11th Creph Annual Seminar: Phenomenology of Emotion

University of Liège, April 24-28, 2017.

It is widely held that emotions shape our relation to the world and to other human beings. Yet, to date, the nature of emotions still remains a thorny issue. Part of the problem is that the term "emotion" covers a wide range of phenomena. It is, indeed, commonly used to refer to phenomena as different as joy, sadness, fear, anger, astonishment, boredom, love, aversion, jealousy, disgust, etc. This raises the following classical questions: Does the term "emotion" refer to a natural kind? Do all emotions exhibit a common feature? What is the best way to describe them and single them out?

Over the last decades, cognitive and physiological approaches competed to offer the most convincing description and explanation of emotional phenomena. Now, while both positions certainly bring to the fore equally relevant aspects of emotions, none of them seems to provide a fully satisfying account of what emotional experiences really are. Focusing on the sensory dimension of emotional experiences, the physiological approach to emotions arguably fails to apprehend their intentional dimension: It doesn't seem to account for the fact that, unlike sensations, emotions often are "directed at" something and are open to rational justification. On the other hand, it is commonly objected that cognitive theories, whereas they succeed in accommodating those aspects, expose themselves to the charge of over-intellectualizing emotions by conceiving them as mere combinations of beliefs and/or desires.

The seminar aims at investigating the way phenomenological insights may contribute to contemporary debates on the nature of emotions. "Phenomenology" will be understood from both a historical and contemporary perspective. One question we wish to address is whether the return to the phenomenological tradition may provide relevant materials when it comes to escape the difficulties raised by cognitive and physiological theories. Yet, special attention will also be devoted to the question as to whether there is an affective phenomenology per se, that is, whether emotional experiences are or not irreducible to cognitive and/or conative experiences.

Invited speakers


a.dewalque[at]ulg.ac.be - aurelien.zincq[at]ulg.ac.be