The Ethics of Emotions
Fittingness, Fairness, and Control
06 ‒ 09 July 2021 (online)
Emotions have become a focus of attention in various areas of moral philosophy: the fairness of attitudes like anger and resentment plays an important role in many Strawsonian accounts of moral responsibility; it is considered appropriate or even virtuous to admire the good and despise the bad; the harms that fear and contempt can do to individuals and their relationships are highlighted. In these and other contexts, emotions are subjected to what appear to be various forms of moral critique. They are considered hurtful, inappropriate, or unfair, e.g. when someone resents a more successful colleague, is amused at a racist joke, disgusted by a someone’s bodily deformation, or angry at a small child. But are these valid forms of criticising our emotions? Can emotions be a proper object of moral evaluation? Can we hold people responsible for them?
Emotions have long been considered an appropriate target for certain kinds of epistemic criticism, e.g. in terms of representational accuracy or their coherence with one’s beliefs about their object. For example, the fear of a harmless spider is considered unfitting because it misrepresents the spider as dangerous. However, assessing an emotion as inappropriate or unfair seems more severe than saying that it is somehow mistaken about its object. On the other hand, many consider emotions to be the wrong kind of object for moral critique. After all, we don’t have voluntary control over our emotions (as we have over our actions), so how can it be morally wrong or even blameworthy to feel them?
The aim of the conference is to investigate the norms that govern our emotions and to explore whether there can be an ethics of emotions. In particular, it will provide an occasion for discussing fundamental questions at the intersection of normative ethics, the theory of responsibility, and the philosophy of emotions, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Are there moral duties to (not) feel certain emotions? What are they?
- Which emotions are subject to moral scrutiny? Only so-called moral emotions like indignation, gratitude or resentment, or also other emotions, like fear, joy, shame, grief and admiration?
- What, if anything, distinguishes the moral assessment of an emotion like anger from its assessment in terms of fittingness?
- What is the relation between the moral assessment of a person’s emotions and the moral assessment of their character?
- Can we hold people responsible for their emotions? What kind of control does responsibility require? Do we have that kind of control over our emotions?
- How are emotions morally relevant? Can they harm people other than their bearer, even when they do not actually result in any harmful behaviour?
- In what sense are emotions private? Does criticizing a person’s emotions violate their private sphere? Would that make it impermissible?
Bryn Mawr College
On Being All Over the Place
University of Bern
Ohio State University
The Half-Life of Unhappiness: Norms for Emotional Duration
University of Tübingen
Kantian agents with cognitive emotions
University of Salzburg
University of Zürich
The Emotional Lottery
University of Manchester
Responsibility for Affective Shifts
University of Zürich
Two Faces of Responsibility for Emotion
University of Geneva
Christine Tappolet & Mauro Rossi
University of Montréal
Well-Being as Fitting Happiness
Fabrice Teroni & Julien Deonna
University of Geneva
Virtue and Emotional Accuracy
You can download the program including a preliminary schedule here:
If you would like to attend but have not registered so far, please contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Call for Abstracts
We invite submissions for additional talks. If you are interested, please send an abstract:
- 800‒1000 words
- Suitable for a 30‒40-minute talk
- A PDF attachment to email@example.com
- By December 1st 2020
- The abstract should be suitable for blind review, i.e. it should not contain any information that may identify you as the author.
You will be notified about the decision by early January 2021. Please make sure that the e-mail to which the abstract is attached contains your name and institutional affiliation (if applicable). Researchers from underrepresented groups in academic philosophy are especially encouraged to submit. We will provide hotel accommodation for all accepted speakers. In addition, there is a limited budget for covering some of the travelling expenses of those whose home institutions do not bear these expenses. We will also be able to arrange for professional childcare during the workshop. Please contact us for more information on this.
If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.