Schedule of upcoming events
On this page, we advertise the research activities that are of interest to members and friends of Thumos, especially the Thumos seminar, which is the main research activity of our group. Thumos seminars take place on Thursdays, 16h15-17h45 at UniPhilosophes (room PHIL116). Archives of the seminar are available here.
Members of the Swiss Doctoral School in Affective Sciences get credits if they participate to the seminar and their travel expenses can be reimbursed within Switzerland.
We also indicate events that may be of interest to students of the emotions or that happen on the same day :
- The CISA Lecture series take place on Tuesday, 12h15-13h15 at the Campus Biotech (seminar room will be communicated by e-mail to the members).
- The Quodlibeta takes place on Wednesday, 14h15-16h00 at the IFAGE (IF408).
- The Phileas talks usually takes place on Thursdays, 18h15-20h00 (PHIL201)
September 29, 2022 – Thumos Seminar
Mathilde Cappelli (Geneva)
The epistemic value of sexual fantasy
It is a striking fact that while much work has been devoted in the philosophical literature to the nature, norms and value of imagination, those of fantasy have received very few attention. This unfortunate situation may be due to the fact that, very often, fantasy seems to be conceived as a mere subcategory of imagination, from which there would not be much to learn.
In this talk, I shall address several issues related to sexual fantasy and focus on the specific question of its epistemic value (if any). In order to do so, I shall first explore what is usually said about the epistemic value of imagination in general. I shall then be in position to explore the hypothesis that there is a distinctive epistemic value of fantasy. I shall argue that sexual fantasy provides us a direct epistemic access to some of our preferences—i.e. our sexual preferences—contrary to other forms of imagination. This difference, I shall argue, is based on the fact that fantasizing does not merely consist in imagining that I would like something, but partly consists in liking what I imagine. In other words, being sexually aroused and pleased by what I sexually fantasize puts me in a position to know what I am sexually attracted to. But when it comes to most of other forms of imaginative activity from which I conclude that I would like this or that, the possibility that I’m wrong is much higher because, in these imaginative activities, I am not pleased by what I imagine I would like.
October 13, 2022 – Thumos Seminar
Filippo Contesi (Barcelona)
The Affective Nature of Horror
The horror genre (in film, literature etc.) has, for its seemingly paradoxical aesthetic appeal, been the subject of much debate in contemporary, analytic philosophy of art. At the same time, however, the nature of horror as an affective phenomenon has been largely neglected by both aestheticians and philosophers of mind. The standard view of the affective nature of horror in contemporary philosophy follows Noël Carroll in holding that horror in art (or “art-horror”) is an emotion resulting from the combination of disgust and fear. The view is also often accompanied by the view that horror in art is a distinct affect from horror in real life. This raises the question of what the relationship between horror in art and in real life might be. By looking within and outside art and the horror genre, and using a combination of historical, philosophical and empirical arguments, I argue for a departure from such standard views on the affective nature of horror. In alternative, I outline a novel view, on which horror is common to both real life and art and is primarily, typically individuated by a set of (output) affective reactions.
October 20, 2022 – Thumos Seminar
Andrea Rivadulla Durò (Antwerp)
The Prima Facie View of experiential imagination
Perception is said to have assertoric force: It inclines the perceiver to believe its content. In contrast, experiential imagination—perception-like imaginings from a first-person perspective—is commonly taken to be non-assertoric: Imagining winning a piano contest does not incline the imaginer to believe that she has won a piano contest. However, plenty of evidence from clinical and experimental psychology shows that imagination can influence attitudes and behavior to a degree similar to perceptual experience. In this talk I propose that experiential imaginings have by default implicit assertoric force and put forth a theory—the Prima Facie View—as a unified explanation for the empirical findings reviewed. According to the Prima Facie View, mental images and percepts are indistinguishable in operations involving the intuitive system. Because of this, imagining is never an innocuous epistemic enterprise. I will address alternative strategies that could also account for the empirical evidence reviewed—such as a Spinozian model of belief formation or Gendler’s notion of alief—and potential objections to the Prima Facie View.
October 27, 2022 – Thumos Seminar
Paul Noordhof (York)
Conscious Attention and the Attraction of Belief
Two plausible features of belief are the transparency of doxastic deliberation and the uncontrollability thesis (it is not possible to believe at will). Standard explanations of these features either appeal to a putative link between belief and truth specified in terms of aims, norms or functions or appeal to a feature of action. I argue that these approaches don’t work. Instead, the proper way to explain these features is terms of a striking feature of conscious attention.
November 1st, 2022 – Extra Seminar
Alexander Velichkov (Lund)
The Internal Court of Guilt and Regret: Lorry Drivers, Gauguins, and Rational Plans of Life
A widespread view in the contemporary responsibility literature is that the self-directed emotions of guilt and regret 1) are forms of self-blame 2) that are fitting only if the agent’s (moral) error was under her control. I defend an interpretation of Bernard Williams’s “Moral Luck” and build on his insights in order to criticize both ideas. Guilt and regret are not only painful expressions of self-blame, but also fulfill important functions—such as motivating reflection and negotiation—in ambiguous situations where blameworthiness is not yet established. Furthermore, guilt and regret are noninstrumentally valuable acknowledgments of an agent’s faults, concerns, and values, even when her faults were outside of her control. However, I also suggest that there is room for ambivalence: sometimes an agent's guilt or regret can be tempered by the thought that she couldn’t have done better at the time with what was in her control.
This seminar will take place from 2PM to 3.30PM at Campus Biotech, room H8.01.F
November 3, 2022 – Thumos Seminar
Hanno Sauer (Utrecht)
The mainstream in moral psychology and empirically informed metaethics tries to study the nature of moral judgment by looking at affective and cognitive processes which are carried out by somatic systems (the brain etc.) which are based in our biology. Moral psychology (and empirically informed metaethics) is done by studying individual minds (statistically aggregated into population averages) and the mental processes (cognition, emotion, etc.) that go on within them. Such “vertical” approaches to studying the mind ignore the fact that almost all of our cognition is thoroughly “horizontal”, that is, we are malleable social learners who get almost all of their skills and beliefs from other people, via processes of horizontal transmission from others in networks of families, friends, peers, colleagues, experts, celebrities, and -- finally but perhaps most importantly -- the accumulated cultural reservoir handed down to us from previous generations. In short: We are thoroughly cultural beings, shaped by cultural evolution. We get most of our beliefs, including our moral ones, not from “System I” or “System II”, but from horizontal cultural transmission and the role it plays in cultural evolution. But how does horizontal moral psychology look like? How does empirically informed metaethics change shape when we look at it through the lens of cultural evolution?
November 17, 2022 – Thumos Seminar
Monika Betzler (Munich)
Moral Indifference (with Jonas Vandieken)
We all have an interest in how others are attuned to us and whether or how they recognize and acknowledge us as participants in the moral universe. In turn, we are vulnerable to being wronged by others if they fail to be attuned to us in the right way or if they fail to accord us the appropriate recognition and acknowledgment. We offer an analysis of moral indifference as a distinct kind of relational wrong – a failure to accord what we call basic second-personal moral regard. We do so by (i) locating moral indifference in conceptual space, (ii) demonstrating how it wrongs others in more injurious, because more fundamental, ways than more familiar kinds of relational wrongs. Lastly, we (iii) consider two important implications, namely that Peter Strawson’s distinction between the participant stance and the objective stance needs to be complemented by the indifferent stance and that in contexts where a certain kind of second-personal demand is unjustified, moral indifference can sometimes be less injurious way to respond to such a demand than outright rejection and denigration of another person.
November 24, 2022 — CISA's Annual Research Forum and Brain Forum Emotions
December 1st, 2022 – Thumos Seminar
Becky Millar (York)
Can animals grieve?
Research into non-human animals has found behaviours that look very much like manifestations of grief. Many species seem to experience prolonged distress at the loss of a companion or relative and engage in distinctive death-related behaviours. However, recent work within the philosophy of grief challenges the idea that non-human animals can grieve. This is because grief, in contrast to more rudimentary emotional experiences, is taken to require potentially high-level abilities, such as a fine-grained sense of particularity and temporarily and an understanding of the death. This paper argues that these features of grief do not preclude animals, and that certain animals can, and do, grieve. In making this argument, I clarify that the principal kind of ‘understanding’ involved in grief is not intellectual, but is instead of a practical variety, and outline ways that the disruption to an animal’s life following a loss can hinge upon a particular individual and involve a degree of temporal organisation.
December 8, 2022 – Thumos Seminar
Matthew Talbert (Lund)
Blaming Reasonable Wrongdoers
This paper focuses on the relationship between judgments of blameworthiness and the moral perspectives of agents. Many responsibility theorists believe that if a wrongdoer reasonably judges that she acts permissibly, then she is not open to moral blame. I argue that blame is not necessarily out of place in the case of such “reasonable wrongdoers.” I suggest that, while we often do excuse reasonable wrongdoers, this may be because we find that their normative outlook overlaps with our own in some significant way. Examples that feature reasonable wrongdoers who are excused on this basis do not support the proposition that wrongdoers can be excused just because of their own perspective on their behavior. For such support, we should look to cases that feature relatively little (potentially excusing, in our eyes) overlap between our own moral outlook and that of a wrongdoer. But, again, we do not find decisive support in these cases for the claim that reasonable wrongdoers are excused as it may not be clear to us that the wrongdoers in these cases are not blameworthy.
December 15, 2022 – Thumos Seminar
Céline Schöpfer (Geneva)
Thinking (Too) Fast or (Too) Slow: Critical Thinking as a Time Process
Although critical thinking is seen as an essential remedy to face the various epistemic pitfalls of our time, the notion of ‘critical thinking’ is vague and hard to define. Therefore, an effort of conceptual clarification is necessary. To this end, I propose to consider critical thinking as a temporal process. This model enables me to clarify the nature of critical thinking, but also to identify the key moments when individuals are likely not to use their critical skills. I suggest a five-step model and specifically analyze two moments when the critical process is likely to fail. To clarify these two key moments, I use the trade-off between exploration and exploitation applied to decision-making. The first moment is the failure to engage in the critical process and in deliberative thinking. I conceptualize this problem as an excess of exploitation and analyze the motivational issues related to it. The second is the failure to complete the critical process and thus achieve epistemic success. I analyze this problem as an excess of exploration. In both cases, I propose solutions, inspired by virtue epistemology.
December 22, 2022 – Thumos Seminar
Agnès Baehni (Geneva)
Angry and Guilty? The Schizophrenic Nature of Self-Blame
In recent years, there has been many attempts to define blame. Philosophers have come up against difficulties, foremost among which is the extremely diverse nature of what we call blame. To bypass this problem, the most common strategy has been to study the general phenomenon without focusing on specific types of blame. This is a problem in that it has left phenomena such as self-blame unexplored. In this presentation, I try to remedy this shortcoming. I examine self-blame’s emotional dimension by discussing its link with the self-regarding emotions of guilt, shame, self-anger and remorse. While the emotional theory of blame is plausible, it faces a major challenge in clarifying exactly which emotion is being referred to. I give two reasons to explain this difficulty. First, there exist several subcategories of self-blame, paradigmatically associated with different emotions. Second, the person who blames herself may experience two categories of emotions: those associated with the “blamer” perspective and those characteristic of a “blamee” perspective. While discussing this issue, I draw on Shoemaker’s recent account of angry self-blame.