall propose a view of empirical grounding, of models and theories, that disentangles the relation between confirmation and evidential support and thereby place scientific practice in a different light.

June 15, 2017 - Thumos seminar

Alain Pe-Curto (Geneva)

Thin Atomism

I defend the Moorean theory of organic unities against one type of value atomism. First, I introduce the brand of atomism that I call “Thin Atomism” and describe its place within value theory and, in particular, with respect to the question of organic unities. I look at a specific implementation of it, namely Zimmerman’s, which recruits the determinable-determinate distinction. Secondly, I present two arguments against the thin atomist claim that no convincing cases of organic complexes have been presented yet and that alleged cases of such complexes should instead be understood in terms of evaluative inadequacy. With the first argument, I show that the account faces its own pitfalls with regard to its specification of the evaluative adequacy that it requires. With the second argument, I argue that even if it managed to avoid these obstacles, it would in fact not support the claim that there are no convincing cases of organic unities. In developing this last point, I offer an explanation for both the appeal of this sophisticated form of Thin Atomism and its inability, to my mind, to provide a proper response to the Moorean theory of organic unities. I am able to do so on the basis of my account of such complexes, on which I conclude.


First semester 2016-2017 (sept. 19 - Dec. 23)

September 29, 2016 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Mary Carman (Geneva)

A Defence of Anger

Around the world, anger at moral and political injustices is rife, especially as a response to gender- and racial-based inequalities and oppressions. A kind of moral anger is apparent not only in the manner in which members of oppressed groups express themselves, but also in the content of what is said: the anger is explicitly identified with and a shared identity is built around that anger; and, drawing on and expanding arguments long found in feminist literature, the anger is defended as an important moral and political emotion that motivates action and is a justified response for victims of injustice to their continuing oppressions. Amongst defences of anger is a class of arguments defending the rational value anger; however, these arguments tend only to focus on anger as a rational response to reasons or reason-giving considerations. Very little attention, if any, is given to the way anger affects rationality as it relates to thinking and thought processes. This lack of attention undermines defences of anger. By drawing on the psychological literature on the effects of anger on decision-making, I examine whether anger can be rationally defensible and propose conditions for when it can. In this way, I work towards a more holistic defence of anger as an important moral and political emotion.

Caution, the seminar will not take place in the usual seminar room but in the room H4-02 232.080 (this document may help you).

N.B: There will also be a Phileas lecture by Richard Dawid (Stockholm) afterward. See the PhilEAs site for details.

October 6, 2016 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibeta
Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi (Geneva)
Enmattered Virtues
Entities in the physical world are, for Aristotle, compounds of matter and form, or hylomorphic compounds. In this paper, I look at Aristotle’s hylomorphism in an under-explored context: the ethical works. I concentrate in particular on the virtues of character.
I argue that the virtues of character are hylomorphic compounds. More specifically, they require enmattered accounts (logoi enhuloi, DA 403a25–27). This means that their bodily and their psychic components are inseparable both in existence and also in definition. For example, a temperant psychological state cannot exist in separation from a specific physiological state. In addition, a fully explanatory account of temperance should include a reference to both its physical and also its psychological aspect: temperance is an excellent psycho-physiological state in relation to bodily pleasures (NE 1117b24 ff., Rhet. 1389a3 ff., PA 648a35 ff., PA 650b20 ff., PA 667a7 ff., PA 686b 21).
I begin by showing that the link between the virtues of character and the emotions supports enmattered accounts of the virtues. I extrapolate further evidence for this thesis from Aristotle’s description of the development of character virtues and from his account of their material preconditions. Then I argue that the virtues, even if they are enmattered, can be up to us and that we can acquire them voluntarily (NE 1113b14–1114b25).
The thesis that the virtues of character are enmattered has important consequences for the study of the virtues and, arguably, for Aristotle’s ethics as a whole. It demonstrates that Aristotle’s ethics is deeply entrenched in his natural science. In addition, it raises the question whether contemporary Aristotelian accounts of the virtues should be similarly “enmattered”.
Caution, the seminar will not take place in the usual seminar room butat Uni Bastions, in the room B216.
October 13, 2016 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk
David Bain (Glasgow)
Why take painkillers?

While accounts of the nature of pain and its unpleasantness have proliferated over the past decade, there has been very little systematic investigation of which of them can accommodate the following: an unpleasant pain is bad for its subject. This paper is such an investigation. I argue against attempts to explain the badness of unpleasant pain entirely in terms of the badness of its effects. Then I turn to those who have recently argued that the non-instrumental badness of pain’s unpleasantness is beyond the reach of evaluativism, a view that accounts for unpleasant pain in terms of evaluative perception. I argue, first, that the desire-theoretic accounts of pain’s unpleasantness embraced by evaluativism’s critics themselves struggle to accommodate the badness of pain; and, second, that evaluativism actually can accommodate it: either by appealing to “anti-unpleasantness” desires or by invoking pain’s perceptuality.

N.B: There will also be a Phileas lecture by Michael Esfeld (Lausanne) afterward. See the PhilEAs site for details.
October 18, 2016 - Brain and Cognition seminar - LECTURE CANCELED
Alison Denham (St Anne)

Cognitive dis-integration, agency and attachment

Moral requirements often direct us to act in ways that are contrary to our personal interests. Altruistic requirements are a central case, asking that we act with the aim of benefitting another at a cost to ourselves. What motivates us to comply with such requirements? One traditional view is that altruistic actions are in part explained by affective empathy, where that is a nature-given propensity to mirror and be moved by the needs of our conspecifics. More recently, some theorists have opposed this view, arguing that empathy is dispensable to moral motivation: while morality may require concernfor our fellows, that concern need not be produced by empathic engagement – it need not be empathic concern as such.

I defend the traditional view that empathy underpins our responsiveness to many moral requirements. I depart from tradition, however, in two ways. First, I distinguish between non-rational and rational empathic concern, characterizing the latter as on analogy with the phenomenon of perceptual, and especially aesthetic ‘experiencing-as’. Secondly, I argue that, in the basic case, rational empathic concern depends on a feat of cognitive integration by which an agent’s experience is configured in accordance with norms of consistency and coherence. A virtue of this account that it suggests why psychopathic subjects typically manifest deficits of cognitive integration in concert with empathic ones – and how these deficits jointly work to compromise their standing as moral agents. I conclude with some observations about the possible role of early attachment failure in the developmental trajectory of cognitive disintegration, and the implications for attributions of moral agency.

October 20, 2016 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk

Alison Denham (St Anne)
On ‘The Awfulness of Modern Music’: some evidence from music cognition

Few theorists would now deny that atonal and tonally ambiguous compositions count as music. Friends of these musical forms typically regard the dissolution of tonality as an advance in musical alternatives; concomitantly, they often rely (implicitly or explicitly) on a conception of musical understanding that dispenses with certain of its traditional markers such as recuperability, phrasal recognition and anticipation.

Nonetheless, such music has been poorly served, if served at all, by prominent philosophical accounts of musical experience. More recently, empirical evidence from music cognition has been adduced to support skepticism about the aesthetic merit of atonal music (Lerdahl & Jackendoff, Raffman, Pedersen, Gibson, Krumshansl). Some take this evidence to show that traditional tonal structures possess features essential to the expressive aspect of musical experience, and are uniquely well suited to our nature-given cognitive and perceptual capacities.

I assess this claim, arguing that it rests on three dubious premises. The first premise concerns what the evidence actually shows about our responses to different musical structures (tonal and non-tonal). The second premise concerns the nature of musical understanding. A third premise associates musical value with the experience of musical expression. I conclude that the claim that atonal music is aesthetically defective is only justified by joining the empirical evidence to a contentious, account of what it is to understand and hear music as expressive – itself modeled on the experience of tonal forms. The ability to discern and respond to non-tonal forms will, for many of us, require a fundamental re-education in hearing the sounds of music.

N.B: There will also be a Phileas lecture by Philip Goff (Budapest) afterward. See the PhilEAs site for details.
November 01, 2016 - Brain and Cognition seminar
Annekathrin Schacht (Göttingen)
Impacts of motivational, associated, and inherent emotional valence on visual sensory processing: evidence from event-related brain potentials (ERPs)
November 03, 2016 - Thumos seminar / Phileas talk
Denis Perrin (Grenoble)
The procedural nature of episodic memory

It is common to draw a sharp distinction between declarative memory and procedural memory regarding their respective natures and functions. The former are thought to be world-highlighting in virtue of providing representations of facts and experiences, while the latter are thought to be representationally blind and to merely provide practical skills. Drawing on attributionalism in psychology (Jacoby & al., 1989; Whittlesea, 1997; Leboe-McGowan and Whittlesea, 2013 – but see also Tulving’s GAPS model, 1985), this talk argues that this common view is misguided. In contrast to the common view, it argues for a view of procedural memory as an essential ground of declarative memory, especially episodic memory. The core argument of the talk is as follows: representation (including perceptual and recollective representation) always depends on constructive processes; constructive processes involve skills, whose possession depends on procedural memory; thus representational memory (including episodic memory) is grounded in procedural memory. I build up this argument in two steps. First, I critically discuss direct realism, which endorses a sharp declarative-procedural distinction. On this view, episodic reliving is a matter of being about the relevant past episode itself in a specific manner, namely, through a direct cognitive link to it. I argue that this claim can be understood in either of two ways: in a strong, internalist way (Debus, 2008) or in a weak, externalist way (Bernecker, 2008). Bearing this distinction in mind, I claim that the first version is empirically implausible and that the second fails to account for the phenomenology of reliving. On either way of understanding the claim, direct realism is doomed to failure because it assumes a static view of the objects of memory. Second, once we acknowledge that the objects of perception and memory are the products of essentially constructive cognitive processes, as suggested by current constructivism in psychology (Schacter et Addis, 2007), a different, dynamic approach is available, one that bases their phenomenological properties on these processes. I then argue that attributionalism provides a way of fleshing out such an approach that provides an adequate understanding of episodic phenomenology. In a nutshell, episodic reliving results from the automatic attribution to past experience of the detected procedural features of the construction of a mental scene. In support of this claim, I then show that key features of episodic recollection – causality, subjectivity, the sense of pastness, and particularity – can be accounted for along attributionalist lines.

N.B: There will also be a Phileas lecture by Hamid Taieb (Geneva) afterward. See the PhilEAs site for details.
November 10, 2016 - Thumos seminar
David Machek (Bern)
The Stoic account of recalcitrant emotions

The phenomenon of recalcitrant emotions, i.e. emotions that persist even though one has adopted a belief that it is not appropriate or justified to feel them, has recently been discussed by a number of philosophers. This phenomenon has been invoked as an important, if not fatal, objection against theories of emotions that construe emotions as judgments or beliefs. If emotions were judgments, so the objection goes, they could never be recalcitrant, since the contrary belief would automatically drive the emotion out. The fact that the recalcitrant emotions persist even though one holds a contrary belief – e.g. one keeps being afraid of flying even though one knows that it is safe – indicates that they are not judgments at all. The aim of this article is to show that a plausible judgmentalist account of recalcitrant emotions can be provided. Rather than construing this account from the context of modern philosophical debates about emotions, I shall turn to ancient Stoic material. As is well known today, the Greek and Roman Stoics were first in the history of philosophy to develop a systematically judgmentalist theory of emotions; it is less well known, though, that they were also the first to try to explain the phenomenon of emotional recalcitrance, or what they called the “disobedience” of emotions to reason.

On behalf of the Stoics, I shall propose that recalcitrant emotions persist because the mind in the state of emotion has become temporarily unable to come to hold the contrary rational belief, but is still able to entertain a thought that the irrational belief underlying the passion is wrong. This thought, however, lacks sufficient clarity, and therefore lacks sufficient motivational strength to override the existing commitment to the irrational belief that underlies the emotion. This account can be considered Stoic, rather than neo-Stoic, since it is constructed wholly within the framework of the ancient Stoic thought. At the same time, we shall see that, to a surprising degree, the account presented here can be intelligible even outside the framework of ancient philosophy and independently of the Stoic vocabulary.

November 17, 2016 - Thumos seminar / PhilEAs talk
Denis Forest (Paris)
On moods and mood disorders
According to an influential view (Horwitz and Wakefield, 2007), depression occurs as the consequence of the dysfunction of loss response mechanisms. These responses occur “in situations for which they were not designed, and they can be in disproportionate intensity and duration to the situations that evoke them” (ibid). In my talk, leaving aside the general critique of the underlying “harmful dysfunction analysis” of mental disorders (Wakefield, 1992), I want to challenge this view of depression as an inappropriate response to external circumstances. It seems that it conflates mood disorders with emotional disorders, and that this parallel presupposes that we adopt a disputable view of moods themselves. We understand that there is something wrong with the lack of emotional response of Capgras patients to the presence of their relatives, but to conceive melancholia in terms of inappropriate response, we would have to adopt a view like the one vindicated by Prinz, according to whom moods are appraisals of our general situation (Prinz, 2004). But it may be that moods, as they have causes rather than reasons (Roberts, 2003) are not reliable indicators of how we are doing in life. Moreover, untrustworthy appraisals are not pathological in themselves. The pathological character of depression cannot be understood in terms of inappropriate answer to external circumstances and we should rather conceive mood disorders as disorders of affective regulation.
N.B: There will also be a Phileas lecture by Peter Simons (Dublin) afterward. See the PhilEAs site for details.
November 24, 2016 - Thumos seminar / Quodlibeta
Tristram Oliver-Skuse (Geneva)
Emotional feeling and proper objects
There are good reasons to think that an occurrent emotion's directedness at its formal object is reflected in the phenomenology of the emotion itself. The feeling of an episode of anger that is directed towards one object is different to the feeling of an episode directed toward a different object. On the other hand, there are good reason to think that our emotions are opaque to us in a way that makes the misidentification of their objects commonplace. In this talk I aim to endorse the intuition behind the opacity claim while still defending the view that the proper object of an occurrent emotion can be read off its phenomenology. I will claim that it is the emotion's place in wider our emotional experience which is opaque to us and that this is of paramount importance to the rational status of the occurrent emotion.
November 29, 2016 - Brain and Cognition seminar
Anniversary Symposium of the Brain & Behaviour Laboratory
December 13, 2016 - Brain and Cognition seminar
Sebastian Berger (Bern)
Psychological engineering of preferences for insects: Using the price-quality heuristic to promote the liking of mealworms
December 14, 2016 - Reading seminar with Rabinowicz
Wlodek Rabinowicz (Lund)

Incommensurability and vagueness in spectrum arguments: Options for saving transitivity of betterness

The spectrum argument purports to show that the better-than relation is not transitive, and consequently that orthodox value theory is built on dubious foundations. The argument works by constructing a sequence of increasingly less painful but more drawn-out experiences, such that each experience in the spectrum is worse than the previous one, yet the final experience is better than the experience with which the spectrum began. Hence the betterness relation admits cycles, threatening either transitivity or asymmetry of the relation. This paper examines recent attempts to block the spectrum argument, using the idea that it is a mistake to affirm that every experience in the spectrum is worse than its predecessor: an alternative hypothesis is that adjacent experiences may be incommensurable in value, or that due to vagueness in the underlying concepts, it is indeterminate which is better. While these attempts formally succeed as responses to the spectrum argument, they have additional, as yet unacknowledged costs that are significant. In order to effectively block the argument in its most typical form, in which the first element is radically inferior to the last, it is necessary to suppose that the incommensurability (or indeterminacy) is particularly acute: what might be called radical incommensurability (radical indeterminacy). We explain these costs, and draw some general lessons about the plausibility of the available options for those who wish to save orthodox axiology from the spectrum argument.

N.B: This lecture seminar will take place at the Bastions (B216) from 13h15 to 15h00.

December 15, 2016 - Thumos seminar
Wlodek Rabinowicz (Lund)
Aggregation of Value Judgments Differs from Aggregation of Preferences

This talk focuses on the contrast between aggregation of individual preference rankings to a collective preference ranking and aggregation of individual value judgments to a collective value judgment. The targeted case is one in which the two aggregation scenarios exhibit a far-reaching structural similarity; more precisely, the case in which the individual judgments that are to be aggregated are value rankings. This means that, formally, the individual judgments are isomorphic to individual preference rankings over a given set of alternatives. The paper suggests that, despite this formal similarity, the difference in the nature of individual inputs in two aggregation scenarios has important implications for the aggregation procedure: the kind of procedure that looks fine for aggregation of judgments turns out to be inappropriate for aggregation of preferences. The relevant procedure consists in maximization of similarity between the ouput and inputs, or – more precisely – in minimization of the average distance of the output from individual inputs. It is shown that, whatever measure is chosen, distance-based procedures violate the (strong) Pareto condition. This seems alright as value judgment aggregation goes, but would be unacceptable for preference aggregation, at least on one natural interpretation of the latter.

When applied to judgment aggregation, distance-based procedures might also be approached from the epistemic perspective: questions might be posed concerning the procedures’ advantages as truth-trackers. From that perspective, what matters is not only the probability of the output being true, but also its expected verisimilitude: its expected distance from truth.


Second semester 2016 (March, 03 - June, 03)

March 03, 2016: Quodlibeta

QUODLIBETA TALK by Fabrice Teroni (University of Geneva, CISA) at 18:15, Uni Bastions B109.

The Phenomenology of Memory

The aim of this talk is to explore what it is like to remember. After having introduced the distinction between content and psychological attitude, I shall distinguish two groups of issues in the phenomenology of memory. First, one may enquire into the phenomenological impact of various memory contents. How does what one remembers contribute to phenomenology? Is there a phenomenology of content exclusive to memory? And can we explain the phenomenological differences between perceiving, imagining and remembering in terms of content? Second, one may enquire into the attitude of remembering and how it impacts on phenomenology. How does remembering itself, as opposed to what is remembered, contribute to phenomenology? Is there a feeling distinctive of remembering? Exploring the impact of memory contents and the attitude of remembering on consciousness will lead me to discuss cognitive phenomenology, the limits of imagistic representation and a variety of metacognitive feelings.

See the philosophy department site for further details.

March 10, 2016: THUMOS TALK / Phileas talk

Melanie Sarzano (University of Basel) & Marie van Loon (University of Basel)

Understanding the incompatibility of rationality and irrationality

The purpose of this paper is to deepen our understanding of the relation between rationality and irrationality. We suppose that there is an ordinary sense in which rationality and irrationality hold prima facie incompatibly in regards to each other: as it seems, there is something problematic about deeming a belief or a person rational and irrational at the same time. Given that they are many types of incompatibility to be distinguished, understanding in which sense rationality and irrationality are incompatible properties should help us shed light on the concept of irrationality itself. We do this by distinguishing two senses of rationality and argue that irrationality and rationality holds in a particular type of incompatibility. We use this to suggest some implications for cognitive irrationality.

Note: There will also be a Phileas lecture by Claudio Calosi (Neuchâtel) afterward. See the philosophy department site for details.

March 24, 2016: THUMOS TALK

Patrizia Pedrini (University of Florence)

Self-Deception and the Causal Problem

According to Alfred Mele's motivationalist account (2001), self-deception is caused by the biasing working of a desire that p be the case over the cognition relevant to the formation of the belief that p. I will assess the prospect of Mele's account vis à vis the formulation of what I call the "causal problem" of self-deception. The causal problem of self-deception is generated by an objection to early versions of Mele's motivationalism due to Bermudez (2000), known as the "selectivity problem" of self-deception. The objection shows that self-deception is more selective than the presence of a desire that p be the case in the psychology of a subject can predict, as there are cases of people in the grip of a desire that p be the case who do not end up self-deceptively believing that p.

I will argue when a desire that p be the case biases a subjects's cognition so as to lead him or her to self-deceptively believe that p this happens because the desire that p be the case is not causally equivalent to the desire that p be the case which operates in the subject who does not end up self-deceiving. Rather, it is a desire that is made causally suitable to let the subject reach the self-deceptive belief by the overall psychology of a subject.

The causal theory of self-deception I will outline will also help us to do justice to the psychological complexity and the existential significance of the phenomenon of self-deception in the life of the subject who experiences it.

April 7, 2016: THUMOS TALK / Quodlibeta

Richard Dub (University of Fribourg, CISA)

Irruptive Cognitions

The effects on action produced by emotions are various and flexible. An episode of fear can dispose a person to perform relatively simple behaviors, but it can also dispose a person to engage upon in complicated plans of escape that require reasoning and forethought. Tappolet (2010) has argued that in order to accommodate this variety of emotional behaviors, we must reject theories that claim that each emotion merely generates a fixed and limited number of behavioral action tendencies. Rather, emotions influence our actions by temporarily altering our desires and motivations. Griffiths, following Frank, calls these temporary conative states 'irruptive motivations.' I argue that in addition to irruptive conations, emotions produce irruptive cognitions. That is: emotions influence behavior not only by causing us to take up momentary desire-like states; they also cause us to take up momentary belief-like states. These cognitive states are not exactly beliefs: they are acceptances.

Note: There will also be a Quodlibeta lecture later in the day by Julien Deonna (University of Geneva, CISA). See the philosophy department site for details.

April 14, 2016: THUMOS TALK

Samuel Lepine (Jean Moulin Lyon 3)

Unstable Motivations, Unreliable Emotions, and Confabulation

The view that emotions play a decisive role in our understanding of values is a widely accepted thesis. On the other hand, many philosophers, in line with commonsense, have put forward the idea that emotions are epistemically unreliable, for at least three reasons, which I would like to explore during my talk. The first reason is that our emotions are based on motivations which are quite unstable. Given the fact that our sensibilities are changing from time to time, and from one person to another, it is dubious that our emotions can track objective evaluative facts (D'Arms and Jacobson, 2010). The second reason is that some emotions could be systematically misleading, because they have been shaped to meet evolutionary constraints which are not relevant anymore (Goldie, 2008). The third reason is that many emotions are linked to cognitive heuristics and biases, and thus are suspected to be unreliable. It seems in particular that they often lead to confabulation, so that they support the search of justifying reasons even for unjustified emotions. In order to vindicate the idea that emotions still have an interesting role to play in our understanding of values, we should assess those three problems each at a time. It seems that this analysis may be fruitful if one wants to clarify the basic constraints which are weighing on the epistemology of emotions and emotional justification in particular.

April 20, 2016: Workshop

Brentano in Discussion, organized by Inbegriff – Geneva Seminar for Austro-German Philosophy

11h00-12h00 - Uriah Kriegel (Institut Jean Nicod, CNRS, Paris)

Brentano on Will and Emotion

12h00-13h00 - Julien Deonna and Fabrice Teroni (University of Geneva)

Discussion of Brentano on Will and Emotion

April 21, 2016: THUMOS TALK / Quodlibeta

Gregory Currie (York)

Contagion and our Emotional Attachment to Authentic Objects

Since Frazer, the idea of contagion has been theorised as an influential magical idea and a powerful driver of behavior. Psychologist Paul Bloom and colleagues have argued that it provides an explanation of much of our interest in the authentic--the painting from the hand of the original artist, as opposed to the copy, however indistinguishable from the work from the artist's hand. I argue that the idea of contagion ought really to be analysed into two quite distinct component ideas, one of which provides a rational basis for our valuing originality in art and the other a magical idea which is less obviously defensible.

Note: There will also be a Quodlibeta lecture later in the day by Christian Whütrich (University of Geneva). See the philosophy department site for details.

April 22, 2016: Workshop

The Arts and the Emotions, organized by Patrizia Lombardo (poster here)

9.15 Patrizia Lombardo, Université de Genève - Introduction
9.30 Gregory Currie, University of York - Real emotions, unreal emotions and quasi emotions
10.30 Peter Dayan, University of Edinburgh - Pourquoi faudrait-il croire que la musique n'exprime pas nos émotions
11.30 Margherita Arcangeli, CISA, Genève - The Sublime and the Arts
14.15 Jean Marie Schaeffer, EHESS, Paris - About some mediated emotions
15.15 Dennis Kennedy, Trinity College, Dublin - Emotion and Belief in Ritual and Theatre
16.15 Carole Talon-Hugon, Université de Nice - Les (dé)plaisirs complexes de l’art

May 2, 2016: Groupe Genevois de Philosophie's talk

Julien Deonna & Fabrice Teroni (Geneva)

Honte et sphère privée (poster here)

May 10, 2016: Swiss Center for Affective Sciences Lectures series / Quodlibeta

Beate Seibt (UiOslo), Thomas Schubert (UiOslo) & Alan Fiske (UCLA)

From the folk concept 'being moved and touched' to the theoretical emotion 'kama muta': Theorizing and data on a social emotion and its causes

Abstract: Being moved or touched is an emotional experience that can cause weeping, goosebumps, and sensations of warmth. It has been cultivated for millennia, but psychological science has only recently started to learn more about it. We propose that being moved or touched is a social-relational emotion that regulates communal sharing relations. We hypothesize that it is caused by appraising a sudden intensification of social closeness (indexing communal sharing). In our talk, we review our studies where we asked people about their past experiences of being moved, where we asked people right after they saw moving videos, and where we asked them while they were watching videos. Our data are in line with the hypothesis that social closeness is a predictor of being moved. We will also discuss our approach to conceptualizing emotions in general and being moved and touched in particular, and why we believe that studying the folk concept referred to by the vernacular term 'being moved', or its equivalents in other languages might not be sufficient. Instead, our proposal is to introduce a theoretically defined emotion, which we call 'kama muta', and consider vernacular terms as its culturally variants.

May 12, 2016: Quodlibeta

Annabelle Lever (University of Geneva, CISA)

Putting Democracy First: Towards a Democracy-Centred Ethics

See the philosophy department site for details.

Note: there is no Thumos' seminar.

May 17, 2016: Archives Jean Piaget's talk

Julien Deonna (Geneva)


Organised by the Archives Jean Piaget

May 19, 2016: THUMOS TALK

Fritz-Anton Fritzson (Lund)

Subjectivism and Relational Good

In recent years, philosophers have taken a growing interest in the notion of good (or bad) for as distinct from the notion of good (or bad) period. Goodness for is an example of a relational value (typically a value in relation to a person, therefore sometimes called 'personal value'), and as such can be contrasted with straightforward goodness which is a non-relational (or 'impersonal') value. According to one classification of views in this area, a distinction can be drawn between goodness-type monism and goodness-type dualism. Goodness-type monism comes in two varieties. Non-relational monists claim that all values are non-relational; all goodness is straightforward goodness, or can be fully understood in terms of, or reduced to, straightforward goodness. Relational monists claim that all values are relational; all goodness is goodness-for, or can be reduced to goodness-for. Goodness-type dualists recognize both relational and non-relational values and claim that neither of these types of value can be fully understood in terms of the other. The critics as well as the defenders of relational value and the corresponding notion of 'good for' have tended to take an objectivist approach to the nature of value. In this presentation I sketch a distinctly subjectivist analysis of the nature of relational value. Subjectivist value analyses have usually been put forward for non-relational values, and the aim here is to extend this kind of analysis to cover relational values as well. Value subjectivists in general understand the nature of value in terms of attitudes, and the subjectivist analysis of relational value that I propose appeals to a particular type of attitude; namely, so-called 'for someone's sake attitudes'.

May 27, 2016: Workshop

Workshop: LG2C: Lake Geneva Graduate Conference (poster), organized by Alain Pe-Curto, Alexander Bown, Maria Scarpati, Pablo Carnino, and Steve Humbert-Droz


  • Prof. Christian Wüthrich (Geneva)
  • Jonas Werner (Hambrug)
  • Davide Romano (Lausanne)
  • Prof. Karen Bennett (Cornell)
  • François Pellet (Münster)
  • Alberto Tassoni (UC Berkeley)

Informations here.

May 28-29, 2016: Workshop

Workshop: Exploring Psychological States Through the Mode/Content Distinction (poster), organized by Fabrice Teroni, Richard Dub, and Steve Humbert-Droz


  • Berit Brogaard (Miami)
  • Richard Dub (Fribourg)
  • Peter Langland-Hassan (Cincinatti)
  • Federico Lauria (Columbia)
  • Michelle Montague (Austin)
  • Paul Noordhof (York)
  • François Recanati (CNRS, Paris)
  • Gunther York (Mahidol)

June 2-3, 2016: Workshop

Workshop: Experience, Values and Justification (Poster), organized by Santiago Echeverri (here the complete programm)


  • Berit Brogaard (Miami)
  • Mary Carman (Geneva)
  • Elijah Chudnoff (Miami)
  • Sabine Döring (Tübingen)
  • Santiago Echeverri (Geneva)
  • Karen Jones (Melbourne)
  • Mohan Matthen (Toronto)
  • Jean Moritz Müller (Tübingen)
  • Peter Railton (Michigan)


First semester 2015-2016 (September 17-December 17)


Carla Bagnoli (University of Modena & Reggio Emilia)

Shame, Autonomy, and Vulnerability
Shame is a painful feeling of failure, which is characteristically associated with the feeling of being exposed to the gaze of others. Philosophers differ as to whether shame is to be understood primarily as an emotional response to failures to live up to the agent's own standards and values, or else in terms of failures to conform to public expectations. Correspondingly, there is a further disagreement about the relation between shame and autonomy, which agent-centred accounts vindicate while group-centred accounts discard. These differences are reflected in the respective explication of the function of shame. On agent-centred accounts, shame belongs to the vocabulary of self-assessment and signals failures of autonomy and authenticity; hence, its function is primarily self-protective. Instead, on group-centred accounts, shame signals failures of conformity to public expectations and demands that communal bonds be re-established, e.g. by inducing submission. In contrast to both approaches, I argue that it is a mistake to pry apart the autonomous and the social aspects of shame because these components are complementary and mutually supportive in social dynamics marked by interdependence and mutual vulnerability. The aim of this paper is to bring to light some connections among the different but mutually reinforcing functions that shame performs at the agential and at the social level. The guiding hypothesis is that shame is a complex adaptive syndrome, which is triggered by exposed failures in coping with vulnerability.


Federico Lauria (University of Geneva, University of Neuchâtel)

Self-Deception as Affective Coping. An Empirical Perspective to Philosophical Issues
(This paper is co-authored with Delphine Preissmann (University of Lausanne, University of Neuchâtel) and Fabrice Clément (University of Neuchâtel))
People usually believe that they are good drivers, professors typically believe that they are well above average and seriously ill patients often believe that they will recover. How do we manage to avoid facing the facts when evidence speaks for itself? In the philosophical literature, self-deception is mainly approached by the means of paradoxes. Yet, it is agreed that self-deception is motivated by protection from distress. In this paper, we argue that self-deception is a type of affective coping with the help of findings from cognitive neuroscience and psychology.
First, we criticize the main solutions to the paradoxes of self-deception. We then present an emotional approach to self-deception. Self-deception, we argue, involves three appraisals of the distressing evidence: (a) appraisal of the strength of evidence as uncertain, (b) low coping potential and (c) negative anticipation along the same lines as Damasio's somatic marker hypothesis. At the same time, desire impacts the treatment of flattering evidence via dopamine. Our main proposal is that self-deception involves emotional mechanisms provoking a preference for immediate reward despite possible long-term negative repercussions. In the last part, we use this emotional model to revisit the philosophical paradoxes.


Margherita Arcangeli (University of Geneva)

Interacting with Emotions: Imagination & Supposition
A widespread claim, which I call "the Emotionality Claim" (EC), is that imagination but not supposition is intimately linked to emotion. In more cognitive jargon, EC states that imagination is connected to the affect system (i.e., the mechanisms that produce emotional responses), whereas supposition is not. As it stands, EC is open to several interpretations which yield very different views about the nature of supposition. The literature lacks an in-depth analysis of EC which sorts out these different readings and ways to carve supposition and imagination at their joints. The aim of this paper is to fill this gap. First, I shall deal with two readings of EC, strong and weak, and considers their plausibility. The upshot will be that EC should be restricted to specific types of imagination. Second, I shall consider the idea that, in reality, supposition can be emotionally "hot", that it is indeed connected to our affect system after all, as some examples seem to show. I shall distinguish two ways a type of mental state may be connected to the affect system, and use the distinction to put forward two other readings of EC: "Indirect_EC" and "Output_EC". The upshot will be that we can distinguish supposition and (specific types of) imagination on the basis of their characteristic functional role, but the distinction is much subtler than is commonly acknowledged.


Markus Werning (Ruhr University Bochum)

Do we 'feel' what we say? The emulative semantics of emotion language
According to many philosophical, psychological and linguistic theories of meaning (e.g. Fodor, 1981; Friederici, 2002), semantic language comprehension is a faculty largely distinct from the faculties of the emotions: Meanings are regarded as mental symbols decoupled from their contents such that the brain processes underlying semantic comprehension and those underlying emotions belong to different modules. This modular-symbolic view of semantic comprehension contrasts with the idea of Emulative Semantics (Werning, 2012) according to which semantic comprehension results in the brain's emulation of what is referred to by a linguistic expression. For a sentence containing an emotion word, this would imply that emotion-related brain processes are recruited in order to understand the sentence. Since the emulation of emotions is also thought to be a basis for the human capacity of empathy (Gallese, 2003; Goldman, 2008), Emulative Semantics (Werning, 2012) predicts a correlation between empathy with emotions and the comprehension of linguistic emotion contexts. In a recent ERP study we could in fact show that, in linguistic emotion contexts, the size of the N400 effect, which indicates violations of semantic expectations, depends on the capacity to empathize with other people's emotions as measured by the Multifaceted Empathy Test (MET, Dziobek, 2008). In the last part of the talk we will apply the predictions of Emulative Semantics also to pain sensitivity and the understanding of pain-related words, which has led us to further behavioral and ERP studies.


François Jaquet (University of Geneva)

Utilitarianism for the Fictionalist
Moral fictionalists believe that we should entertain moral attitudes despite the fact that moral propositions are uniformly false. Still, in their opinion, these attitudes should not be moral beliefs but moral make-beliefs: in our deliberative contexts, we should accept a set of moral propositions, a moral fiction. So far, fictionalists haven't investigated the content of this fiction. It may therefore be that we should make-believe in Kant's categorical imperative or in the Ten Commandments. But I will argue that we should adopt a utilitarian fiction: the set of moral propositions whose general adoption would maximize overall well-being.


Mark Alfano (Delf University)

Mapping Human Values
What people say about the dead tells us a great deal about their values. Given a brief space to summarize the entire life of a deceased relative or friend, the authors of obituaries may be expected to signal as concisely and strikingly as possible to their readers which of the most important, communally-accepted values the deceased manifested. Using data-mining techniques, we gathered and performed text analyses on over 13,000 obituaries of ordinary Americans to extract patterns of evaluative judgments. Primary value-clusters include sports, learning, art, martial values, research, family, and business. Using network graphing and related analyses, we have found evidence for distinct clusters of values in different communities across the country, as well as the extent to which different values are associated with different generations, the extent to which different values are associated with men and women, and the extent to which values are geographically isolated.


Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen (Lund University)

Value and For Someone's Sake Attitudes
The divide between the two value notions good (period) and good-for shapes much of modern ethics. Even so, the distinction continuous to be something of riddle--for one thing, should we understand it as if one of these values should be analyzed in terms of the other or are we in fact facing a radical value dualism? Recent attempts to understand good-for in terms of a modified versions of the Fitting-attitude analysis which focuses on so-called for-someone's sake attitudes suggests that the value divide is in fact radical. This talk turns on some challenges, as well as opportunities, that this kind of suggestion faces.


Constant Bonard (University of Geneva)

A defense of emotions in musical understanding: Cognitive sciences against French Theory
In this talk, I shall present empirical findings that highlight the relevance of the emotions in musical understanding. These findings go against a common skeptical argument , inspired by French Theory that goes as follows:
(1) The meaning of an artwork cannot be identified with the content intended by the artist, but is relative to the interpretations of the audience; interpretations based on artists' emotions are not objective. (2) Emotions felt or ascribed to a piece of music are purely subjective and change from one person to another; interpretations based on the listener's emotions are not objective. (C) Therefore, interpretations of a piece of music based on emotions, whether the listener's or the musician's, cannot be objective; therefore we should not try to understand musical works through emotions.
The aim of my talk is to question premise (2) by arguing that the relativism ascribed to emotions in music might be explained by objective differences in the expressive means and in the listener's capacities. In a nutshell, considering music as a sort of language of the emotions that is best acquired during youth, can help undermine the view that musical expression cannot be objective. A hypothesis that is backed by findings in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics, and developmental psychology.


Axel Grosseries (Louvain)

What's wrong with Age Discrimination?
In this paper I aim at identifying what makes age-based differential treatment morally special, compared with gender-based or « racial » differential-treatment. I look at the status of age as a proxy, at the idea of complete-life neutrality and at the possibility of positive arguments in favor of age-based differential treatment. Having identified what makes age-based differential treatment special, I conclude on the extent to which this makes it morally more acceptable.


Second semester 2014-2015 (February 19-May 21)


Alexandre Billon (Université Lille, Nord de France)

Making Sense of the Cotard Syndrome: Insights from the Study of Depersonalisation
Patients suffering from the Cotard syndrome can deny being alive, having guts, thinking or even existing. In the last twenty years, psychologists and philosophers have put forward some influential neurocognitive models purporting to explain the Cotard syndrome and to make sense of the patients' delusions. As they focus on the comparatively less strange delusions of being dead or of lacking certain bodily parts, it is not clear, however, that they can make sense of the delusion that one does not think nor exist. It has actually been doubted that such claims can be made sense of. In this paper, I argue that we should, and that we can, make sense of these bizarre delusions. To that effect, I draw on the close connection between the Cotard syndrome and a more common (and better studied) condition known as depersonalisation. Even though they are not delusional, depersonalised patients seem to have experiences that are quite similar to those of Cotard patients. I argue that these experiences are essentially characterised by an attenuation of the subjective character and of two other structural features of experience, which I call 'the present character' and 'the actual character.' Cotard's nihilistic delusions simply consist in taking these anomalous experiences at face value. The resulting interpretation cannot only make sense of the delusion that one does not think nor exist, it can also explain less common delusions associated with the Cotard syndrome such as the delusion that the world, or time, do not exist.


Richard Dub (Swiss Centre for the Affective Sciences, UniGe)

Emotion For
Some emotions admit of an "emotion for" locution. We can be embarrassed for someone else. We can feel sad for a friend who has experienced a loss. We can feel anger on behalf of another person or group. What are to we to make of our ability to feel emotions for others? How can emotion-for be integrated into existing emotion theories? In this talk, I present a number of different interpretations of emotion-for, and argue that there is an important variety of emotion-for that has gone underexplored. This is a variety in which we simulate the emotions of another.


John Heil (Washington University in St. Louis)

Dispositionality and Mentality
NOTE: The talk will take place at 18:00 at Uni Dufour U159.
Are states of mind - psychological states - dispositional? This paper advances an account of the metaphysics of dispositionality and shows how that account extends naturally to psychological states, including the emotions. One virtue of the thesis advanced is that it affords a way to circumvent problems in the philosophy of mind that have often been thought to be intractable.


Information here.


Joel Smith (University of Manchester)

Vision and the ontology of emotion and expression
Claims about the scope of visual experience, about what we see, should be sensitive to ontology. That is, a claim that we see entities of a certain sort must cohere with the most plausible account of the ontological category such entities fall into. This simple point has significance for perceptual accounts of mindreading. Such accounts can be formulated in a number of ways and I begin by distinguishing a number of these, indicating with which of them I will be concerned. This is the view that we can see other's emotions. In filling this view out, some theorists have endorsed the claim that we see emotions in virtue of seeing their expressions. This, they contend, can be defended on the grounds that expressions are parts of emotions. This latter claim, I suggest, can be seen to be false once we have the ontology of emotion and expression properly in view. Emotions and their expressions are categorically unsuited to enter into the part-whole relation in the way suggested. I end by responding to a number of ways in which this argument might be challenged.
Mikaël Cozic (joint work with Ph. Mongin, CNRS & HEC)

Rethinking Nudges
Nudge is a semantically multifarious concept that originates in Thaler and Sunstein's (2008) popular eponymous book. In one of its senses, it is a policy for redirecting an agent's choices by only slightly altering his choice conditions, in another sense, it is concerned with bounded rationality as a means of the policy, and in still another sense, it is concerned with bounded rationality as an obstacle to be removed by the policy, when the latter has a benevolent aim. The paper centres on the interrelations, both semantic and factual, of these three nudge concepts. It argues that the first and second are basically disconnected on Thaler and Sunstein's major examples of nudges, and that this has gone unnoticed to them because they wrongly equate the second with the third concept, and also because they overestimate the explanatory power of behavioural economics, compared with that of classical rational choice theory, to account for successful interventions. After completing this analysis, the paper moves to some of the normative issues raised by Thaler and Sunstein. Their thought-provoking claim that liberalism and paternalism can be reconciled within one and the same doctrine of social ethics - libertarian paternalism – has been subjected to thorough philosophical criticism. Rather than following this abstract line, the paper takes the shortcut of arguing that Thaler and Sunstein lose their best defence of libertarian paternalism after the nudge concepts are disentangled. They had effectively based their case on the view that slight interventions could have powerful effects through a clever use of bounded rationality, and it has been shown that the latter is not really at work in the interventions they consider. The paper finally concludes that the three nudge concepts are worth pursuing, though independently of each other, and in particular that the third one, which involves correcting the pitfalls of bounded rationality, should receive sustained attention from policy analysts.
Andrea Scarantino

Emotional Action Between Automaticity and Control
NOTE: The talk will take place at 18:15 at Uni Dufour U159.
Emotional action has recently attracted the attention of both philosophers and scientists, even through the two literatures on emotional action have barely overlapped. Philosophers have debated mostly arational emotional actions (Hursthouse 1991), namely "weird" emotional actions like rolling around in one's dead wife's clothes out of grief or kicking a door out of anger. The key philosophical question has been: can arational actions be explained in terms of the Humean theory of motivation, i.e. in terms of belief and desire pairs? Scientists have instead debated emotional action more generally, focusing in particular on the causal connection between emotions and actions. The two key scientific questions have been: Are emotional actions caused by emotions? If so, which model of emotion-action causation is most suitable? In this talk, I will argue that neither philosophical nor scientific models are suitable, because they, respectively, overestimate and underestimate the level of control involved in emotional actions. I will present a new theory of emotional actions in conclusion, largely inspired by Nico Frijda's seminal work.
First semester 2014-2015 (September, 25 - December, 18)
Santiago Echeverri (Swiss Centre for the Affective Sciences, UniGe)

Object Files, Properties, and Perceptual Content
'Object files' are mental representations that enable perceptual systems to keep track of objects as numerically the same. A number of philosophers and psychologists have debated how the reference of these representations is fixed. Whereas singularists hold that reference is fixed by causal relations to objects, descriptivists submit that it is fixed by the unique satisfaction of some properties (Bach 1987; Recanati 2012). Some theorists like Zenon Pylyshyn (2007) and John Campbell (2002, 2012, 2013) have tried to make room for a non-satisfactional use of properties. This maneuver has enabled them to reconcile a singularist view of reference with the intuition that properties are necessary to fix reference. This paper examines Campbell's influential defense of this strategy. After criticizing it, a new approach is sketched. The alternative view introduces representational contents to explain the perceptual fixation of reference. After arguing that those contents are not satisfactional, it is concluded that there is room for a third view of reference fixing that does not fit into the singularism/descriptivism dichotomy.
Larry A. Herzberg (University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh)

The Emotional-Vestibular Analogy
In this talk, I first explain my motivation for developing what I call "the emotional-vestibular analogy", sketch out the analogy itself, and then discuss some epistemological issues that would arise were the analogy to be taken seriously by experimental psychologists. I argue that, like the vestibular system, the emotional system can plausibly be conceived of as "merely" sensory, rather than as autonomously perceptual (as that distinction is drawn by Tyler Burge). I suggest that just as the vestibular system allows a perceptual system like vision to intermodally represent a non-evaluative relation like verticality, the emotional system may allow such a perceptual system to intermodally represent evaluative relations (conceived of in terms of core relational themes) - for instance, it may allow the visual and emotional systems jointly to produce a percept that represents an approaching snake as a danger-to-me. Finally, I suggest that the experimental psychology of emotion may need to develop more sophisticated techniques of measurement (similar to those used for decades by perceptual psychology) before the strength of the analogy can finally be judged, and before any hypotheses based on it could be confirmed or disconfirmed.
Philip Gerrans (University of Adelaide)

Feeling Yourself
"Who is the I that knows the bodily me, who has an image of myself and a sense of identity over time, who knows that I have propriate strivings?" I know all these things, and what is more, I know that I know them. But who is it who has this perspectival grasp? It is much easier to feel the self than to define the self (Allport 1961, p. 128).
I think Allport has it the wrong way round. It is easy to define the self, as he in fact does, as the entity that thinks, feels, perceives and has a sense of identity over time. It is hard, however, to a find an entity that fits the definition. This is so even though, according to Allport, experiencing being a self is unproblematic ("it is easier to feel the self"). In fact, the experience of being someone is actually very elusive, phenomenologically and conceptually. I will argue that the precise nature of experiences reported as self-awareness is best inferred from those cases when it goes awry, in particular disorders involving the experience of depersonalisation (DPD). Predictive coding theory and the appraisal theory of emotion help us interpret the experience of DPD and explain the elusive nature of self awareness.
Pepa Toribio (Universitat de Barcelona)

Perceiving Emotions: Liberalism and Cognitive Penetrability
According to so-called "rich" or "liberal" views, we can visually experience high-level properties such as being sad or being angry. By contrast, according to "sparse" or "conservative" views, visual experience can only involve low-level features such as colour, shape, texture or location. Unsurprisingly, philosophical arguments on both sides of the debate have failed to settle this issue. In this talk, I discuss some recent studies in social vision and conclude that data from this branch of vision science help strengthen liberalism. Along the way, I will tackle a different but related topic, namely the relationship between the claim that visual experience is rich and the view that it is cognitively penetrable. Despite their logical independence, both theses tend to go hand in hand in the literature. I will argue that there is, however, an interesting and so far overlooked tension: the stronger the evidence in favour of rich views, the less plausible the cognitive penetrability claim seems to be.
Johannes Roessler (University of Warwick)

Self-Knowledge and Communication
My question in this talk is how the notion of expression may help to understand the distinctive authority of first-person present-tense self-ascriptions of attitudes (I'll focus on the case of belief). The project might be described as re-claiming the notion of expression from 'expressivist' or 'neo-expressivist' explanations of first-person authority: while the latter tend to downplay the role of the subject's self-knowledge in lending authority to her self-ascriptions, the suggestion I'll explore (drawing on Bernard Williams's work on sincerity) is that we know our own beliefs in expressing them.
Rebekka Hufendiek (University of Basel)

Embodiment and the Normative Structure of Emotions
In this talk I sketch the main claims of embodied accounts of emotions and the different theoretical frameworks on which authors in the field rely. I argue that embodied accounts have severe difficulties explaining what I call the normative structure of emotions. Reviving traditional claims from cognitivism, I suggest that emotions are subject to 1.) semantic norms, 2.) to rational norms and 3.) in some cases to social rules and norms. Taken together these features constitute the normative structure of emotions and as such pose a challenge to embodied accounts. I will argue in detail that current approaches fail to sufficiently account for the normative structure of emotions. In conclusion, I suggest that to meet the normative challenge, embodied accounts need to become normative realists and describe the ontological structure of our biological and social environment as having strong structuring effects on how we represent the world through emotions.

Diego Gambetta (European University Institute)

How Information Shapes Interpersonal Conflict
We investigate experimentally how the amount of information on an opponent's 'toughness' affects the chances that a competitive conflict over scarce resources between two individuals results into a fight. We measure toughness by asking subjects to do a wall-sit for as long as they can resist. We ask to do the exercise twice, once 'veiled', when they do not know that a fight may occur and once 'unveiled', when they do know. The information on how long they resisted in both exercises is then revealed to the opponent who decides whether to challenge or ignore. If he challenges the other player may yield or resist. If he resists a fight ensues and yields a winner and a loser. The situation aims at reproducing a prison context in which a resident inmate decides whether to challenge a rookie (new entrant) to check how far he can be exploited, and the rookie chooses whether to fight back or be exploited. We find that (i) the more information passes between resident and rookie the lower are the chances of a fight; (ii) both veiled and unveiled wall-sit times provide good information on rookies' real toughness, (ii) this information is correctly processed by residents. Some prison policy implications are drawn.
Michael Lacewing (Heythrop College)

The Science of Psychoanalysis
Can psychoanalysis take its place in the science that is psychology? I shall put aside the therapy, and ask about the theory, its evidence and generation. I take the question of whether this theory is scientific to be the question of how we can establish whether its claims are true or not. It is a question about the nature of the evidence and the methods that are used to gather that evidence. Its methods must at least be capable of correcting for biases produced in the data during the process of generating it; and we must be able to use the data in sound forms of inference and reasoning. Critics of psychoanalysis have claimed that it fails on both counts, and thus whatever warrant its claims have derive from other sources. I discuss three key objections, and then consider their implications together with recent developments in the generation and testing of psychoanalytic theory. The first and most famous is that of 'suggestion'; if it sticks, clinical data may be biased in a way that renders all inferences from them unreliable. The second, sometimes confused with the first, questions whether the data are or can be used to provide genuine tests of theoretical hypotheses. The third will require us to consider the question of how psychology can reliably infer motives from behavior.
Mikko Salmela (University of Helsinki)

Emotional Roots of Right-Wing Political Populism
The rise of the new populist right has been associated with fundamental socioeconomic changes fuelled by globalization and neoliberal economic politics. It has been argued that low- and medium-skilled workers who are least capable of flexible adaptation to post-industrialist societies where moral norms, ideologies, traditions, and knowledge are constantly challenged and revised have suffered most. They experience an increasing sense of vulnerability, defeat, and a lack of self-esteem, and are to prone perceive immigrants and refugees as people who 'steal' their jobs and social benefits. Yet economic factors do not fully explain the rise of new right as these parties have gained success also in Central and Northern European countries where unemployment rates are below OECD average and social welfare systems compensate for actual and potential losers from globalization. I suggest that emotional processes that affect people's identities provide an additional explanation for the popularity of nationalist right, not only among low- and medium-skilled workers but also among entrepreneurs and middle class citizens whose insecurities manifest themselves as fears of not being able to live up to salient social identities and their constitutive values, many of which originate from more affluent times, and as shame about this anticipated or actual inability. This mechanism is particularly salient in competitive market societies where responsibility for success and failure is attributed primarily to the individual. Under these conditions, many tend to emotionally distance themselves from social identities that inflict shame and other negative emotions, instead seeking meaning and self-esteem from those aspects of identity that are perceived to be stable, such as nationality, ethnicity, religion, language, and traditional gender roles – many of which are emphasized by new populist right. At the same time, repressed shame manifests as anger and resentment against immigrants and other minorities who appear as enemies of these more stable social identities.
Lisa Bortolotti (University of Birmingham)
NOTE: This talk will take place at 14:00 rather than the usual 16:15.

Delusion and Emotion
In this paper I consider whether the adoption of a delusional belief could be framed as an attempt to manage extreme anxiety or overwhelming negative emotions. I will examine first the case of motivated delusions, and then the case of elaborated and systematised delusions in schizophrenia. On the basis of these two cases, I will argue that delusions can be seen as an "emergency response" to a critical situation, and can have epistemic as well as psychological benefits.
NOTE: The workshop will be held on Tuesday rather than the usual Thursday. It will run from 14:00-17:00 and be held in Room U259, Rue du Général Dufour 24, 1211 Genève 4.

Jack Lyons (University of Arkansas)

Internalism and Cognitive Penetration
If perception is cognitively penetrated, then what we see is influenced by cognitive states like beliefs, desires, expectations, etc. Cognitively penetrated perception is often thought to be epistemically inferior to nonpenetrated perception, at least in some cases. One obvious explanation for this fact would be that cognitive penetration sometimes makes us worse at perceiving what's really there; i.e., it makes us less reliable. Epistemic internalists will need to find some factor other than reliability to account for the epistemic effect of cognitive penetration. I consider three recent internalist proposals, by Siegel, Markie, and McGrath, and argue that none of them offers a viable internalist alternative to the reliabilist view.

Wayne Wu (Carnegie Mellon University)

Shaking the Mind's Ground Floor: The Cognitive Penetration of Attention by Intention
In this talk, I shall present the best empirical case for cognitive penetration, namely the penetration of intention by attention. This is a surprising result as attention has often been set aside as a plausible target of cognitive penetration, but this is in part due to a faulty understanding of attention. I shall discuss the nature of attention and intention, draw on neuroscience to show how intention penetrates visual computations needed for realizing visual attention, and then highlight epistemic consequences of such penetration and points of contact with empirical notions of top-down modulation.
Richard Holton (University of Cambridge)
NOTE: This talk will take place at Uni-Dufour, room U159 instead of at the usual place. It will be held at the usual 16:15.

Moral Resolve
A variety of experiments suggest that resolve works by blocking reconsideration. I suggest that the same happens with moral resolve. A moral resolution effectively delimits the space of possible actions, buttressed, perhaps, by an affective reaction. I illustrate with the case of torture under the Bush administration, and then go on to draw some lessons for recent debates about the doctrine of double effect.
Second semester 2013-2014 (February, 14 - June, 12)
15.02: Conference on Desire
Information here.
Anne Meylan (UniGe)
Epistemic emotions: a natural kind?
Abstract: The general aim of this article is to consider whether various affective phenomena – feelings like the feeling of knowing, of familiarity, of certainty, etc., but also phenomena like curiosity, interest, surprise and trust – which have been labelled "epistemic emotions" in fact constitute a unified kind, i.e., the kind of the so-called "epistemic emotions". Obviously, for an affective phenomenon to belong to the kind of the epistemic emotions, it has to meet two conditions: it has to qualify, first, as an emotion, and, second, as an epistemic one. The paper is structured accordingly. The first part is devoted to the question whether the aforementioned affective phenomena really are emotions, while the second part bears on their hypothetical common epistemicity.
Hichem Naar & François Jaquet (UniGe)
Moral beliefs for the error theorist?
Metaethics is first and foremost a descriptive enterprise: it seeks to provide an account of the nature of moral thought, discourse, and practices and, when applicable, the nature of moral facts themselves and of access to them. When the descriptive enterprise yields potentially disturbing or otherwise uncomfortable truths about morality, metaethics can then become a prescriptive enterprise, seeking to tell us what to do with our moral thoughts and discourse. Moral error theory is the view that moral beliefs and claims are systematically false or untrue. On such a view, moral thought and discourse is defective as it commits us to the existence of illusory entities. The question then is, what should we do with moral thought and discourse if we become convinced by the error theory? Until recently, two main responses have been given. The abolitionist proposes that we should get rid of moral thought. The fictionalist, by contrast, proposes that we should stop believing in moral claims but still do as if they were true. After discussing these two positions, we will introduce a third one recently advocated by Jonas Olson – 'conservationism' – the view that we should continue having moral beliefs while believing in the error theory. We will first show that his critique of a prominent version of fictionalism – the one advocated by Richard Joyce – is at best inconclusive. We will then argue that his version of conservationism is so close to the fictionalist position he is attacking that it may be equivalent to it. It will turn out that the debate between Olson and his opponent turns on what each party is willing to call 'belief'. We will end the discussion by giving a list of desiderata that a debate between fictionalists and conservationists must satisfy in order to be genuinely prescriptive.
Samuel Lepine (Lyon)
Emotions, concerns, and motivational commitments
Abstract: It is commonly held that emotions are representations of values. According to a view which is endorsed by many authors, an emotion is correct or appropriate if its representational content refers to a value existing objectively and independently of one's subjective perspective. Whereas this view has many advantages that I will emphasize in the first part of my talk, we may nevertheless rest unsatisfied with it. Indeed, it seems also that an emotion is appropriate when it fits with our motivations. If I love my wife, I should be worried when she is in danger, relieved when she is out of danger, and so on. According to this second view, then, an emotion is appropriate when it is consistent with some of our emotional motivations like desires, concerns and sentiments. Now, this view seems to be misleading, because of its subjectivists implications. In the second part of my talk, I will then assess the difficulties which this view encounters, and especially what we may call the problem of emotional discoveries. I will finally argue that : a) caring about something not only explains the occurrence of some emotions, but also partly justifies those emotions ; b) an emotion related to what we care is correct if that emotion is prima facie justified, and related to some particular motivational states which are themselves justified.
Dorothea Debus (York), Shaping Our (Mental) Lives
On the Possibility and Value of Emotion Regulation
The present paper is part of a wider project which explores the ways in which subjects take an active part in shaping their own mental lives and the mental lives of others. In the present paper, I consider the specific case of our active involvement with (our own, and others') emotional experiences. The recent empirical literature subsumes the phenomena I am interested in here under the title of 'emotion regulation', and drawing on relevant empirical work in the present context I consider the phenomenon of emotion regulation from a philosophical perspective. In doing so, I consider the question how emotion regulation is possible, and address that question by determining some of the conditions that need to be met in order for a subject to be able to regulate emotions. I secondly address some axiological issues related to the topic of emotion regulation; that is, I ask why and how emotion regulation might be of value. In addressing these two sets of questions, the present paper in turn hopes to contribute to our understanding of how, more generally, subjects do take an active part in, and thus shape, their own and others' (mental) lives, and why and how different ways of doing so might be more or less valuable.
Richard Dub (UniGe)
Modes and Attitude Types
Abstract: What is the best typology for individuating mental state or mental attitude types? In the philosophical literature on emotion, it is common to read that mental states and mental attitudes are individuated at least partly in terms of their mode of representation. That is: to believe that p is to represent that p is true; to fear a dog is to represent that dog as dangerous; etc. However, other philosophical literatures commonly type mental states by their functional role: that is, by their dispositions to generate behavior and enter into causal relations with other mental states. These literatures do not often make use of the concept of a mode of representation. How does a typology that involves modes differ from a functionalist typology? Are modes and functional roles in tension with one another, or is one reducible to the other, or can they be otherwise reconciled? I survey a range of problems that lets us explore the notion of a representational mode in detail and that allows us to make progress on these questions.
Hichem Naar
Objectual Attitudes, Rational Thought, and the Right-Kind/Wrong-Kind Distinction
The view that there are attitudes with non-propositional objects – sometimes called 'objectual attitudes' – is increasingly popular. According to this view, attitudes such as love and hate are what they seem to be, namely relations to particulars, by contrast with the propositional attitudes, like belief, which are related to propositions or proposition-like entities such as facts and states of affairs. Given the novelty of the view, it is important to ask what consequences we should draw if we became convinced by it. In this paper, I ask what consequences we should draw about the role of such attitudes in rational thought. Such a question is pressing as our acceptance of non-propositionalism may clash with commitments we held prior to this acceptance. I argue that, if non-propositionalism is true, then we should grant objectual attitudes a very limited role in rational thought. Objectual attitudes, it turns out, are in an important respect akin to actions. I end the discussion by addressing the worry that, since objectual attitudes are action-like, there is no distinction to be made between right kind and wrong kind of reasons for such attitudes. I show that there is a principled way for the non-propositionalist to draw the distinction for objectual attitudes, which will suggest a way to make the distinction for actions themselves.
Guy Kahane (Oxford)
History, Emotion and Non-identity
Past tragedies like the Holocaust fill us with sadness and regret. By contrast, most of us are glad that we exist. But these two emotions are in tension. If history had taken a different turn, and these past tragedies were somehow averted, then we would almost certainly not be here. If we regret past tragedies, can we still be glad that we exist? And if we are glad that we exist, must we stop regretting even the most horrific of past evils? This existential tension is an instance of Parfit's non-identity problem, applied to the past instead of the future. In this talk, I explain how this tension arises, and argue that it reflects an even deeper problem inherent in history itself: when we think of one possible course of history as better than another, and when we ascribe value to historical events, our claims are ambiguous between conflicting impersonal and person-affecting senses. To make things worse, when we spell out these opposing impersonal and person-affecting perspectives on the past, we find that each has highly disturbing implications. I conclude that we do not yet know how to think or feel about the past.
2 p.m.: John Hawthorne (Oxford)
4 p.m.: Michael Brady (Glasgow)
Reasons to Suffer
Abstract: It is clear that we have reasons to believe, to judge, to desire and to act. But do we have reasons to feel? If so, what is the nature of such reasons? This paper seeks to answer these questions, by considering whether we have reasons for the negative emotional responses that constitute forms of suffering. I conclude that there are reasons to suffer, and that these are a form of practical reason.
Jerrold Levinson (Maryland)
Ain't That a Shame: Shame in General and Shame in Music
Abstract: This essay falls clearly into two parts. In the first part I offer general observations on the nature of shame, contrasting it with some neighboring emotions and underlining its positive and negative aspects, and illustrating my observations with some examples, including one from William Styron's novel Sophie's Choice. In the second part of the paper I turn to the somewhat odd question of whether there are varieties of shame specific to music, and offer a simple taxonomy of such following the different roles involved in the musical situation, ending with a few possible examples of the musical expression of shame.
05.06 (6 p.m.): THUMOS-PHILEAS TALK
Jerrold Levinson (Maryland)
Immoral Jokes
This paper concerns the ethics of humor. More specifically, it is concerned with a certain category of jokes that can be labeled immoral jokes. I claim that such jokes exist, and that many of them are funny despite being immoral; that is to say, their immorality does not wholly undermine their humorousness, and may even somehow contribute to it. So a first task of the paper is to say what a joke's being funny or humorous roughly amounts to. A second and more important task is to say what it is for a joke to be immoral, or what may come to the same thing, pernicious, and in an unredeemable way. But a third task will be to decide what attitude or behavior is appropriate to such jokes in light of their immorality, and whether their total proscription is justified, or even humanly possible.
Emma Tieffenbach
About Cherishing the Value-bearer: Cohen's Defense of Conservatism

First semester 2013-2014 (September, 12 - December, 19)
Thomas Crowther (Warwick)
Attention as Agential Capacitation
It is natural to identify attention as a purely perceptual phenomenon. It is in activity like watching, looking, scrutinizing and tracking objects that our talk about attention seems to find its most obvious home. But a theme of much historical as well as much contemporary discussion is that attention is not just a purely perceptual phenomenon. A wide range of different activities are capable of drawing on the attention, it is alleged, from calculating or writing, through to writing on the whiteboard or raising one's arm. According to those who take this seriously as data, a good theory of attention ought to be capable of explaining the very different ways that attention can operate. The recent literature contains a range of interesting discussions that are geared to explaining a notion of attention that is capable of functioning in such different ways. In this paper, I'll explore a small part of this literature with the aim of focussing some general questions about any notion of attention that can play this kind of role. In a later part of the paper I will identify and briefly develop a different suggestion about how we ought to understand the notion of the attention, a suggestion that also takes seriously the sheer variety of our attention talk.
19.09: Reading Seminar
White, A. R. (1962-63). "Attending and noticing", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 63: 103-126.
Alain Pé-Curto & Federico Lauria (UniGe),
The Situationist Boomerang
One might attribute the global trait of, say, sincerity to Anthony. One hereby means that Anthony would behave sincerely in a wide range of situations. Let us call the thesis that such global attributions are legitimate "globalism". Situationists have put in doubt globalism on the ground that it is empirically inadequate (Doris 2002). People fail to be consistent across situations that involve situational disruptions, like being in a hurry, enjoyable smells, or, famously, an authority figure. Situationists claim behaviour is decisively shaped by situational factors, much more than by purported global traits. Consequently, they argue that the attribution of situational or "local" traits (e.g. "sincerity-in-the-courtyard") is empirically more adequate. "Localism" is preferable to globalism. In approaching the issue, we take seriously two theoretical desiderata for a plausible "moral psychology", introduced by Doris. These are the empirical adequacy of the theory (falsifiability) and its empirical content (predictive and explanatory power). Localists argue that a theory relying on local traits can meet these requirements, whereas globalist theories fail to do so. Our claim is that, surprisingly, localism fails, just like globalism, to meet these desiderata: the situationist challenge "boomerangs". Traditional globalism may be empirically inadequate, but so is revisionary localism.
Anika Lutz (Tübingen)
Emotions and the Inextricable Link between Intentionality and Phenomenology
In modern emotion theory it is commonly assumed that emotions are intentional as well as phenomenal mental states. Furthermore, some authors like for example Peter Goldie, Sabine A. Döring or Bennett Helm claim that the intentionality and the phenomenology of emotions are inextricably linked. In this talk I want to explore the putative inextricable link between the intentionality and the phenomenology of emotions. I will start with a quick survey of different views about the intentionality and the phenomenology of emotions. In the second part of the talk I will then ask what it could mean that there is an inextricable link between the intentionality and the phenomenology of emotions and whether there is good reason to believe that there really is such an inextricable link. Finally, I will present different intentionalist ways how to conceive of this inextricable link and discuss their respective virtues and deficits. In the end I will opt for a version of intentionalism that claims that both the intentional mode and the intentional content determine the phenomenal character of emotions.
10.10: Reading Seminar
Watzl, S. (2011b). "Attention as structuring of the stream of consciousness", in: C. Mole, D. Smithies, and W. Wu (Eds.), Attention: Philosophical and Psychological Essays, Oxford University Press.
17.10:Contempt workshop
Information here.
24.10: Reading Seminar
Wu, W. (2011). "What is Conscious Attention?" Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (1):93-120.
Richard Dub (UniGe)
Cognitive Feelings and Pathologies of Feeling
Consider states such as the feeling of familiarity, the feeling of invincibility, or the feeling of understanding. These sorts of states have been called 'cognitive feelings'. They are easy to identify---we all know what we are talking about when we speak of them, and they have distinctive phenomenologies. Yet, they have not been subject to the same sort of scrutiny that we have applied to other mental states, such as perception or memory. What are these cognitive feelings? What is their intentional structure, and what is their role in cognition? Are they emotions? One problem is that it is difficult to even get a handle on the precise objects of investigation. The ordinary word 'feeling' is obviously too imprecise to be of much use in characterizing a psychological kind, and various theorists who try to clean up the concept end up drawing its boundaries in different ways. (Do the types of feeling that I mentioned above even count as members of a natural kind at all?) I will describe three different accounts of cognitive feelings, and then go on to argue that we can construct better theories by looking at pathologies of feeling. We can better understand the way that feelings work by gathering evidence about the way that feelings break. Clinical delusions, I argue, are pathologies of feeling, and the types of psychoses that exist tell us something about the types of feelings that exist.
07.11: Reading Seminar
Smithies, D. (2011). "Attention is Rational-Access Consciousness", in C. Mole, D. Smithies, and W. Wu (eds.), Attention: Philosophical and Psychological Essays. Oxford University Press.
Hichem Naar (UniGe)
The Personal Character of Emotion: A Challenge for Cognitive Theories
In this talk, I begin by introducing a strong version of cognitivism about emotion – which I call 'ambitious cognitivism' – as the view according to which (i) emotions purport to represent value properties, (ii) they reliably succeed in doing so, and (iii) the value properties in question are independent (in a philosophically interesting sense) of the attitudes of the subject. First, I discuss the main reasons why those inclined to accept some robust form of value realism might find the view more attractive than its modest – and much more popular - rival (which accepts (i) and usually (ii), but rejects (iii)). I then introduce a challenge for the ambitious cognitivist which may motivate the acceptance of either more modest forms of cognitivism or straight non-cognitivism: that of accounting for the lingering thought that an emotion typically is intimately related to, and depends for its occurrence on, the particular person having it, especially her history, desires, plans, needs, tastes, interests, personality, and seemingly quirky and idiosyncratic facts about him or her. This, I will argue, casts doubt on the ambitious claim that emotions' main role is to give us some sort of access to an independent realm of values. After having introduced and tentatively rejected a couple of ambitious ways to answer the challenge, I will introduce what I take to be the best bet for the ambitious cognitivist.
21.11: Reading Seminar
Wu, W. (2011b), "Attention as selection for action", in C. Mole, D. Smithies, and W. Wu (Eds.), Attention: Philosophical and Psychological Essays, Oxford.
Maria Alvarez (London)
Beliefs, Agency and Responsibility
In this paper I examine recent suggestions that there is a distinctive form of agency, 'epistemic agency', which is closely linked to our capacity to believe things for reasons and which grounds responsibility for our beliefs. I conclude that the suggestions are unconvincing and that there are ways to account for that responsibility that do not require postulating such forms of agency.
Tobias Brosch (UniGe)
Neurocognitive mechanisms of attention-emotion interactions
To successfully negotiate our complex environment, we have to rapidly detect important information and prepare appropriate responses. To deal with the limited processing capacity of the human brain, multiple attention systems select a subset of all incoming information for more in-depth processing. Different attention systems are sensitive to different aspects of the stimuli, such as their intensity (exogenous attention), their emotional relevance (emotional attention), and their match with the current behavioral goals of the observer (endogenous attention). In my talk, I will provide an overview of the underlying mechanisms and the effects of these attention systems, both at the cognitive and at the neural level. In the second half of the talk, I will focus on some debates concerning the functioning of emotional attention, addressing the following questions: What is the psychological mechanism underlying emotional attention? And how does emotional attention interact with other selection mechanisms?
Michele Ombrato (UniGe)
Emotion, Attention and Mental Agency
Although most researchers in the field of affective sciences recognize the existence of an intimate relation between emotion and attention, very few attempts have been made to specify the nature of this relation. Arguably, the fundamental question to be addressed in order to do so is whether the relation at issue is a necessary or a contingent one. The broad aim of this talk is to explore the hypothesis that emotions bear a necessary relation to attention. More specifically, we shall argue that emotions instantiate a distinctive type of attentive intentionality - i.e., that their intentional structure is such that for it to be preserved the subject's attention must be engaged by the relevant "emotional object". In the first section of the talk we shall articulate our main proposal. In the second and conclusive section we shall show how this proposal may allow progress on two crucial issues in the theory of emotions. The first one regards the existence of clear boundaries between emotions proper and other closely related types of affective experience - e.g., "residual" feelings and moods. The second one regards the relation beween emotions conceived of as "passions" and mental agency.
Ariadna Pop (Illinois)
Why Moral Disagreement is a Problem for Metaethical Realism: A Reply to Enoch
The depth and extent of moral disagreement is frequently held to pose a special problem to metaethical realism and to warrant the adoption of some form of moral skepticism. In his "How is Moral Disagreement a Problem for Realism?" Enoch argues however that moral disagreement is not the terrible problem for metaethical realism that it is often thought to be. By discussing a number of versions of the argument from disagreement he shows that they either fail rather clearly, or that they can be stated without any reference to moral disagreement. My goal in this paper is to respond to Enoch by showing that moral disagreement—in particular, rationally irresolvable disagreement—is a problem for moral realism after all. The argument that I will put forward does not deductively infer the falsity of realism. Instead, it will take the form of an inference to the best explanation. I will show that the possibility of rationally irresolvable disagreement does not only saddle the realist with the problem of epistemic access; she is also forced to relegate common patterns of linguistic practice to bad faith. From the point of view of overall plausibility, I shall therefore argue that such an outcome ultimately tips the balance in favor of the antirealist.
Second semester 2012-2013 (February, 21 - May, 23)
Olivier Massin (UniGe)
Classifying values
There has been a profusion of distinctions among kinds of values : extrinsic vs. intrinsic; final vs. non-final; instrumental vs. non-instrumental, derivative vs. fundamental ; personal vs. impersonal... Though each distinction in isolation is reasonably well understood, how exactly these different distinctions relate to each other remains unclear. I shall attempt to clean up part of this axiological mess by proposing a classification of values starting from the distinction between things that are good in virtue of some other thing being good (derivative values), and things being good independently of any other things being good (fundamental values). This classification with highlight two quite original points. First, instrumental values (even very generically understood) constitute only one sub-species of derivative values among several other neglected sub-species. One of them is the species of "consecutive values" (roughly : x is consecutively good iff x is good in virtue of being the effect of a good cause). Second, final values –values that accrue to thing for their own sake– include fundamental values and some, but not all derivative values : consecutive values are final values, but no instrumental value is final.
Anita Konzelmann (UniGe)
As we forgive our debtors' – but how do we forgive?
The "Lord's Prayer" motivates people to address the following plea to a father-like god: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors". I suggest investigating the latter part of this plea under the correlated aspects of i) how we do forgive, and ii) how we do forgive. The first aspect mainly concerns the conditionality of forgiveness, whereas the second pertains to problems of collective attitudes towards wrongdoing. Both aspects are relevant to the question of whether the possibility of jointly experiencing a supererogatory moral emotion supports the ontological claim of collective consciousnesses.
Uriah Kriegel (Institut Jean Nicod & Arizona)
Is There a Sui Generis Emotional Phenomenology?
In a previous paper on emotion, I have argued for a new feeling theory of emotion that construes emotional feels as much more sophisticated than traditional feeling theories. I leave it open, however, whether emotional feel can be entirely reduced to other kinds of feel or involves a proprietary, sui generis kind of phenomenology. In this follow-up paper I try to address this question. The first part of the talk will summarize the argument of the previous paper, the second part will consider the case for a sui generis emotional phenomenology.
Juliane Wilcke (UniGe)
How (not) to study the biological evolution of consciousness
At least 10 arguments and 13 strategies have been used – some more successfully than others – for studying the biological evolution of consciousness, including its adaptation status and evolutionary functions. I constructed a systematic tool for evaluating their promise, as no suitable or easily adaptable evaluation system or set of evaluative criteria was available. In this talk, I present the results of the tool's application to the aforementioned arguments and strategies, classified as arguments that consciousness is an evolutionary adaptation, general reasoning strategies, and evolutionary strategies. This evaluation leads to recommendations about which of the arguments and strategies to employ and how to improve the others. I will also speculate on the main reasons for the slowness of progress in research on the evolution of consciousness despite great interest in the topic.
Chloe Fitzgerald (UniGe)
Moral responsibility for developing and sustaining implicit biases over time
Whether and how we are morally responsible for having or manifesting implicit biases is a pressing issue given the increasing body of literature on their widespread existence and the injustice they can lead to. I claim that the current discussion could benefit from consideration of the existing literature on responsibility for emotions and character formation. We are often held to be morally responsible for the long term development of our character, including our emotional responses. A parallel argument can be made regarding the development and maintenance of implicit biases over time.
Clare MacCumhail (UniGe)
Keeping It to Oneself (work in progress with Edo Zamuner)
One desideratum for a theory of the emotions is that emotions can sometimes be hidden, bottled up or kept to oneself, either expressly or otherwise. At least in a limited sense then, emotions, or some aspects of them, must fall under agentive control or be agentially controlled or modified – controlled or modified in such a way that they can be so hidden or 'kept'. What is it that one keeps to oneself in such circumstances? And how should we characterize the nature of that 'keeping'? Moreover, what kind of knowledge does a subject display when attempting to mask the appearance of emoting? In this talk I explore a hypothesis. The possibility of keeping one's emotions to oneself is best explained by adverting not to content of emotional states and episodes (whether that content is representational or presentational, as it arguably is on an attitudinal treatment) but to their vehicles, which are often, though not always, bodily processes and events. Since such vehicles are sometimes subject to voluntary control, most obviously in the bodily case, this explains how one can sometimes modify the appearance of emoting while nonetheless undergoing, in a relatively passive sense, an emotional episode. The knowledge that one displays in such circumstances is, I argue, knowledge of the structure of the vehicles of those emotional episodes.
Fredéric Minner (UniGe)
Indignation and social regulation
Indignation seems to be an emotional response to injustice. It can be felt by people who are not themselves victim of the injustice; that is why it is sometimes claimed that indignation is a third-party emotion felt by a spectator. It is also quite often said that indignation can lead to actions whose purpose is to punish the person responsible for the injustice. Indignation seems then to motivate a public to perform actions that aim at forcing or reinforcing social cooperation. Interestingly, an example of such actions may consist in the elaboration of new norms. In this talk, I will first discuss the ontology of indignation, and second I will investigate the role that this emotion can play in the emergence of a norm in a given society. To do so, I will analyze empirical data taken from an ethnographical study: the making, by the members of the political collective Occupy Geneva, of a rule against physical and verbal violence for their charter of good conduct.
Christian Budnik (Berne)
Trust and Competence
A common assumption of the prevailing philosophical accounts of trust is that appropriate trust is always, albeit not exclusively, directed at the competences of the person trusted. In this way it is e.g. claimed that there is no sense in which a person A can be said to trust another person B to give her medical advice, if A does not also think that B is competent when it comes to questions of medical treatment. This assumption is conceptually linked with another widely held thesis about the nature of trust – the thesis that trust is primarily a relative notion or a three-place predicate. According to this thesis, ascriptions of trust are always in need of a specification of the particular context in which a person trusts another person. Typically, this specification refers to a particular action that one person trusts another person to perform (e.g. 'A trusts B to prescribe her the right medication for her headaches'), or to a specific domain of interaction in which instances of trust occur (e.g. 'A trusts B with her physical health'). The Competence Thesis (CT) can be plausibly regarded as the main reason why philosophers think that the Relativity Thesis (RT) is true: If trust is always directed at the competences of the trustee, then a notion of trust that is not relativized to a specific domain of interaction or to particular actions simply does not make any sense, and peoply cannot be said to be meaningfully trust other people simpliciter. This is the case, because we can safely assume that nobody is competent with everything. In my presentation, I would like to argue against RT by showing that CT is false: Being optimistic about another person's competence or believing that she is competent in a specific context may be an enabling condition for particular instances of trust, but in itself it is not a constitutive component of what it means to trust another person. In refuting RT, I make room for an account of trust as a non-relativized notion. According to this account, trusting another person amounts to the expectation that the other person will in her deliberations take one into account as a person who is counting on her.
Martin Hartmann (Luzern),
Is Trust an Emotion? And if not – what is it?
It is often claimed that trust is an emotion or at least a "soft affection" (Solomon/Flores). In referring to relevant aspects of complex emotional phenomena this thesis will be discussed. It will be claimed that trust is not an emotion per se but a practical attitude. The notion of practical attitude, however, is not easy to assess; of particular interest will be the question to what extent practical attitudes ought to be understood as depsychologized, a claim that has been put forward by Wittgensteinian scholars of trust. According to this approach trust manifest itself by being psychologically and phenomenologically absent. Trustful behavior thus is identified only be an observer's perspective and relates to a specific description of the behavior at hand. This claim will be critically discussed and judged as only partially correct.
Marta Vidal (Barcelona)
Absorbed actions and passively doing
Most of our actions are performed in an absorbed way, for instance, scratching one's head, fiddling with one's jewels, doodling, or stopping the car at a traffic light. It is not clear what (if anything) these actions have in common, and their characterization is often theoretically biased. However, many treatments of these actions focus on the fact that, although they are actions, and consequently active events, they are more passive than intentional actions. In this talk, I am going to briefly present some theories about absorbed actions (Dreyfus, Searle, Pacherie, Clark) and explore the possibility of explaining their passivity in terms of the notion of doing without doing anything else, which has been introduced in the discussion about basic actions (Danto, Davidson, Hornsby).
Robin Dillon (Lehigh)
Arrogance, self-respect, and power
Arrogance is widely regarded today as a serious moral vice and a cause of social, economic, political, and environmental ills. It has also long been morally condemned: it is, for example, the hubris that the ancient Greeks regarded as the worst of evils, the superbia, or sin of pride, that the medievals ranked as the deadliest of the Deadly Sins, and the most significant of the vices in Kant's ethics. Drawing on Kant, I've argued that arrogance is pernicious because it is the antithesis of the respect for the authority of the moral law and the dignity of human beings that are our most important moral duties. In particular, I've argued that although arrogance is typically viewed as involving disrespect for other persons, it is first and foremost a failure to respect oneself. I distinguish two kinds of arrogance and explicate their connections to respect for others and self-respect. But the Kantian account, though potent and valuable, is incomplete, for it neglects something that is commonly viewed as a core aspect of arrogance: its connection with power. I argue that arrogance is not merely, as Kant has it, a problem inside individuals; it is a systemic problem, one that is constructed in and reinforces unjust distributions of social power. I identify a number of ways in which arrogance is connected with social arrangements of domination and subordination, and briefly note two implications of a power-focused analysis: first, contrary to the widely-held view, humility is not the virtue opposing arrogance, self-respect is; and second, whereas the Kantian account holds that arrogance is always profoundly vicious, it might be that in circumstances of oppression the arrogance of subordinated people is self-respecting resistance to domination.
First semester 2012-2013 (September, 20 - December, 20)
Florian Cova (UniGe),
I couldn't have done otherwise
In this paper, I argue that the "right" interpretation of the principle of alternate possibilities is the one that corresponds to a certain kind of excuses and that both the compatibilist and incompatibilist interpretations of expressions such as "I couldn't have done otherwise" fail to capture these ordinary linguistic practices. Using experimental data, I then propose an analysis of our use of such excuses, according to which one "couldn't have done otherwise" in the sense relevant to moral responsibility only if one did what any minimally decent person would have done in this particular situation. Finally, I propose an error-theory for belief in the principle of alternate possibilities.
Hichem Naar (Manchester)
Explaining the Link between Emotions and Cares
What is the best explanation for each of the various emotional episodes that we feel on various occasions? Such an explanation plausibly appeals to both facts about the world and facts about the person undergoing the emotion. The former sort of facts includes facts involving the object of the emotion. For instance, the fact that my friend hurt me explains why I feel anger towards him. The second sort of facts includes both psychological and non-psychological facts about the subject. For instance, the belief that my friend hurt me partly explains why I feel anger rather than joy, and facts about one's relative strength partly explains the fear one feels towards a big dog. There is a class of psychological facts, however, that seems to play a much more fundamental role in making the occurrence of emotions intelligible; these are facts about what the subject cares about. Emotions indeed intuitively appear to be intimately related to cares, concerns, or valuings. The goal of this presentation is to investigate the nature of this relationship.
Cain Todd (UniFr/Lancaster)
Objectivity in Emotion
Emma Tieffenbach (UniGe)
Discovering Economic Values
The theory of marginal utility predicts that the value of an economic good is determined by the importance someone confers to the least of her preferences, among those that are met from the available supply of similar goods. Because of the priority such a theory attributes to preferences in the explanation of what is good (i.e. valuable because preferred), the view is commonly characterized as a subjectivist theory. To what extent, however, can subjectivism be reconciled with a realist conception of value? In this talk, I address this question by examining whether the immunity from error principle holds in regard to economic goods. I will point to various ontological constraints that restrict the authorial role our preferences have in regard to what is economically valuable.
Fiora Salis (Lisbon)
I-desire and the problem of satisfaction condition
The problem of satisfaction conditions arises from the apparent difficulty of explaining the nature of the mental states involved in our response to tragic fictions. Gregory Currie has recently attempted to solve it by introducing a class of novel mental states – what he and others call i-desire. In this paper I articulate and discharge Currie's argument in favour of the i-desire solution.
François Jaquet (UniGe)
In defence of the moral error theory
An error theory about a given area of thought contends that all its judgments are false. Usually, it has two components: the psychological claim that judgments in this area presuppose the existence of certain things; and the ontological claim that there are no such things. Without much eccentricity, I will then argue that (i) moral thought is committed to the existence of irreducibly normative properties and facts and that (ii) there are actually no such properties and facts. In support of (i) I will criticize both the non-cognitivist idea that moral judgments are non-representative mental states and the reductionist view that they represent descriptive properties. (ii), I will contend, must be true because irreducible moral properties are explanatorily impotent. But I'll also answer some objections to the point that, even this being granted, we should accept them in our ontology.
Jean Mueller (Manchester)
Emotion, apprehension and position taking
I begin by introducing the view that emotions are experiential apprehensions of value, which I understand to be the currently predominant position in the philosophy of emotion. On the standard version of this view, emotions are like perceptions in that they apprehend properties by presenting them. I argue that this view rests on a mistaken conception of ordinary experience, drawing on phenomenological considerations in Dietrich von Hildebrand's early writings (esp. 1916). Von Hildebrand's considerations (which are also partly endorsed by Kevin Mulligan (2007, 2010)) suggest that emotions do not present values (or any other properties), but are rather specific experiential attitudes towards objects that respond to their values. I recommend von Hildebrand's alternative proposal as being more faithful to ordinary experience whilst recognizing that there is also a grain of phenomenological truth to the view under criticism. My task then is to show how to account for the aspect of emotional experience that allegedly supports the view of emotion as experiential apprehensions of value on von Hildebrand's picture.
Edoardo Zamuner (Hong Kong)
Emotions and Verb Aspect: A Vendlerian Approach to the Ontology of Emotions
A large portion of our emotion vocabulary consists of verbs (e.g. regret, resent, hate, fear, worry, etc.). Linguists argue that there is a relationship between the behaviour of verbs and the temporal structure of the situations they denote. For example, the verb spot behaves in such a way that it makes perfect sense to say I spot or spotted a plane at 4 o'clock whereas it makes no sense to say I have been spotting the plane for ten minutes. At best I have watched or I have been watching the plane for that period of time. This suggests that the verbs spot and watch denote different kinds of situations, that is, situations with different temporal structure where the temporal structure is defined as the specific way in which a situation fills time. Watch denotes a durative situation (i.e. a state or process) that takes up an indefinite amount of time whereas spot denotes an instantaneous or near-instantaneous situation that takes no time (i.e. an event). The two verbs therefore denote situations that fill time in different ways. Events occur, whereas, states obtain and processes unfold. These considerations suggest that spotting is a mental event whereas watching is a mental state or, alternatively, a mental process. What kind of situation does an emotion verb denote if I can both resent Jones for years and resent his tone as soon as he speaks to me? In this paper I examine the aspectual properties of emotion verbs, that is, the temporal structure of the situations they denote. My aim is to provide a conceptual framework for the study of the ontology of emotions. Philosophers acknowledge there is a close relationship between the temporal structure of a situation and its ontological profile. More precisely, we can think of the temporal structure as what determines the ontological profile of a situation. How do these considerations apply to emotions? My answer involves two steps. First, I adopt Zeno Vendler's approach to verbs, tenses and situations and apply it to emotion verbs. In particular, I consider linguistic evidence suggesting that emotion verbs denote states as well as instantaneous events (i.e. achievements in Vendler's terminology). With the only exception of the verb worry, the evidence suggests that emotions verbs do not denote processes. Second, I put forward the view that, in some cases, emotion verbs denote mental acts. I therefore claim that instances of emotions can qualify as mental acts. I consider three arguments in support of this view.
Agnes Moors (Ghent)
On the causal role of appraisal in emotion
Appraisal theories claim that appraisal causes emotion. Critics have rejected the causal claim because they believe (a) it is incomptible with the claim that appraisal is a part of emotion, (b) it has not received convincing empirical support, and (c) it is circular and hence non-empirical. My reply to the first objection is that the causal claim is incompatible with the claim that appraisal is a component of emotion in a strict sense, but this does not touch the heart of the causal claim, that appraisal causes the other components, nor the claim that appraisal is part of the content of feelings. My reply to the second objection is that the current lack of empirical support can be remedied by conducting more experimental studies in which real events are manipulated and components (action tendencies, physiological responses, expressive behavior) are measured instead of emotion words. Third, to solve the objection that causal claims concerning specific emotions are circular, theorists may again revert to measuring components of emotions. To solve the circularity of the causal claim concerning emotions in general, theorists may consider to no longer define emotions in terms of appraisals, but in terms of control precedence of the action tendencies, and/or synchronization among components. Even if these proposals would prove to be unsatisfying, there would still be plenty to gain from studying the causal influence of appraisals on other component regardless of their emotional status.
Eva Pool (UniGe)
Dissociating mechanisms involved in wanting versus liking: from animals to humans
Common sense suggests that we want what we like. Experiments conducted mainly by Berridge and colleagues in animals demonstrated that this is not always the case. They showed that under some particular circumstances it is possible i) to make rats want something that they do not like, and ii) to prevent them from wanting something that they like. The dissociation between wanting and liking has been widely replicated in animal research. However, in human research, there is no agreement concerning the existence of this dissociation. We will analyze the reasons underlying this disagreement. First, we will define the theoretical concepts called "wanting" and "liking" in animal research. Second, we will describe the psychological mechanisms supposed to underlie this dissociation. Based on these observations, we will discuss the pertinence of the concepts of "wanting" and "liking" in humans. Planned studies and preliminary results "linking" "wanting" and attention will also be described.
Gianfranco Soldati (UniFr)
Correctness and Appropriateness in Perception
Abstract: If one accepts that perceptual experiences deliver immediate justification, then one seems to be committed to a view which maintains that in perceptual experience we stand in direct relation to external facts. This is sometimes taken to mean that immediate justification implies a certain kind of disjunctive conception of perceptual experiences. I accept the premise but reject (at least one version of) the conclusion. In this talk I submit that the argument that goes from the true premise to the false conclusion relies partly on the presupposition that a perceptual experience is appropriate when its correctness conditions are satisfied. I want to argue that perceptual experiences do not have correctness conditions but can nevertheless be said to be more or less appropriate. The argument is partly based on my understanding of Husserl's theory of perception.
Peter Railton (Michigan)
Rational Desire and Rationality in Desire: An Unapologetic Defense" (Discussion of article with author)
Christine Tappolet (Montreal)
Emotions, reasons, and autonomy
What is the relation between autonomy and emotions? According to an influential account, autonomy can be spelled out in terms of a capacity for critical evaluation. The question of the relation between autonomy and emotions thus becomes that of the relation between the capacity to respond to reasons, on the one hand, and emotions, on the other hand. On the basis of an account of emotions according to which emotions are perceptions of evaluative properties, the paper argues that emotions can inform us about reasons, but also that acting on emotions can count as acting in the light of reasons. By way of conclusion I turn to autonomy, and consider the implication of the perceptual account of emotions for autonomy theories. The upshot of the discussion is that if the perceptual account of emotions is on the right lines, it is a mistake to think that there is an important difference between reason-responsiveness and care accounts of autonomy.
Second semester 2011-2012 (March, 01 - June, 22)
Olivier Massin (Geneva)
The Axiological Theory of Pleasure
Consider the two following lists: (1) a person, a leg, a chair, a belief, a door banging, a shadow, a number, a hole, a mountain, a movie, a pressure, a surface, an angle, a discovery. (2) a gentleman, an exploit, a coward, an injustice, a chef-d'oeuvre, a tragedy, a sin, a genius, a splendor, a virtue, a hero, a mistake, a marvel, a kindness. I shall argue that pleasures belong to the second list. Reference: Von Wright, G.H., 1963, The varieties of goodness, London & Kegan Paul, chap. IV, The hedonic good.
David Furrer (Geneva)
Emotions, Emotional Dispositions and Justification
It is common practice to explain emotions by means of emotional dispositions such as temperaments, character traits or sentiments: Walt got angry at the slow driver in front of him because he is of the irascible kind (temperament), Skyler feels guilty not to report the tax fraud going on in her company because she is an honest person (character trait), and Jesse burst into tears upon receiving the news of his friend's death because he loved him (sentiment). These are perfectly ordinary and sensible folk psychological explanations (a systematic philosophical treatment of such explanations is found in Deonna & Teroni 2009). In addition to providing explanations, though, some emotional dispositions are also sometimes taken to justify particular emotional episodes. I want to concentrate on one way of arguing in favour of such a claim. The reasoning goes as follows. Some emotional dispositions are more reliable trackers of value than others. A temperament like being irascible, for instance, disposes the subject to get angry at, so to say, arbitrary selected objects. Character traits or virtues like being a coward or courageous, on the other hand, can be said to reliably track danger. What difference does it make to the justification of the emotions, then, if one or the other of these dispositions causes them? Reference: Julien Deonna & Fabrice Teroni (2009) "Taking affective explanations to heart", Social Science Information 48(3), 359-377.
Bennett Helm
On Being Beholden to the World: Why Haugeland's Transcendental Existentialism Needs the Reactive Attitudes
The talk will largely be a response to John Haugeland's "Truth and Finitude: Heidegger's Transcendental Existentialism", in Mark A Wrathall and Jeff Malpas (eds.), Heidegger, Authenticity, and Modernity: Essays in Honor of Hubert L. Dreyfus, Vol. 1 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 43–77. Very roughly, my claim will be that the responsibility to the world to which Haugeland appeals to ground objectivity and truth must be not individual responsibility (as he claims) but our joint responsibility; such joint responsibility is intelligible only in terms of the reactive attitudes, emotions that consequently are central to objectivity and truth. Reference: Haugeland's paper can be found at
Anne Meylan
The rightness of justifiedness
It is hardly possible to overstate the use that the epistemologists make of the property of being justified, i.e. justifiedness. Quite surprisingly, however, the question of what justifiedness really is has been very rarely raised (Alston is a noticeable exception). The purpose of my presentation is to provide a preliminary answer to this question. One thing seems clear: justifiedness is a normative property. But, which one is it? In the first part of my talk, I will argue against various claims respectively identifying justifiedness to a deontic property, a value property and an aretic property. In the second part, I will argue that to be justified is to exemplify a fourth kind of normative property: to be justified is to be right. Finally, I will defend this view against different objections. Reference: ALSTON, WILLIAM P., Concepts of Epistemic Justification , Monist, 68:1, 1985.
Emma Tieffenbach
The Sounds of Institutional Facts
Searle offers three arguments supporting the view that institutional facts are language dependent. One, institutional thoughts are too complex to be held without language. Two, institutional facts would remain invisible if they were not publicly represented by means of some linguistic symbols. Three, the changes that are brought about each time an institutional fact obtains could not take place if those thoughts were not sub-types of speech acts, namely declarations, the latter being characterized by an external, non-psychological, side in virtue of which uttering them is doing something. The paper reviews these arguments, shows what is wrong with the first two, and proposes a few refinements to the third one.
Florian Cova (Geneva)
Action-directed and agent-directed emotions: A tentative classification of moral emotions
Reference: Rozin, P., Lowery, L., Imada, S. & Haidt, J. "The CAD triad hypothesis: A mapping between three moral emotions and three moral codes", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 4, 574-586.
Federico Lauria
On a Whim
Sometimes desires go wrong. Among inappropriate desires figure whims or caprices. Indeed, superficial, arbitrary and infantile are common characterisations used to evaluate whims. But what are whims and what goes wrong with them? In this talk, this question is addressed by paying attention to the main views of desires present in the current literature. This requires first to establish that whims necessarily are desires (I), and to clarify the type of inappropriateness involved in whims, i.e. either incorrectness or irrationality (or both) (II). It is then argued that understanding desires as being axiological attitudes or motivational states can't make sense of whims (III-IV). By contrast, conceiving of desires as deontic attitudes – to desire that p is to conceive p as what should/ought to obtain – has the structural resources to account for whims, or so it is claimed (V). Along those lines, the following picture of whims is defended. A desire that p is a whim if and only if, as far as the subject's well-being is concerned, either p is neither required nor forbidden [incorrect whim] or p isn't presented as such to the subject [irrational whim]. If this is correct, whims are inappropriate in virtue of the value of the good life the subjects fails to appreciate. Reference: To my knowledge, there aren't systematic treatments of whims in the contemporary literature. Still one might have a look at P. Pettit & M. Smith (2009), 'Practical Unreason' in Mind, Morality, and Explanation, Clarendon Press, for some insights.
26.04: episteme workshop on Evidence and Explanation
with Alexander Bird (Bristol), Juan Comesana (Arizona), Raphael Scholl (Bern), Kevin Mulligan (Geneva), Marcel Weber (Geneva). Date: April 25th and 26th 2012.
Clare Mac Cumhaill
Lasting Surprise
I argue that while there may well be reasons for thinking that surprise is not an emotion, insisting that it lacks genuine duration – or more specifically, that it has no temporal profile or shape - is not one of them. In particular, I advance two descriptive claims. First, I argue that a necessary feature of the phenomenology of surprise is the experience of its being sudden, and so, punctual. One does not feel surprise 'welling up' inside one as one does with sadness. Nor does one typically experience it growing in intensity (compare Alice growing curiouser and curiouser). To account for this phenomenology, I suggest we appeal to the experience enjoyed over the interval of time in which the experience of surprise occurs. Second, drawing on Peter Goldie's recent narrative treatment of grief (Ratio 2011), I argue that there is a sense in which surprise can be understood as a perspectival phenomenon. This brings into view its peculiar way of lasting.
Reference: Schulte, Joachim. 2009. 'Wittenstein on Emotion'. In Ylva Gustafsson, Camilla Kronqvst and Michael McEachrane (eds), Emotions and Understanding, Wittgensteinean Perspectives. Palgrave MacMillan. Download pdf here
Anja Berninger
An Adverbial Theory of the Emotions?
I propose a new theory of emotions which I call the adverbial theory. The main claim of this theory is that we should understand emotions not primarily as states with a certain representational content, but rather as sets of modifications of certain mental processes. My approach thus differs clearly from the classical cognitivist as well as the so-called perceptual theories of emotions. I argue for my theory in two steps: In a first step I show that there is good reason to think emotions at least involve modifications of higher mental processes. I do so by exploring three different pieces of evidence: Evidence from our every-day way of speaking about emotions, evidence from the phenomenology of emotions and evidence from psychological studies of emotions. In a second step I argue that these modifications are not simply an additional aspect of emotions. In other words: We should not assume that this is something we can simply "add onto" existing cognitivist or perceptual theories. My argument here will turn on the way that emotions are related to their objects. I will try to show that seeing emotions primarily as modifications gives us a better understanding of the sense in which they are and the sense in which they are not intentional.
Samuel Lepine
Unity and plasticity of the emotions
It is well-known that the unity of the emotions can raise some difficulties. To a certain extent, we can assimilate emotions with modular processes. On the other hand, emotions seem to be highly plastic: they can be self-regulated, and they incorporate cognitive processes. Finally, it has been argued in a lot of papers that emotions can be socially constructed. We certainly need to know whether emotions form a single and unified ontological category or not. But for that purpose, we also need to understand the cognitive mechanisms that underlie the plasticity of the emotions. We would like to determine, in this manner, the part of social interactions in the calibration of emotions. References: Christine Tappolet & Luc Faucher (2007), "Facts and Values in Emotional Plasticity", in Les Cahiers du Lanci, 6 (2007-02):1-37. Paul E. Griffiths, What emotions really are (1997), Chicago, University of Chicago Press, chapter 1.
Santiago Echeverri
Cognitive Value without Modes of Presentation
Abstract: A well-entrenched tradition assumes that differences in cognitive value require the introduction of modes of presentation. This paper argues that this assumption is ill-motivated and sketches a content-free account. In the critical part, I submit that a neutral characterization of Frege cases undermines the project to introduce modes of presentation. The positive suggestion has two sides: First, Frege cases should be traced back to failures in sameness recognition abilities. Given the context-sensitivity of these failures, one should not explain them by means of modes of presentation. Second, I argue that, if language is understood as an artifact that enhances human recognition abilities, linguistic versions of Frege cases should be explained by means of the shape of words. I develop this idea by arguing that human cognitive systems are governed by two pre-linguistic principles that explain why sentences of the form "Hesperus is Phosphorus" are usually interpreted as cognitively valuable, whereas sentences of the form "Hesperus is Hesperus" are usually taken to be trivial. As a result, one can show how some co-referential expressions acquire different roles in the cognitive economy of speakers without presupposing the existence of modes of presentation. Reference: Millikan, Ruth Garrett (1997) Images of Identity: In Search of Modes of Presentation, Mind, 106 (423): 499-519.
Amanda Garcia
What Video Games Can Teach us about Fiction and Emotions
Philosophy of fiction is often based on the examination of literary fictions. Recently, however, philosophers have argued that we have to take into account other media, in order to be able to propose comprehensive theories of fiction or art. In this context, the recent philosophical interest shown for videogames has its role to play. By considering videogames, as examples of interactive fictions, we can refine our understanding of fiction in general. I will first examine the characterization offered by Kendall Walton of our engagement with fiction. I will focus on two elements of his account, namely the distinction between the work world (what is true according to the work of fiction) and the game world (very sketchily, what is true according to particular engagements with the work), and the idea that our engagement with fiction is closed under the widest scope of the fictional operator (that is, my engagement is composed only or mainly by non-serious, imaginative mental states, and not by real beliefs, desires or emotions). Contra Tavinor, I will argue that the game/work world distinction is preserved in videogames. However, interactive videogames give us reasons to question the scope of the fictional operator. This in turn motivates a second look at the scope of the fictional operator in the case of non-interactive fiction. In a second time, I will focus on the nature of our affective reactions to fictional works. First, interactive videogames, notably by giving us reasons to question the scope of the fictional operator, contribute to make it more plausible that we can have genuine emotions in reaction to fiction. Second, the comparison between interactive and non-interactive fictions teach us lessons as to the different kinds of affective reactions provoked by fiction. I will conclude by arguing that works of fiction can provoke both genuine emotions and quasi-emotions, and that the kind of fiction one engages with affects the kind of affective reactions one can have towards it.emotions.
First semester 2011-2012 (September, 19 - December, 23)
Tim Bayne (Oxford, St Catherine)
The structure of consciousness:building blocks or a unified field?

Philipp Gerrans & Kevin Mulligan
Imagination and delusions

Deonna & Teroni
discussion of chapts 8,9 and 10 of their book.

Paolo Spinicci (Milan)
The Concept of Involvement and the Paradox of Fiction

Janna Hastings (UniGE)
Defining the emotions in the emotion ontology

Anita Konzelmann Ziv,
"Vocation" - The Call of Inner Necessity

Florian Cova (UniGE)
Classifying moral emotions: A proposal

Federico Lauria (UniGE)
The Death of desires. How and why desires die

Fabrice Teroni, (Unige)
Emotions and the Self

Andras Szigeti, (Lund)
No need to get emotional? Some worries about touchy-feely metaethics.

David Furrer, (UniGe)
Emotion, Emotional Dispositions and Justification

Marta Vidal (UAB, Barcelona)
Agency and control
Second semester 2010-2011 (February, 21 - June, 03)
Durant le second semestre, le séminaire interne du groupe de recherche Thumos est jumelé avec le séminaire de spécialisation "Problèmes cardiologiques II".
G. Fréchette (Montréal)
Emotivisme vs intentionalisme sur la conscience de soi
La présentation sera axée sur une comparaison de deux positions qu'on retrouve en phénoménologie: une position largement brentanienne (intentionaliste) et une position dite émotiviste (ou 'affectiviste': le terme vise ici à traduire 'Gefühl') sur la nature de la conscience que nous avons de nos expériences: cette dernière est en gros celle de Lipps mais aussi celle de plusieurs phénoménologues de Munich. J'essaie d'évaluer la position que prend la théorie émotiviste vis-à-vis la théorie intentionnaliste en ce qui concerne la conscience de soi.
Dan Demetriou (Minnesota)
Honor for Ethicists
This paper introduces the idea of honor ethics. I begin by arguing that the most popular account of honor in the social-science literature, one initially forwarded by cultural psychologists Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen, is false. In its place I urge the 'competition ethic' account, which aspires to something like analytical precision while capturing the richness of the honor ethos. I show that honor should be considered an "ethical foundation" in Jonathan Haidt's sense of the term, since the honor ethos comes complete with unique principles, affects, responses to code-violations, and (plausibly) its own evolutionary history. I also contrast honor with some more familiar values, especially justice, and explain in what ways they are diametrically opposed and in what ways close cousins. I conclude by defending the status of honor as a (putative) /moral /value.
F. Jaquet (Genève)
Un nouvel argument en faveur de l'utilitarisme
Angela Martin (Genève)
Vulnerability, a conceptual analysis
Alix Cohen (Neuchâtel / York)
Kant's Transcendental 'Aesthetic of Morals':The Affective Conditions of Moral Experience
Guy Fletcher (Oxford)
Brown and Moore's Value Invariabilism versus Dancy's Variabilism
Campbell Brown has recently argued that G.E. Moore's intrinsic value holism is superior to Jonathan Dancy's. I show that the advantage which Brown claims for Moore's view over Dancy's is illusory, and that Dancy's view may be superior.
Fabian Dorsch (Fribourg)
Non-Inferentialism about the Recognition of Values and Other Higher-Level Properties
L. Angelone (Genève)
What it is like to have an emotional experience
My general aim is to deal with the relation between phenomenology and intentionality in experience of emotions. According to a widely held view (see, for example, Goldie, Prinz and Tye), the connection of phenomenal character and representational content in emotional experiences is explainable adopting a perceptual model which recruits the phenomenology of bodily feelings. I will argue that this view is problematic and unstable since either the idea which emotions are analogous to perceptual states call for a revision or the hypothesis of bodily feelings should be abandoned looking for a distinctive and proprietary phenomenology of emotional experiences.
12 mai: Présentations des Etudiants CS Philosophie pratique
20-1 mai:Conference Emotion, Self, and Time
Information here.
26-7 mai : Conference on Organic Unities – Parts, Wholes and Values.
Information here.
First semester 2010-2011 (September, 20 - December, 20)
23 Septembre: THUMOS SEMINAR
Florian Cova
Moral responsibilities and moral emotions
How do we attribute moral responsibility and how are these attributions linked to emotions ? In a first part, I will present a psychological model for attribution of moral responsibility that distinguishes two kinds of moral responsibiliy : moral responsibility as "attributability" and moral responsibility as "accountability". Then I'll propose a classification of moral emotions according to the kind of moral responsibility they are linked to and present results of an experiment that put this classification to test. Finally, I will discuss the thesis according to which moral emotions are not only the result of our attributions of responsibility but also their source and present experimental data from a study on patient with dorso-frontal lesions.
30 Septembre : THUMOS SEMINAR
Gerard O'Brien
How does mind matter ?
Nothing could be more obvious than that minds matter. Specifically, nothing could be more obvious than that mental phenomena—beliefs, desires, thoughts, perceptions, and so forth—have a causal impact on behaviour. Yet it has proved notoriously difficult to explain how this can be so. The problem of mental causation takes a number of forms in the philosophy of mind. One of these arises from the widely held thesis that the representational properties of mental phenomena fail to supervene on the physical properties of the brain. The standard response to this form of the problem has been the narrow content program—the project of developing an account of mental content that does supervene on the brain. But the various narrow content proposals found in the literature suffer from the criticism that they fail to capture the relational character of mental content, and hence that narrow content so construed "isn't real content". It is the principal contention of this paper that the apparent insolubility of this form of the problem of mental causation stems from the "referential" conception of mental content that dominates the philosophy of mind. Once we recognise we are not obliged to accept this conception, and moreover that there is an alternative conception available, some elbow room is opened up for exploration. This paper will proceed by exploring the space created by this alternative conception of mental content.
Daan Evers
On Being Relatively Funny
Relativists about sentences like 'Clowns are funny' believe that the proposition expressed is not implicitly about anyone's responses to clowns. I consider what they would have to say about the semantic value of predicates like 'funny' and 'delicious' and argue that there are no plausible candidates.
Christine Tappolet
Valeurs et émotions vicieuses
Les émotions ont longtemps été considérées comme profondément problématiques. Depuis quelques années, un nouveau consensus s'est établit. Loin de constituer un obstacle à la rationalité, les émotions seraient à la fois nécessaires au bon fonctionnement de la raison et essentielles à l'action morale. D'une manière ou d'une autre, les émotions nous permettraient de détecter ce qui est signifiant pour nous. C'est notamment ce qu'affirme la théorie perceptuelle des émotions, selon laquelle les émotions sont des perceptions des valeurs. Certaines sortes d'émotions, comme la haine, le mépris ou la jalousie, se prêtent assez mal à une telle revalorisation : ce sont des émotions répugnantes. La question qui m'intéresse est de savoir s'il est possible de rendre compte du caractère répugnant de certaines émotions sans renoncer pour autant à la théorie perceptuelle.
Anita Konzelmann Ziv
Emotional Sharing - The We-Mode Assumption
Philosophical attempts to answer the question of how emotional states can be shared often resort to the pronoun 'we': it is assumed that we-modification disambiguates the conception of emotional sharing in a decisive way. This assumption presupposes a relevant analogy between self-attribution and experience. I will examine the we-mode assumption by investigating the following points: 1) Using a grammatically first person device is a means of self-attributing a property. 2) Self-attribution comes in two varieties: narrative and experiential. 3) Narrative self-attribution is propositional and regimented by the rules of natural languages. 4) Roughly speaking, experiential self-attribution is awareness of subjecthood/authorship in an ongoing experience. 5) Narrative self-attribution in the plural is inherently ambivalent with regard to the referential closure of 'we' ('us', 'our/s'). 6) Claiming that there is "we-mode" feeling (experiential self-attribution) is claiming some relevant similarity (formal, functional) between experience and narrative attribution. 7) The relevant similarity is an inherent ambivalence with regard to the closure of subjecthood. 8) Awareness of subjecthood is one. 9) If awareness of subjecthood allows I- and We-modification, the modification does not concern reference to different subjects. 10) I- and We-modification regulate the momentary closure of subjecthood in the way a zoom lens regulates the momentary closure of a perspective. The upshot of these considerations is a deflationary account of emotional sharing.
Luca Angelone
Phenomenal Concepts and Emotions
Federico Lauria
Direction of Fit
Rowland Stout
Seeing Sadness
23 December
Alain Pé-Curto