Thumos Seminar 2024

weekly research talks on emotions, values, norms


    The Thumos seminar, which is the main research activity of Thumos, the Genevan Research Group on Emotions, Values and Norms, takes place on Thursdays, 16h15-17h45 at UniP hilosophes (room PHIL001). The schedule can be found here. The archives of the Thumos seminar are available here

    February 29, 2024 – Thumos Seminar

    András Szigeti (Linköping)

    Focusing Forgiveness

    This paper aims to forge a link among the topics of forgiveness, moral responsibility, Strawsonian reactive attitudes, and the philosophy of emotions. I argue that forgiveness has an important affective component, and more specifically, that forgiveness is the positively-valenced counterpart of resentment.

    March 7, 2024 – Thumos Seminar

    Stacie Friend (Edinburgh)

    Emotional Engagement

    Fictional characters do not exist; fictional events have not occurred. So why do we care about fictional characters and what happens to them? Why do we sympathize with Elizabeth Bennet as she seeks happiness (in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice), pity the slave Cora as she suffers savage abuse (in Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad), condemn Okonkwo for killing Ikemefuna (in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart), or admire Anjum for her resilience (in Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness)? Why do we fear for Ellen Ripley (in Ridley Scott’s Alien) or hope that Ada will find love (in Jane Campion’s The Piano)? Philosophical debate about emotional responses to fiction have focused on two issues. The first is descriptive: What is the nature of emotions toward fictional characters and situations? Specifically, do these responses differ in kind from emotions in other contexts? The second is normative: Is there something irrational or otherwise inappropriate in responding emotionally to what does not exist? Or are emotions toward fiction governed by different norms than emotions in other contexts?

    Standard approaches to these questions fail to recognize the role played by truths, including truths about existence and nonexistence, in our emotional engagement with fiction. Once we grasp this role, we will see that emotions in different contexts differ from each other to various degrees along multiple dimensions—not because they are (or are not) responses to fiction or fictional characters, but because they turn on facts about the real world in different respects.


    March 14, 2024 – Thumos Seminar

    Hichem Naar (Duisburg-Essen)

    The Puzzle of Emotional Reasons-Responsiveness

    The idea that emotions display genuine responsivity to reasons is commonplace in contemporary philosophy of emotion. Emotions, according to this common thought, are – like belief – responses one can acquire and regulate on the basis of reasons, rather than being merely caused in a non-rational way, in turn making the agent a suitable target of rational praise and criticism. Emotions thus can be justified or unjustified in a sense analogous to that of belief and action when they are based on adequate reasons. That emotions can be justified in this way has been taken by many philosophers as a piece of datum that any adequate theory should accommodate. In this paper, I argue that the possibility of a genuinely rational acquisition and regulation of emotions can be cast into doubt, in light of both the nature of reasons- responsiveness and the nature of emotions. The puzzle of emotional reasons-responsiveness, as I call it, asks us how emotions can count as rational (in the sense of reasons-responsive) given that in crucial respects they look like arational mental entities. I discuss possible solutions and sketch my own. I argue that to secure the idea of emotional reasons-responsiveness while accommodating the apparent arationality of some emotions, we should attend to the various ways we can relate to emotions, in particular the question of the source of our emotions in our minds.


    March 21, 2024 – Thumos Seminar

    Miloud Belkoniene (Zürich)

    Moral Intuitionism: Between Reasons and Inclinations

    This paper examines moral intuitionism as formulated by Tropman. In Tropman’s view, moral intuitionism is best construed as the claim that some moral beliefs can be justified without being based on reasons. While this construal of the view has several advantages, it raises an important question: how can a subject be doxastically justified in believing a moral proposition without that belief being based on reasons? I argue that a plausible answer can be provided in light of a specific conception of the bases of intuitively justified beliefs. Such beliefs result from doxastic inclinations and because those inclinations can, depending on the circumstances, explanatorily cohere with the support provided to their object by reasons, beliefs that result from those inclinations can be justified. 


    March 28, 2024 – Thumos Seminar

    Stéphane Lemaire (Rennes)

    Intrinsic Norms for Emotions and the Internalist Condition

    Terms such as admirable, amusing or disgusting refer to affective values that should plausibly be analyzed along a buck-passing of fitting attitude analysis account. Briefly put, the suggestion is that an object is admirable if and only if and because there are reasons, or it is fitting, to admire it. However, the former account faces the wrong kind of reason problem and the latter a very similar one. One main strategy to overcome the problem is to claim that pragmatic considerations such as incentives cannot be reasons for emotions. To justify the claim, one often appeals to an internalist constraint. Roughly, the general idea is that a consideration cannot be a reason to have an emotion if one cannot react to this consideration by having the emotion. In the present paper, I show that the internalist criterion, however it is formulated, fails with regard to emotions, at least insofar as it is supposed to exclude pragmatic considerations. Moreover, I show that, given that most emotions are learned, the internalist constraint on reasons as it has been formulated lacks justification. Starting from these elements, I offer a very different and novel internalist constraint on reasons for emotions. However, if it is correct, then reason for emotion must be pragmatic though not all pragmatic considerations will be reasons. I conclude that philosophers attracted by a BPA of FAA should either give up on the internalist criterion or revise it seriously and hence change what they take as the reasons to have emotions, and thus the direction in which a BPA or FAA should be envisaged.

    April 11, 2024 – Thumos Seminar

    Nils-Hennes Stear (Uppsala)

    Authentic Games

    Our intense emotional investment in many competitive games - from sporting fixtures to impromptu games of Monopoly - is puzzling. We often find ourselves emotionally invested in them despite our awareness that they don't matter very much if at all. In 2017, I dubbed this the 'puzzle of sport'. One solution to this puzzle is to model our emotional engagement with competitive games on our emotional engagement with fictions or games of make-believe. I have criticized this approach. Among the criticisms is that the make-believe account leaves what I call 'authenticity' unexplained: roughly, why our investment depends on players really trying. This criticism has since itself been criticized. In this paper I take a closer look at this criticism, at authenticity, and at how they bear on the puzzle of sport.

    April 18, 2024 – Thumos Seminar

    Andrea Rivadullo Duró (Geneva)

    You Can Get Some: Satisfaction! Imagination, Symbolic Action, and Symbolic Satisfaction.

    Symbolic actions appear in the analytic literature as counterexamples to the Humean model of action rationalization, in which all actions are explained by a desire and a means-to-end belief. Symbolic actions, which tend to involve inanimate objects, are apparently done for no further end. To provide a satisfactory explanation of symbolic actions, authors have appealed to emotions (Hursthouse, 1991; Smith, 1998), imaginings (Goldie, 2000), and redirected responses in the animal realm (Kovach & De Lancey, 2005; Scarantino & Nielsen, 2016). In this paper, I argue that these accounts are unsatisfactory and provide a novel account. My account combines Goldie’s appeal to the imagination with Scarantino and Nielsen's appeal to displaced action tendencies. Symbolic actions are symbolically displaced imaginings. At their core, these actions carry frustration concerning the impossibility of acting in the grips of an emotion. In performing them, two phenomena occur synchronically. First, thwarted action tendencies are displaced in a non-arbitrary way and released. Second, while displacing such action tendencies, the subject imagines she is performing the denied action. The release of these tendencies on an object symbolically related to the object that causes the emotion provides a sui generis, symbolic satisfaction.


    April 25, 2024 – Thumos Seminar

    Sebastian Aeschbach (Geneva)

    Hierarchical Organization of Values: Philosophical Premises and Empirical Hypotheses

    The presentation will list and discuss the philosophical premises of the idea that human values are organized hierarchically, a concept deeply rooted in the philosophical tradition of realist phenomenology as espoused by Scheler, Hartman, and others. We address the fundamental question of whether values exhibit a structured hierarchy as revealed in individual and collective behaviour. The philosophical underpinnings suggest that values are not arbitrary but are arranged in a manner that reflects their relative importance to the individual and society. To empirically examine this theoretical framework, we propose six hypotheses aimed at understanding the relationship between value hierarchies and emotional responses. These include: (H1) the consistency of value hierarchies within cultural or social groups; (H2) the specific emotional reactions triggered by value violations; (H3) the intensity of emotional responses correlating with the importance of violated values; (H4) the social and collective nature of moral emotions in response to value violations; (H5) the reflection of value hierarchies in normative language; and (H6) the modulation of perceived appropriateness of emotional responses by the hierarchical standing of violated values. This research bridges the gap between philosophical inquiry and psychological empirical methods, providing a comprehensive examination of how human emotional and moral responses are ingrained with value hierarchies.


    May 2, 2024 – Thumos Seminar

    Patrik Engisch (Geneva)

    The Naturefactual

    Philosophers usually distinguish between three kinds of objects (natural, artificial, and artifactual ones), and are happy to leave it at that. But folk ontology often attempts to distinguish further between two kinds of artifacts, non-natural and natural ones. Standard examples supporting this distinction include things like natural food, natural wine, or natural gardens. This aspect of folk ontology is often dismissed as a simple category mistake: an object cannot be both an artifact and a natural object. In this paper, I argue that this dismissal misses the point. The idea of natural artifacts is not to be conceived in terms of some objects falling under two (admittedly incompatible) kinds: artifacts and natural objects. Rather, they should be conceived in terms of a subset of artifacts that possess a substantial property of naturalness. In other words, they should be conceived as what I call “Naturefactual Objects”. Why does this matter? I will argue that we must recognize the existence of the naturefactual because it constitutes a distinct and substantial appreciative kind that value theorists have so far ignored. 



    May 16, 2024 – Thumos Seminar

    Christiana Werner (Duisburg-Essen)

    Navigating Empathy: A Simulation-based Exploration of Judgments on the Appropriateness of Other’s Emotions

    In debates on social cognition, simulation is often regarded not only as a tool for predicting the actions and behaviours of others but also as a means of gaining insight into their perspectives. In certain instances, a person my report their emotions to the simulator. As a result of simulating being in the speaker’s situation, the simulator may develop the belief that they would have exhibited different emotional reactions than those disclosed. The simulator might additionally believe that their simulated response would be appropriate, prompting the formation of a belief that the reported emotions were, in turn, inappropriate. We know that factors such as personality traits and a person's social background have an influence on how one reacts emotionally. Hence, there is something highly problematic about the idea of taking a simulated emotional reaction as the (only) appropriate response. The paper delves into the consequences of such normative beliefs regarding another person's emotions in the context of affective and epistemic injustice. 



    May 23, 2024 – Thumos Seminar

    Sarah Protasi (Puget Sound)

    On Courage

    Courage is one of the cardinal virtues and was of paramount importance in ancient Greece and in other honor cultures. Yet, it is not nearly as investigated as wisdom or justice in today's philosophical discourse. Even in virtue ethics, most discussions of courage use it as a paradigmatic example of moral virtue but do not devote much time to a systematic understanding of its nature. Furthermore, when courage is investigated on its own, it's often from an armchair perspective. In this talk I start by reviewing some of the philosophical literature on courage and then I put it in conversation with current empirical work. I argue that both literatures converge on the existence of three types of courage: physical, moral and psychological. I delineate these three types and suggest that in all of them sociality plays a role that has so far been underestimated. I end by discussing some future avenues of research, most notably the central role of both courage and fear in ethics.