The abstracts

Lauri Nummenmaa, Turku PET Centre: Neurobiology of Emotions

Evolutionary old emotion systems guide human and animal behaviors during survival-salient situations by adjusting the activation of the cardiovascular, skeletomuscular, neuroendocrine, and autonomic nervous system (ANS) as well as higher-order cognitive functions. In this talk I discuss the brain mechanisms underlying different discrete emotion systems (anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness, and surprise), as well as the distinction between the neurophysiological emotional states and subjectively felt emotions. I show how statistical pattern recognition techniques can be used for reading out an individual’s emotional state from their brain activity patterns or bodily states, supporting the existence of discrete emotion systems in the brain. Because similarity of subjective experiences between emotions is strongly associated with similarity of neural patterns for the same emotions, these data suggest a direct link between activity of specific emotion circuits and the subjective emotional experience.


Michael Lacewing, Heythrop College: On Explaining Recalcitrant Emotions

A recalcitrant emotion is an emotion that is in tension with the subject’s settled judgment. For example, I may judge that her remark was entirely justified, under the circumstances, but feel angry about it nevertheless. Or that flying presents no special danger, yet feel afraid every time I fly. I consider D’Arms and Jacobson’s attempt to explain recalcitrance by appeal to the claim that evaluative judgment and emotion are two distinct evaluative systems. I argue that this both fails to offer a satisfactory explanation of recalcitrance and is at odds with the latest research on emotion processing, while Tappolet’s development of their explanation undermines the claim that judgment and emotion are distinct evaluative systems. I present an alternative explanation that unifies emotion and judgment in a single evaluative system, explaining recalcitrance in terms of prior emotional dispositions, unconscious meanings that emotional objects have for us, and the involvement of the imagination in emotional processing.


Susanna Paasonen, University of Turku: Networked Affect and the Harvesting of Attention in Media Culture                                       

Network media are not merely about information management, retrieval and exchange, the storing and sharing data, but equally crucially about the spread, attachment, amplification and dissipation of affective intensities. Affect shapes and forms connections and disconnections between different bodies – it causes things to move, layer, stick and matter. This is evident in the sudden heat of political debates erupting on a Facebook wall, in the titillations of a Tinder match and in the sharp sense of helplessness caused by failures in network connectivity.

In the context of media culture, affective intensities translate as instances of paying attention. The capacity of capturing attention has been connected to, and occasionally even equated with the creation of monetary value, especially in debates focusing on attention economy. The status of attention as a valuable yet scarce commodity is nowhere more evident than within social media and its economy of clicks, likes and shares. Zooming in on this landscape, this presentation explores how affective stickiness is harvested, how attention seeps into distraction and how intensities move and circulate in networks comprised of both human and nonhuman actors.


Christian von Scheve, Freie Universität Berlin: A Social Relational Account of Affect

The social and behavioral sciences, including psychology and sociology, usually conceive of emotions as individual, episodic, and categorical phenomena, while at the same time emphasizing their social and cultural construction. In this talk, I suggest that this view neglects some essential elements of emotions, in particular affects, and their relevance to our understanding of sociality. Although affect is an established notion in sociology, it has remained conceptually underdeveloped. I therefore discuss different perspectives on affect from the field of cultural studies that emphasize their relational and bodily character. In a second step, I seek to contrast and reconcile these views with existing theories of affect in the social and behavioral sciences and suggest a number of essential characteristics that can be used to circumscribe affect. Finally, I introduce concepts from relational sociology and concrete examples to specify the relational character of affect and to develop an understanding of affect that is both theoretically and empirically fruitful.


Patrizia Lombardo, The Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences: Aesthetic Experience and Emotions: what, if any, Is the Role of Imagination?

Since antiquity, art has been connected with human emotions; Plato condemned the emotional effect of drama and poetry, while Aristotle emphasized the importance of fear and pity triggered by tragedy. It is undeniable that works of art provoke emotions. In the 18th century aesthetic theories (Abbé Batteux, Diderot, Burke, Kant etc.) were based on the idea that art causes pleasure; Kant and Burke realized that that type of pleasure is a complex mental state.  The emotions have both cognitive and affective components.  After a survey of some contemporary accounts of the relationship between the arts and the emotions (Kendall Walton, Noël Carroll, Ronald de Sousa etc.), I will acknowledge the thesis of a true emotional experience with works of art, even if the emotions are not those of real life, but those offered by representation. The classical disinterested contemplation of beauty implies emotions such as serenity and tranquility; the modern idea of being upset by a work of art implies emotions such as distress and anxiety. We are moved and shaken by the events and emotions represented and suggested by a novel, a painting or a film, and we are also active in imagining. I will defend the thesis of the importance of imagination in our appreciation of art. The simplest way in which we use our imagination is the sympathy (according to Hume’s definition) we feel for fictional characters and events. More significantly, the reader or viewer constructs hypotheses about the possible actions, thoughts and behavior of fictional characters. Imagination here is not understood as necessarily visual – even if visual components are not excluded.  It corresponds to formulating thought experiments, often in very quick succession. Imagination also expands the range of thought experiments from fictional events and characters to hypotheses about the way in which the artist (painter, writer or filmmaker) has composed his or her work. These imaginings are, in my opinion, part of the aesthetic experience.


-Noël Carroll (2002). “The Wheel of Virtue: Art, Literature, and Moral Knowledge”.The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 60/1).
-Peter Goldie (2000). The Emotions.A Philosophical Exploration. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
-Derek Matavers (1998). Fiction and Narrative. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
-Ronald de Sousa (2005).“The Art of Possible in Life and Literature “. In M. E. Reicher, J. C. Marek. Experience and Analysis, Vienna.
-Kendall Walton (1990), Mimesis as Make-believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.


Hanne Appelqvist, University of Helsinki: Feeling and Knowledge: Kant on the Cognitive Relevance of Beauty

In our time, the discipline of aesthetics is often perceived as a field of minor importance, at least in comparison to such core areas of philosophy as, say, metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. After all, how could aesthetics as the philosophical investigation of art and beauty be of any serious concern when the arts have become mere commodities and beauty is just one luxury among many others like good wine and coffee. In Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment, we find a different view, a view which assigns a significant role to a judgment of beauty with respect to both theoretical and practical philosophy, describing it as “the propaedeutic of all philosophy” (CPJ 5: 194). Kant’s famous claim of beauty as ‘the symbol of morality’ (CPJ § 59) is a well-known example of a bridge he builds between aesthetics and practical philosophy. But there is also a bridge between Kant’s Third Critique and his theoretical philosophy. It is to this latter bridge that Kant refers when he claims that in a judgment of beauty we find something which is a “requisite for possible cognitions in general” (CPJ 5: 290). What is of particular interest and importance for the theme of this conference is Kant’s well-known dictum that the judgment of beauty – claimed to be an example of a judgment indispensable for cognition in general – is nonconceptual and familiar to us as a feeling of pleasure or displeasure. In this paper, I will outline Kant’s reasons for attributing such importance to a judgment of beauty. By this historical exercise I wish to raise doubts about the exclusive emphasis on discursive knowledge as the paradigm and ideal form of encounter with the world.


Simo Knuuttila, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies: The Upgrading of Emotions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy

In their early fourteenth-century theories of emotions Duns Scotus, William Ockham and others gave up the traditional divide between emotions as psychosomatic phenomena of the sensory soul, on the one hand, and the activities of will and  intellect which  are immaterial and free from passions, on the other. Scotus and Ockham called the emotions of the intellectual part the passions of the will, and they regarded the intellectual soul as being easily affected by the moods of pleasure and distress which were non-voluntary passions. Treating intellect, will, and emotion at the same mental level disturbed the hierarchic structure of received faculty psychology which was the background of their upgrading of emotions. My aim is to attend to certain similarities between this approach and the innovative seventeenth-century paradigm of extending the principles of the new science, particularly those of mechanics, to the philosophy of mind and explaining emotions by the mechanist paradigm as far as possible. As distinct from traditional psychology, there were no intermediate hierarchic levels between the neural and mental strata which were taken to be either functionally connected, parallel, or in some way overlapping. Consequently the passions as mental events were dealt with at the same level as cognitions and volitions in general. While the upgrading of emotions in Scotus and Ockham had a different background, their theories brought the model of partial parity between volition and passion into early modern eclectic discussions. I shall consider the impact of these developments on the evaluation of emotions in Descartes, Hobbes, Leibniz and others.


Fabrice Teroni, The Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences: Shame and Guilt in Ethics

Abstract Shame, it is often claimed, is a ‘less moral’ emotion than guilt. What sorts of criteria underlie such a claim? A first criterion has to do with differences in the kinds of actions typically promoted by these emotions. The action tendencies associated with shame are claimed to be less moral than those associated with guilt. Second, one may emphasize a distinction in the concepts that the subject deploys in the judgements underlying these emotions – only guilt, it is alleged, speaks to moral concepts such as that of responsibility for wrongdoing. Third, it may be claimed that only guilt requires that the subject autonomously endorse the relevant judgement – for that reason, it stands in sharp contrast with shame, which is heteronomous. According to the fourth and last criterion, shame is essentially concerned with the subject’s social appearance or reputation, and only guilt constitutes a response to moral features of the relevant situation. On the basis of these criteria, a broad tendency in the literature attributes both a higher moral status and a greater moral relevance to guilt. Is this conclusion warranted? I shall argue that a close investigation of the areas covered by these criteria falls short of supporting it and shall develop further considerations suggesting a fundamental role for shame in our moral lives.