SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Emotions as Cognitive Products: The Case of Fear.
(Philosophy of Mind, English)

Emotions studies in Philosophy seem to have reached an understanding: they cannot agree on what an emotion is or what it should be referred as. My goal is to argue for a broader consideration of emotions considering that they result from a cognitive act, and thus have their place among cognitive products in the sense of Twardowski (1912). This definition is the only one succeeding to encompass the rich diversity of emotional occurrences and especially their semantics. A stunning example is the study of fear, which is well documented. It illustrates the problems arising when you try to fit emotions in already existing notions: desire and judgment or belief.
'I am afraid because I have a desire to escape a dangerous situation' is true for survival situations, but it fails to include neither when one is terrified in front of a movie (Walton 1978) nor phobias. What of one fear of failure that stops him to apply to a job? Inner human egoism is also important: there is fear for others and one can put his life at risk for that, which is paradoxical.
'I am afraid because I judge the situation dangerous' accounts for judgments and beliefs as they influence each other. Judgments are supposed to be made in conscience and emotions are not (always). Self-control is not sufficient to allow humans to surpass emotional crisis or phobias (Stocker 1996). None of this account for the fact that you can trigger emotions by making the corresponding emotional face (Ekman et al. 1980).
Semantically, those views allow to map emotions with propositional attitudes but those are relations between agents and propositions. Emotions are not propositions nor the people who experience it are agents. Furthermore, the mental content of an emotion cannot be a proposition, how would this account for fear in infants or the primal fear of animals, two instances unable to grasp propositions or language (Deigh 1994)? I argue there is no such thing as a constructed propositional fear.

Deigh, J. 1994. 'Cognitivism in the Theory of Emotions'. Ethics 104.4, 824-54.
Ekman, P, Friesen, W V, and Ancoli, S. 1980. 'Facial Signs of Emotional Experience'. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39 (6) 1125-1134.
Stocker, M and Hegeman, E. 1996. Valuing emotions. Cambridge.
Twardowski, K. 1912. On actions, products and other topics in philosophy. Eds. J.L. Brandl and J. Wolenski. Amsterdam.
Walton, K L. 1978. 'Fearing Fictions'. The Journal of Philosophy 75.1, 5-27.

Chair: Christian Feldbacher
Time: 15:40-16:10, 14 September 2017 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.004

Marie Michon 
(Universite Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne - IHPST, France)

I am in the second year of my PhD at the IHPST in Paris. My thesis advisor is Friederike Moltmann and I sutdy the semantics of expressing your own emotions. Even though I am doing my thesis in Philosophy, my background is more diverse. After a scientific high-school cursus I went to do a Bachelor in Modern Literature. Then I moved indirectly toward Philosophy by spending a first Master in Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. I studied freudian psychoanalysis and I did my master thesis challenging his views about women. It is during this part of my life that I knew I needed to study language and discourse. Naturally I did a second Master in Language Studies, specializing in discourse analysis and semantics. Because I was not fully satisfied with the paradigms in Linguistics I choose to do my PhD in Philosophy.

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