Vient de paraître: Francis Dupuis-Déri, Lacrymos

Lacrymos comme bombe lacrymo, gaz lacrymogène…

« J’avais vu tant d’activistes verser des larmes dans les nuages de gaz lacrymogène, que les policiers lançaient sans retenue contre les contestataires du néolibéralisme et du capitalisme… Mais il y a aussi toutes ces larmes dont la source se cache dans l’expérience sensible, dans une vision du monde qui se heurte à un monde sans vision », écrit Francis Dupuis-Déri, professeur de sciences politiques à l’UQAM, analyste des mouvements radicaux anticapitalistes et militant lui-même. Ce sont ces larmes politiques, les larmes de la colère, de l’injustice, dont nous rend compte l’enquête qu’il propose dans ce petit livre, où l’auteur propose à des dizaines de militants de ce bord-ci et de l’autre de l’Atlantique, de réfléchir sur leurs larmes. Le livre témoigne, de la sorte, du fait que pour les anarchistes – ces hommes et femmes mobilisés par révolte contre un ordre du monde qui ne se laisse changer par une  parole de raison tranquille – « la politique et la raison de l’engagement sont pensées en lien avec les émotions ».

À la lecture de ces témoignages souvent émouvants qui dévoilent à quel point la pensée politique se nourrit autant d’émotion que de raison, on ressent le même élan de vie que dans l’engagement pour une histoire sensible de l’historienne Sophie Wahnich, qui écrit dans son dernier livre : « Pour rompre avec cette politique de la pitié qui fonde une histoire neutralisée, il faudrait savoir si, après la faillite des grands récits, des valeurs politiques sont à nouveau mobilisables pour transmettre une histoire critique qui serait sensible en tant qu’elle serait justement porteuse de ces valeurs.  Réclamer une histoire sensible, ce serait alors renouer avec Rabelais et affirmer : science historique sans conscience n’est que ruine de l’âme !  » (voir notre billet  : )

Vient de paraître : Esther Cohen, « The Modulated Scream Pain in Late Medieval Culture »

Esther Cohen, The Modulated Scream. Pain in Late Medieval Culture, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2010

Repris du site des presses universitaires de Chicago

In the late medieval era, pain could be a symbol of holiness, disease, sin, or truth. It could be encouragement to lead a moral life, a punishment for wrong doing, or a method of healing. Exploring the varied depictions and descriptions of pain—from martyrdom narratives to practices of torture and surgery—The Modulated Scream attempts to decode this culture of suffering in the Middle Ages.

Esther Cohen brings to life the cacophony of howls emerging from the written record of physicians, torturers, theologians, and mystics. In considering how people understood suffering, explained it, and meted it out, Cohen discovers that pain was imbued with multiple meanings. While interpreting pain was the province only of the rarified elite, harnessing pain for religious, moral, legal, and social purposes was a practice that pervaded all classes of Medieval life. In the overlap of these contradicting attitudes about what pain was for—how it was to be understood and who should use it—Cohen reveals the distinct and often conflicting cultural traditions and practices of late medieval Europeans. Ambitious and wide-ranging, The Modulated Scream is intellectual history at its most acute.

List of Figures


List of Abbreviations


Setting the Stage
Part I. Manipulating Pain
1. The Uses of Suffering

2. “Twisting the Mind”: Torture and Truth-Finding

3. Alleviating Pain

4. The Script of Pain Behavior

Part II. Knowledge from Pain

5. The Vocabulary and Typology of Pain

6. The Christian History of Humanity

7. Human and Divine Passion

8. Impassibility





Compte rendu de « Affective Meditation and the Invention of Medieval Compassion » de Sarah McNamer paru dans « The Medieval Review » (20.06.2010)

McNamer, Sarah,  Affective Meditation and the Invention of Medieval Compassion,  Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.  Pp. viii, 309.  $59.95/£39.00.  ISBN: 978-0-8122- 4211-9.

Reviewed by Ineke van ‘t Spijker

Independent scholar, Cambridge, UK

The Medieval Review

The affective devotion so characteristic of the later Middle Ages, and the literature of affective meditations, centering on the Passion of Christ, are phenomena which have been widely discussed, most recently and elaborately by Rachel Fulton.  The origins of this devotion are less easily explained.  Fulton attempted to do so by connecting it with the expectations and fears surrounding the year 1000.  The book under review engages this issue with refreshing élan.  More modest in scale than Fulton’s work, it is not more modest in its scope and purpose.  McNamer also attempts to explain the origins of affective meditation, and, in doing so, she situates her study at the intersection of the history of emotion, gender, and devotion.

This is a history of affective meditation as a literary form, where the history of emotion provides an additional framework. In these meditations, compassion is « a historically contingent, ideologically charged, and performatively constituted emotion…gendered as feminine…To perform compassion…is to feel like a woman » (3).  Moreover, it was in this form that these meditations influenced later notions of compassion.  This, and the explanation of the origins of this compassion in the desire of women to prove their legal status as <i>sponsa Christi</i>. by enacting compassion with the suffering Christ as the fulfilment of their <i>maritalis affectio</i>, is the bold thesis of the book.

From this perspective, the meditations can be seen as scripts for performance meant to bring about the desired emotional experience.

Implying that feeling compassion is feeling like a woman makes it into a historically contingent gendered performance, rather than one, for example, inflected by class, as in ancient Greece.

As an alternative to Caroline Walker Bynum’s effort to decode symbolic roles, McNamer asks for the motivation behind the performance of compassion by women: what could women gain which men could not (28)? One of the paradoxes of the twelfth century would be that, while legal thinking gained ground, inner dispositions were seen as more important than outward manifestations like, for example, physical virginity. In this context, « loving rightly, » as the content of the <i>maritalis affectio</i>, became part of the canonical/legal condition for marriage, and this could prove a woman’s status as <i>sponsa Christi</i>, a proof to be performed as a lifelong process.

In the first chapter, this thesis is probed via the example of a thirteenth-century text, the <i>Wooing of the Lord</i>.  Its flawed structure has often been acknowledged.  Here, it is explained–and a unifying principle is offered–by pointing to the way in which meditation on Christ’s suffering, leading to compassion, functions as the content of the <i>maritalis affectio</i> in the second part of the work.  Only on this basis can the nun claim to be a true bride of Christ, a condition which is the subject of the first part.  By appealing to the reader as eyewitness, and positing her in the first person, the prayers and meditations of this work offer her a script to enact.

The second chapter goes back in time, to trace the origins of this bridal thinking in texts by John of Fécamp and Anselm of Canterbury long associated with the beginnings of affective meditation, but the author also brings in the works of Peter Damian.  She constructs an alternative to the genealogy which speaks of Anselmian, Bernardine, and later Franciscan affective devotion.

Instead of seeing John’s or Anselm’s prayers and meditations as self-expressions, McNamer argues that these writings are not only written for, but elicited by women.  The « I » in these works is not autobiographical, but is offered as a performance position, similar to that in the Psalms (66).  A reconsideration of the order in which John of Fécamp wrote his works strengthens the role of women in their production: she inverts the traditional relationship between the <i>Libellus de scripturis et verbis patrum collectus</i> and John’s better known <i>Confessio theologica</i>, suggesting that the <i>Confessio</i> may have been derived from the <i>Libellus</i>.  Instead of seeing these texts as generating a new affective devotion, they are seen here as textual siblings of existing practices (81).

The third chapter explores the pseudo-Bonaventuran <i>Meditationes vitae Christi</i>, commonly seen as epitomizing Franciscan affective devotion.  McNamer sees the work’s origin in an Italian version, written for, and probably by, a woman (95).  She attributes the truly Franciscan elements, such as the ideal of poverty, to a later redactor, and she contends that these modifications somehow counter the revolutionary nature of the original work, and seem designed to arrest rather than foster the feelings of compassion.  The redactor seeks to reinstate an image of Christ as king, lord, and teacher (101): apparently the compassionate aesthetics at the core of women’s devotion was already a contested ideology.

Turning to Middle English literature in chapter four, McNamer argues that the genre remained deeply inflected by its gendered origins, even after its adaptation for a new readership of lay men and women.  Feeling compassion is feeling like a woman, a performance position open to women and men with the help of meditation.  Works by or attributed to Richard Rolle, meant to be read by men and women, present compassion « as an intimate eroticized response yielded by a woman to her lover » (125).  For religious women these meditations could provide the tools for scripting feelings which helped enact a legal marriage. For a mixed readership, however, the image of the spouse functioned as « a fictive image, a role readers are invited to perform to cultivate compassionate response » (127).  Aside from the later theological digressions, Nicholas Love’s translation of the <i>Meditationes vitae Christi</i>, <i>The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ</i> is framed by a prologue which states that the work was first written for a woman, thus enabling the male reader to assume this female role during his meditational reading.  It especially calls attention to Mary’s role as mother.  This « feeling like a woman » is preceded by seeing like a woman or beholding, that is, a way of seeing which implies an ethical imperative (137) of empathizing, or holding with the eyes.  The divide between male and female, however, seems to increase here.  Men such as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are portrayed as onlookers whose compassion is mediated by being directed first to Mary (140).  The figure of John, portrayed with feminized features, but capable of adopting a male role, is especially apt for enabling men to feel like a woman, while acting as men.

The question of the relation between compassion for the suffering Christ and more general compassion is raised in chapter five, « Marian Lament and the Rise of a Vernacular Ethics. »  Although there are signs that Passion meditations made cruelty more acceptable, an alternative investigated here is that they may also have fostered protest against such cruelty, echoing Mary’s laments, where Mary voices protest against her son’s suffering.  Christ’s innocence is not the reason for Mary’s protest, but his status as her child.  Her compassion and suffering is contrasted with the Father’s acceptance of his son’s suffering, as part of a universal salvation.  Such protest also resonates in criticism of the spilling of Christian blood in the wars of the period, as when Philippe de Mézières urges King Richard III not to renew hostilities with the French.  In the end, however, the laments undermine their own protest by submission to the Father’s will.

In the later Middle Ages, as the last chapters argue, it became increasingly difficult for men to « feel like a woman. »  The contested position of feeling compassion, seen first in the context of the Franciscan adaptation of the <i>Meditationes vitae Christi</i>, surfaces more strongly in the later Middle Ages.

Love’s <i>Mirror</i> was endorsed by Church authorities as a rather safe sort of devotion compared with the heresies of the time.  For women, this confirms their subordination, although it also left a space for experiment.  For men, it meant a gap between what they were supposed to feel in their devotion and how they were supposed to act.  The emphasis on the mother’s role makes it yet more difficult for men to identify fully with Mary.  The gap mentioned before widens further in some lyrics which are the subject of the last chapter.  In these, a growing male resistance to compassion is voiced, reflecting the intensification of competing demands on men to act according to a newly masculinized ethos, in which compassion was left to women.  Stephen Jaeger’s <i>Ennobling Love</i>, which was congruous with the earlier mode of compassion, gave way to a climate where friendship between men was eyed with suspicion.

Christ’s laments about man’s <i>unkyndeness</i> leave men with a conflict between their devotional obligations to be kind, and a suspicion of man to man <i>kyndeness</i> that was assuming the character of a taboo.  A fragmenting of tradition thus appears at the core of devotional orthodoxy.

This summary cannot do justice to McNamer’s far-ranging arguments, but it may suffice to illustrate the wide scope of a book densely packed with astute observations.  The medieval assumption that actions and emotions are of a piece (50) underlies the importance of, for example, Clare of Assisi’s externalisation of emotion in ascetic action (although, one could add, there is an equally widespread suspicion of a potential for an underlying disconnect between actions and inner attitudes).  As another example, a remark at the end of the book points to different ways allegory can work:

it may « enrich and extend the affective power of the image of the suffering Christ, » but it also has the « power to divert or deflect affective response precisely by requiring the intellectual work of decoding » (205), as it did in some of the lyrics discussed in the last chapter, where the body of Christ is allegorized as an « ere of whet. »  Sometimes the argument is perhaps a little rash.  The Countess Blanche to whom Peter Damian’s Letter 66 is addressed is identified with Agnes of Poitou, the recipient of the work of John of Fécamp (and of other letters by Peter Damian), although the note in Owen Blum’s translation to which a reference is made, only suggests this possibility (233, n. 72).  Moreover, there are no more letters to Blanche in Peter Damian’s collection, rather Peter refers to his own letter to Blanche in other letters.  More importantly, the letter contains not just an appeal to the reader as bride of Christ, but is equally or more insistent on the importance to imagine the Last Judgment, in line with Peter Damian’s emphasis elsewhere.  Viewing these texts as scripts rather than as self-expression has been considered previously, and the dichotomy may perhaps be slightly overemphasized.  It is difficult, in these texts, to separate the rhetorical aspect and the intended emotional experience, and that applies to the authors as well as to the readers/performers of their scripts.

<i>Maritalis affectio</i>, consisting of <i>compassio</i>, is perhaps too fragile a concept to bear the weight of causal explanation, especially as it receives its more strictly legal connotations somewhat later in the twelfth century, that is, after the letters of Peter Damian, John, and Anselm, even if their Italian background would not have made them strangers to legal thinking (231, n. 57).  Fortunately, the author does intermittently qualify its explanatory power, as when she says that « the site of origins is capacious enough to admit multiple explanations » (62); that the attention to the polysemy of nuptial language is not meant to reduce it, but to honor this element more fully (35); or that marriage to Christ does not provide a single, comprehensive explanation for the origins of affective devotion.  Instead it must be seen as a « generative matrix » whose significance for the history of devotion as well as the history of emotion has been missed so far (80).

One might also question the view that in our Western culture compassion is seen as a predominantly feminine emotion (8).  In this connection, the issue of wider, less « selfish » compassion, discussed in chapter five, raises the question of whether this sort of compassion is not also the heir of an earlier medieval tradition of compassion, as it was propagated strongly in the works of, for example, Gregory the Great, and in many saints’ lives.  In those lives, it is by definition somehow extraordinary; in the works of Gregory it is meant to be cultivated, especially by preachers and pastors, but also by all Christians.  If emotional experience, including that of compassion, is shown in this book to be pre- eminently cultural (120), it can also be multifaceted.  This book has certainly dug deeply and provocatively into some of compassion’s important facets.

Un compte-rendu de « Le Sujet des émotions » paru dans « The Medieval Review »

Nagy, Piroska and Damien Boquet, eds.  <i>Le Sujet Des Émotions Au Moyen Âge</i>. Beauchesne: Paris, 2008. Pp. 519. 76 €.  ISBN: 978-2- 7010-1522-4.

Reviewed by Daniel E. Thiery

Iona College

A clear distinction between human emotions and reason is one of the defining characteristics of western philosophy.  From Plato, to Descartes, to Kant, our possession or pursuit of pure, powerful and superior reason has been sharply contrasted with our proclivity to be moved by base, blinding and animalistic passions. Yet, recent research from a wide variety of cognitive, bio-behavioral and social sciences has belied the centuries-long contention, most forcefully espoused by Enlightenment philosophers, that reason, removed from emotional and instinctual influence, is capable of catalyzing everything from our ideas about political life to our moral choices. [1] As the long- standing dichotomy between reason and emotions has come into question, the need for careful, and reasonably objective, studies of the emotions–their origins, influences, definitions and descriptions–has grown in importance. [2] In short, emotions are a more valid subject of scholastic scrutiny than they were even fifty years ago. In December 2005, the EMMA (Les Emotions au Moyen Age) Research Program was established under the direction of Piroska Nagy (Université du Quebec a Montréal) and Damien Boquet (Université de Provence) in order to « study the emotions in a medieval period in view of exchange between the humanities and social sciences…to question the alleged emotional immaturity of medieval societies…[and to question] the whole process of the rationalization of western culture. » [3] <i>Le Sujet Des Émotions Au Moyen Âge</i>, a collection of 19 essays (16 in French, 2 in English and 1 in Italian), spanning psychology, literature, philosophy, hermeneutics, lexicography, religious, art and cultural history, is one of the fine fruits of this project.  Overall, the collection provides a good example of how interdisciplinary collaboration can illumine the complexity and depth of the study of emotions.

The text is split into five sections, including the thoughtful introductory and concluding essays. The introduction contains two essays that provide the reader with an overview of scholastic approaches and contributions to the study of the history of emotions.

This introduction makes clear the difficulty of studying emotions in the past because the medievalist is mainly compelled to grapple with texts, and hence the meaning of « emotion words » over a vast swath of time and space. One does not have recourse to analysis of body language, only, at times, the textual record of such language.  The first essay by Nagy and Boquet (« Pour une histoire des émotions.

L’historien face aux questions contemporaines ») contends that, despite the many dangers of cultural bias or anachronism, an objective study of the history of emotions can be accomplished if one sets aside the traditional contentions about the « triumph of reason » and « civility »

and one avoids blindly imposing modern classifications and definitions of emotions onto the past. The second essay by Annie Piolat and Rachid Bannour (« Émotions et affects. Contribution de la psychologie

cognitive ») seeks to provide scholars with some relief from the daunting task of deciphering actual emotions from emotion words.

Piolat and Bannour’s overview of a highly complex field of study provides both a solid perspective of the range of approaches in cognitive psychology for outlining the different affective manifestations of emotions and an outline of how emotions are verbalized by detailing the links between the unconscious impulse of emotions, their conscious processing, and their articulation.

The first section, <i>Penser et Dire les Émotions au Moyen Age</i>, is mainly devoted to the treatment of emotions by medieval theologians and philosophers, in particular their connection to the soul, their ability to influence or generate behavior and their culpability for sin.  The section notably commences with an essay by one of the leading scholars of the history of emotions in the medieval period, Barbara Rosenwein.  Rosenwein’s essay (Emotion Words) reveals a simple, but by necessity, painstaking method for generating lists of emotion words from early medieval writings rather than imposing an anachronistic list of terms.  By employing a list of emotions from a roughly contemporary theorist, e.g. Cicero, and then by exploring how the listed words are used in other sources and what new words appear to be linked in a clear grammatical or logical manner to already established terms, one can increase their list of recognized emotion words. This manner of deriving a contextually accurate list of emotion words could be employed by scholars of any era and should prove helpful to further study of emotions by medievalists. The content of the five remaining essays in this section is intriguing, though quite dense, as they all, in some manner, address philosophical and theological conceptions of the emotions, their origins, influences and relationship to reason, the will and the soul. Many of the essays note the importance of the change in outlook, an « anthropological turn, » in the High Middle Ages, when emotions were recognized as a defining subject of humanity and affective piety, centered on contemplation of Christ’s humanity, made some emotions commendable vehicles for connection to the divine.  Carla Casagrande and Silvana Vecchio summarize this movement well in their essay by stating « The passions of man, legitimized by the Passion of Christ » (109). These two authors, tracing the theories of the passions in medieval culture until Aquinas, make clear that Christian thought on the emotions could not remain rooted in the Stoic emphasis on <i>apatheia</i> because Christ himself wept. Therefore, medieval theologians following Augustine’s recognition of the merit of some emotions began to delineate how and when emotions could be a hindrance or commendable for salvation. Damien Boquet’s essay on the preaffects elaborates on this delineation further by detailing how medieval thinkers tried to grapple with the moral culpability of initial emotional responses; in essence, a seemingly unconscious impulse. Boquet reveals Aquinas’

reconciliation between those thinkers, who argued that initial impulses were sins, even if only venial ones, and those, who argued that without consent, such impulses were not sins, by recourse to the division of the soul, and consequent placement of preaffects into the animal part of the soul.  Boquet argues that this theological nuance became part of a high medieval discourse on piety, one focused on an intense engagement of the body and the emotions. Writers, such as Jacques de Vitry, emphasized the ability of holy men and women to tame and channel their impulsive passions into pious practices through a sharpening of their will and reason. Like Boquet’s essay, the studies of Emanuele Coccia, Irène Rosier-Catach and Alain Boureau bring into further relief the efforts of medieval writers to assess the value of emotions–so easily capable of inducing sin, yet so apt and so blessed when experienced by a prelapsarian Adam or Christ himself–and their efforts to divulge how emotions were processed from their initial impulse in the soul to their expression through action or exclamation.

The second section of this collection, <i>Une Fabrique de L’Intime</i>, explores how medieval individuals experienced, interpreted and communicated their own emotions or those experienced by another. All five authors in this section, Pierre Levron, Jean- Francois Cottier, Monique Gruber, Nagy and Veerle Fraeters, emphasize the importance of an examination of the vocabulary of emotional experience as well as the necessity of minding the gap between actual emotional experience and the recollection of it in hagiographic and literary narratives. The essays by Cottier and Nagy offer clear examples of the careful scrutiny of vocabulary.  In his study (Saint Anselme et la conversion des émotions), Cottier analyzes the phrasing and vocabulary, concerning Anselm as a subject and object of emotions, in both his letters and the <i>Vita Anselmi</i>.  This analysis reveals the profound influence of the Benedictine rule and the notion of a « spiritual community » on the discourse of emotions employed by monastic writers for a monastic audience. Nagy’s well developed study of the anonymous vita of the Cistercian Lukardis of Oberweimar argues that Lukardis’ affective piety, and her conveyance of her emotional experiences through words and posture, created a strong connection to her fellow nuns, allowed for an escape from the rigors of the monastery and her debilitated body, and lastly, gave her a sense of connection to Christ, the god-man who also suffered. The initial point is particularly striking, Lukardis, unadmired and unappreciated upon her entry into the monastery, became a central part of the life of the convent; an intermediary to God, providing comfort and counsel to her fellow nuns, and a point of pride worthy of their care, protection and recollection.

The third section of this collection, <i>Les Contours du Sujet Émotionnel</i>, explores the materials or occasions that induced emotions. The essays of Anna Caiozzo, Brigitte d’Hainaut-Zveny and Federica Veratelli reveal the enduring ability of medieval art to induce a vast array of emotional responses and remembrances, from affective piety to social sympathy. In both an entertaining and enlightening article, Martin Roch explores the ways that early medieval writers recounted their own and others’ emotional reactions to the odors [dubbed the « odor of sanctity » in the 9th century] emanating from the bodies of holy men or women. The sweet perfumes emanating from the living or dead bodies of holy men and women induced a range of emotional responses: a sense of awe, manifested through physical gestures like prostration, a sense of comfort and peace in times of trouble or bodily distress, and a sense of confirmation of an already accepted holy status. Early medieval writers, evincing the contention of modern science that olfactory impressions are the most enduring, vividly recalled the emotional responses induced by holy odors as well as the power of such odors to act as agents unto themselves, e.g. admitting individuals into their presence (438). In a refreshing shift away from evidence derived from and about religious men and women, the final essay by Naama Cohen-Hanegbi (The Emotional Body of Women) shows how the relationship of emotions to gender in Italian medical <i>consilia</i> from the 13th to the 15th centuries stands in sharp contrast to the centuries old stereotype of women as far more vulnerable to and affected by emotions than men. When treating an issue like melancholy in men or women, the <i>consilia</i> do not appear to regard this emotional state as different in kind or intensity, nor do they advocate different treatments. Remarkably, the seemingly uniform analysis of men and women in these texts not only contrasts with medieval stereotypes, but also contrasts with modern medical practice, which embraces the differences between men and women in order to provide more accurate diagnosis.

Though one collection of essays could never cover every facet of such a broad and fascinating topic, this collection could have provided a more clear perspective of the range of medieval emotionality by the inclusion of more essays concerning the laity. Most of the studies in this collection are based on clerical sources and concern religious figures, ideas and texts.  What about the emotions of king’s and princes, in ideal and praxis, or the emotions of lay medieval folk, such as yeomen, artisans or villeins, as found in narratives from pardon tales, slander cases or other legal proceedings?  An essay which employed, as evidence, narratives from court records or chronicles concerning lay men or women would have provided readers with a more complete picture of the history of emotions in the medieval period. Even so, this collection does reveal well the depth of the subject of the history of emotions.  It also makes clear that, for a subject so vast and complex, the most fruitful yield comes from an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas. Let us hope that this study is just the beginning of EMMA’s harvest.

NB (D. Boquet et P. Nagy) : « Le Sujet des émotions » n’est en effet qu’un volet du programme éditorial EMMA. A ce titre, les sources narratives et les sources de la pratique, qui permettent d’explorer plus spécifiquement  les émotions des laïcs, seront à l’honneur dans notre prochain livre « Politiques des émotions au Moyen Âge », à paraître dans quelques mois dans la collection « Micrologus Library » (Florence, SISMEL)



1. See for instance, two recent articles reviewing studies in the cognitive and social sciences on instinctive morality: Benedict Carey, « Citizen Enforcers Take Aim, » <i>New York Times</i>, October 6, 2008, Health Section; Steven Pinker, « The Moral Instinct , » <i>New York Times</i>, January 13, 2008, NYT Magazine.

2. For a clarion call for further, careful, study, see: Barbara Rosenwein, « Worrying About Emotions in History, » <i>American Historical Review</i>, 107 (2002): 821-845.


« Amour et désamour du prince du haut Moyen Âge à la Révolution française » (compte-rendu)

Amour et désamour du prince au Moyen Âge

Compte-rendu de la journée d’études qui s’est tenue à l’université de Nanterre le 20 mai 2010, par

Piroska NAGY et Laurent SMAGGHE

Pour voir le programme complet et le lieu précis de la journée, cliquez ici

La journée d’études proposée par le Centre d’Histoire Sociale et Culturelle de l’Occident et organisée par Josiane Barbier, Monique Cottret et Lydwine Scordia à l’Université de Paris Ouest-Nanterre le 20 mai avait pour sujet d’examiner l’émergence et le sens du thème de l’amour mentionné par les sources tardo-médiévales et modernes, mais aussi de s’interroger plus largement sur la place des sentiments dans la relation entre le roi et ses sujets. La journée proposait une progression chronologique : en partant des Mérovingiens, nous en sommes arrivés, avant midi, à l’époque de Philippe le Bel ; l’après-midi a suivi la progression de la fin du Moyen Âge à l’aube de la Révolution française. Les communications ont toutes embrassé l’espace franc puis français avec des incursions dans les anciens Pays-Bas bourguignons.


La communication de Régine Le Jan sur « Entre amour et haine du roi : quelques réflexions sur les relations politiques au Haut Moyen Âge » s’est intéressée successivement à trois types de relations affectives au roi : amor regis, timor regis et odium regis, à partir surtout des chroniqueurs de l’époque (mis à part Venance Fortunat qu’on ne peut guère catégoriser de la sorte, Grégoire de Tours et Frédégaire). Ainsi l’amour public, qui traduit encore un idéal tardo-antique chez Venance Fortunat, apparaît avant tout comme réciproque, moteur du circuit contrôlé des richesses dans les élites franques. Il gomme la compétition accrue par la circulation des honneurs, qui est au contraire très présente chez Grégoire de Tours, dont les histoires sont pleines de crainte et de vengeance, bien que l’amour soit toujours présent. Enfin, à la fin du VIIe siècle, la haine traduit les luttes politiques du moment. De manière générale, les liens affectifs au roi traduisent sa place exceptionnelle dans la société : il doit être craint, comme Dieu ; alors que le maire du palais et la reine continuent, tout en la dirigeant, à participer à la circulation de l’amour dans les élites.

Yves Sassier, dans sa communication intitulée « Inspirer l’amour, inspirer la crainte », a étudié la constitution de l’idéal chrétien en termes de relations affectives entre le prince et ses sujets, et son devenir entre le IXe et le XIIe siècle dans les miroirs des princes, en s’appuyant sur une très large gamme de sources depuis la Bible jusqu’au-delà du Haut Moyen Âge. Il a pris pour point de départ l’alternative crainte / amour dans la pensée politique, telle que la pose Cicéron et Machiavel tout en y donnant des réponses opposées, pour montrer qu’elle doit être écartée pour cette période. La littérature chrétienne constitue au contraire un idéal de relation au roi où crainte et amour apparaissent comme complémentaires. Cet amour-crainte, dû au roi, permet la reconnaissance de sa toute-puissance, du contenu sacré de son pouvoir, qui se façonne à l’image du pouvoir divin, seul placé au-dessus et en modèle. Cette crainte-amour est alors une force positive, confiance dans la force et la justice du roi (et de Dieu), qui offre protection et sécurité. En effet, l’alternative n’apparaît jamais dans la littérature interrogée (qui va de la Bible en passant par la littérature parénétique jusqu’aux miroirs de l’époque carolingienne au XIIe siècle), à la seule exception de Jean de Salisbury. Les miroirs (de Smaragde, de Jonas d’Orléans, de Sedulius Scottus, de Hincmar de Reims, enfin d’Hugues de Fleury)  font une place, en fait, non pas à l’affectivité dans le comportement royal mais avant tout aux vertus qui doivent être celles du prince : prudence, clémence, miséricorde et justice, vertus qui constituent la perfection royale dans l’exercice du service permettant de consolider la royauté.

Les deux communications portant sur le haut Moyen Âge ont permis de suivre, dans sa constitution et son incorporation, la pensée politique chrétienne dont les éléments, présents dans les textes interrogés par Régine Le Jan, se déploient entre la Bible, la littérature d’exhortation haut-médiévale et les traités de bon gouvernement proposés aux princes. La progression des deux communications a permis de saisir les points d’ancrage en termes d’affectivité de la christianisation du pouvoir à l’époque carolingienne. À les considérer ensemble, il importe de noter que les deux communications se sont distinguées par le type de source interrogée : alors qu’Yves Sassier s’est appuyé sur la littérature d’exhortation et les miroirs, donc avant tout sur des sources normatives, ainsi que sur la Bible qui est devenue source de norme pour le Moyen Âge, Régine Le Jan s’est servie de sources narratives ou poétiques, porteuses certes d’un idéal mais moins formellement constituées dans ce but.

Les deux communications suivantes se sont intéressées à la question entre la seconde moitié du XIIIe siècle et 1300. D’abord, à propos d’un sceau de 1303, proposant la première représentation de Saint Louis en saint et représentant la dévotion que lui voue la ville de Pézenas dont Jean-Luc Chasset a étudié la naissance et la datation dans le contexte politique local. Au-delà d’une démonstration serrée de l’originalité et de la datation du sceau en question, la figuration en dévotion au roi des bourgeois de la ville a permis de se demander si la dévotion relève bien de l’amour du roi.

Lydwine Scordia a ensuite proposé une lecture du traité politique aristotélicien écrit pour le jeune Philippe le Bel aussi durablement célèbre qu’à l’impact immédiat qu’est le De regimine principum de Gilles de Rome, afin d’y étudier les concepts et registres de l’amour et du désamour du roi – tout particulièrement puisque l’amour, dont les termes et les acceptions, les usages et les sens varient, est un concept clé du traité. Dans la continuité des questions posées plus tôt, l’étude comme la discussion ont permis de réfléchir sur la nature même des termes désignant l’amour et du lien d’amour politique. De fait, amor, dilectio, caritas peuvent relever, selon le contexte et l’auctoritas cités, tant du domaine psychologique qu’éthique, des passions de l’âme ou des vertus : cette catégorisation, opaque pour le lecteur moderne mais claire pour les contemporains de l’auteur, prescrit des questionnements et des traitements différents dont l’historien de l’affect doit tenir compte.

Les communications de la matinée ont permis de poser une question essentielle, au cœur du sujet de la journée : l’amour du prince dont parlent les sources narratives ou littéraires relève-t-il, de fait, de l’affectivité, et dans quelle mesure ? S’agit-il de « relation d’amour » au sens propre, entre le prince et ses sujets ? Les éléments apportés par les communications permettent de répondre à ces questions dans deux sens opposés. Si l’on tente de répondre à ces questions du point de vue des sources, la réponse serait négative. L’amour public dû au roi est formulé à l’image de l’amour-crainte dû à Dieu : il s’agit d’une relation hiérarchique, dans une structure dionysienne, qui n’a rien de la réciprocité. L’amour dont il est question alors ne se comprend que relié à l’ensemble des vertus chrétiennes que le prince doit observer pour bien exercer sa fonction, qui est avant tout une fonction de service, celui de Dieu et du peuple à guider vers le salut. En revanche du point de vue d’une anthropologie de l’affect médiéval, nous devons essayer de comprendre les registres affectif et éthique, les passions de l’âme et les vertus côte à côte, faisant partie de la même construction anthropologique, normative et comportementale. Un des acquis de l’histoire de l’affectivité des dernières années consiste précisément à inclure dans le champ d’étude tant l’affect public ou politique que les émotions collectives; l’affect vertical ressenti envers Dieu tout autant que l’affect horizontal engagé dans la vie quotidienne, dans la mesure où ils constituent les facettes complémentaires d’une vision de l’homme, du monde et de la société, et composent ensemble les moyens sensibles d’être au monde à la disposition de chacun.


La communication présentée par Laurent Smagghe avait pour sujet la dualité observée entre le « plaisir » de châtier et la joie de pardonner, observable dans les réactions princières face aux révoltes urbaines au sein des Pays-Bas bourguignons de la fin du Moyen-Âge. Elle a permis d’établir que la colère constitue un moyen de gouvernement et fait partie de la communication symbolique entre le prince et ses villes, au même titre que l’amour auquel elle est indissolublement liée et qu’elle ne contredit pas. Le prince ne doit céder à cette émotion, source de possibles transgressions, qu’en tout dernier recours et de façon modérée. Il doit en conséquence s’entourer de conseillers dont la sagesse lui permet d’éviter autant que possible les passages à l’acte violents et hors de proportion qui portent préjudice aux vertus essentielles que sont la clémence, la bénignité et la débonnaireté. Un temps de réflexion qui est aussi celui de la négociation doit permettre à la ville de se rétracter ou de plaider sa cause, et au prince d’évaluer la juste réaction à adopter. Faire régulièrement la démonstration de sa force pour mâter les rébellions ne doit pas le faire verser dans la haine et la cruauté qui relèvent de la tyrannie. L’amour du prince est donc perceptible dans l’exercice de sa justice, mais se révèle plus encore dans son pardon, formalisé par le rituel de l’amende honorable, qui fait de la colère une émotion strictement délimitée dans le temps, voire réversible, cédant la place à l’amour contractuel.

Jean Hubac a abordé le thème de l’amour et du désamour à travers l’exemple des Huguenots dans leur rapport au monarque pour la période du premier XVIIe siècle. La légitimité divine du roi, image vivante de Dieu, explique le respect et l’amour qui lui sont dus, qui relèvent de l’attachement au « roi-père ». Comme à plusieurs reprises au cours de cette journée, il a été mis en évidence les fondements bibliques à l’origine de la relation d’amour du roi envers ses sujets et de ceux-ci envers leur monarque. Le caractère intéressé de ce sentiment amoureux a également été établi, après que la question d’un amour gratuit après 1629 ait été posée comme l’un des axes problématiques de l’intervention. Les protestants prétendant à une relation directe et exclusive avec Dieu, ils se posent donc en conseillers privilégiés du roi mais également en intercesseurs. Mais la question récurrente de la journée portant sur l’existence d’un amour comme sentiment spécifiquement politique est restée sans réponse possible, et cela d’autant plus que le mot n’apparaît pas directement dans les quelques 300 sources étudiées.

Avec Monique Cottret, c’est l’historiographie des journées d’octobre 1789 qui a été revisitée. Après un rappel des événements, l’intervenante a montré la corrélation patente entre le roi, le pain et l’amour dans ces journées. Le désamour pour le monarque né sous le règne de Louis XV est dû à une dégradation de l’image du souverain. A l’origine de celle-ci, la déréglementation du commerce du grain et ses répercussions sur le prix du pain, de même que l’absence de piété du roi et les rumeurs dont il est l’objet. Cette désacralisation et ce désamour n’entraînent pas cependant la défaveur pour son successeur qui demeure très longtemps populaire : il est un roi vainqueur, proche de son peuple et rassurant, au moins jusqu’à Varennes. Le mécontement du peuple est patent mais le roi en est longtemps préservé. Cet amour est cependant désacralisé, ce n’est plus un amour avec révérence. Les cris de la foule ne s’adressent pas au roi, à l’inverse de Marie-Antoinette qui est la cible de nombreux cris de haine et d’écrits pornographiques. Les journées d’octobre ne signalent donc pas plus la fin de l’amour porté au roi que celui de la monarchie. Il s’agit seulement de s’élever contre la monarchie absolue.

Anne Quennedey a développé la notion de « communauté des affections » empruntée à Saint Just, pour y voir en l’occurrence une définition des sentiments que les citoyens ont envers la république, et en conséquence la haine éprouvée à l’endroit du tyran. Ce sont donc des ressorts affectifs qui fondent la République. Saint Just établit que Louis XVI a trahi et opprimé le peuple et le représente comme un criminel endurci. Le peuple a aimé le roi malgré cette oppression mais a fini par le haïr, mais ce peuple est versatile par nature et il risque de se laisser amollir dans sa haine par un sentiment de pitié. Contre cela, il faut lutter et cultiver la haine du peuple pour le roi car de celle-ci naît la haine pour le régime monarchique. Saint Just, contrairement à l’opinion des historiens romantiques, n’est pas animé par la haine cependant : son acharnement est fondé par son désir de justice qui doit ignorer la pitié, et il prône l’indifférence aux malheurs qui peuvent advenir au roi car seul le bien commun importe. Supprimer le roi, c’est supprimer un régime injuste. L’intervenante s’inscrit également en faux contre la supposée xénophobie de Saint Just et apporte des arguments pour la nuancer sensiblement. En conclusion, le surnom donné à Saint Just d’Archange de la terreur est exagéré, d’autant qu’il s’oppose à la peine de mort et critique la Terreur.

Conclusions de F. Hildesheimer

F. Hildesheimer s’est d’abord félicitée que l’ensemble des communications ait évité de tomber dans une lecture contemporaine des émotions, source d’anachronismes. La chronologie formée par les interventions de la journée est fort large mais limitée, et de nombreux espaces doivent encore être comblés.

Ce thème de l’amour et du désamour du prince relie, c’est une évidence, à l’histoire du pouvoir et donne envie de relire P. Hazard.

Au-delà de l’intérêt évident de ce sujet, plusieurs problèmes se posent qui ressortent de cette journée d’études et qu’il faudrait creuser davantage. Parmi ceux-ci, la question de l’opposition entre l’idéal que dessinent les sources et la réalité du temps, question à laquelle il est évidemment difficile d’apporter des éléments de réponse définitifs. Une approche scientifique nécessite en outre que l’on établisse des corpus plus systématiques. Vient ensuite le problème du sens à accorder aux mots, encore biaisé par la traduction des termes latins en langue vernaculaire. Des thèmes ont également été effleurés qu’il serait bon de creuser : la paternité, la rébellion, le pardon, la salut, la raison, de même que la question des femmes. De plus, on s’est aperçu, avec les nombreuses occurrences de l’entourage du roi, que celui-ci n’est pas seul et qu’il faut sans doute étudier ce thème de l’amour-désamour en prenant en considération son entourage. Plus largement encore, on peut se demander comment cette théorie de l’amour du roi est vécue sur le terrain par ses représentants que sont les juges.

Les usages sociaux de la honte au Moyen Âge et à l’époque moderne

La honte entre peine et pénitence

Les usages sociaux de la honte
au Moyen Âge et à l’époque moderne

colloque international

organisé par
Bénédicte Sère
et Joerg Wettlaufer

Paris, 21-23 octobre 2010

programme provisoire (programme en PDF )

Stand: 31.05.2010

Jeudi, 21 octobre 2010 (Univ. Paris Ouest Nanterre)

09:00 Begrüßung / Accueil
09:05 Les usages sociaux de la honte dans l’histoire. État des lieux de la question Bénédicte Sère Paris F
Jörg Wettlaufer Kiel D

I. La sémantique de la honte

09:30 La semantique de la honte dans le latin classique (working title) Jean Francois Thomas Montpellier F
10:00 The preoccupation with shame in early Christianism (working title) Virginia Burrus Madison USA
10:30 Pause
11:00 Faire honte dans les sources normatives du Haut Moyen Âge (Ve-VIIe siècle) Bruno Dumézil Nanterre F
11:30 Penance, shame and honour in the early Middle Ages Rob Meens Utrecht NL
12:00 Diskussion / discussion
12:30 Mittagessen / déjeuner

II. Honte, confession et pénitence dans les discours théologiques et pastoraux

14:30 La faute et la honte. La réflexion sur la verecundia dans la théologie et dans la pastorale des XIIe et XIIIe siècles Silvana Vecchio Ferrara I
15:00 Penser la honte comme sanction dans la scolastique des XIIIe-XVe siècles Bénédicte Sère Paris F
15:30 Zwischen Himmel und Hölle. Scham in spätmittelalterlicher religiöser Traktatliteratur Katharina Behrens Göttingen D
16:00 Pause
16:30 « Rougir pour le Christ » : la honte vergogneuse des mulieres religiosae aux XIIe-XIIIe siècles Damien Boquet Aix-en-Provence F
17:00 La bonne et la mauvaise honte dans la littérature pénitentielle et la prédication (fin XIIe-déb XIIIe siècles) Franco Morenzoni Genf 4 CH
17:30 Effacer la honte : nouveau regard sur quelques pratiques pastorales des XIIIe-XVe siècles Catherine Vincent Nanterre Cedex F
18:00 Diskussion / discussion

Vendredi, 22 octobre 2010 (IHAP / DHIP)

III. Honte et peines. La justice des peines infamantes à la fin du Moyen Âge et au début des temps modernes

09:00 Begrüßung / Accueil
09:05 Der Beitrag des Kirchenrechts zur Entstehung des öffentlichen Strafrechts (working title) Lotte Kéry Bonn D
09:35 The history of shaming punishments and public exposure in penal law in comparative perspective: Western Europe and Japan. Jörg Wettlaufer Kiel D
Yasuhiro Nishimura Kyoto JP
10:05 Pause
11:00 Debts and Humiliations in Fourteenth-Century Marseille and Lucca (working title) Daniel Lord Smail Cambridge USA
11:30 Öffentliche Bußen in der kirchlichen und weltlichen Sanktionierungspraxis des 15.-17. Jahrhunderts Friederike Neumann Bielefeld D
12:00 Diskussion / discussion
12:30 Mittagessen / déjeuner
14:30 La honte chez les humbles Claude Gauvard Paris F
15:00 La honte de l’endetté (Paris, XVe siècle)? Julie Mayade-Claustre Paris F
15:30 Pause
16:00 Past and present public shaming. Early modern German punishments in universal context. Satu Lidman Helsinki FI
16:30 Shame Punishments and Penance in Early Modern England Martin Ingram Oxford GB
17:00 Diskussion / discussion

Samedi, 23 octobre 2010 (Institut de France-Fondation del Duca)

IV. Ouvertures pour une histoire de la honte entre peine et pénitence

09:00 Das Konzept des reintegrative shaming: Wiederentdeckung von Scham und Beschämung in der strafrechtlichen Sozialkontrolle Peter Maria Münster Bad Münstereifel D
09:30 Gewaltverbrechen, Schamprozesse. Überlegungen zu einer Soziologie der Emotionen im ruandischen Genozid. Axel Paul Siegen D
Rita Werden Freiburg D
10:00 Body and Shame in medieval Frisia (working title) Han Nijdam Leeuwarden NL
10:30 Pause
11:00 Valoriser la honte, de la catastrophe à l’affiliation Serge Tisseron Paris F
11:30 Schamkonzeptionen in gegenwärtigen südostasiatischen Gesellschaften Birgitt Röttger-Rössler Berlin D
12:00 Conclusions Nicole Bériou Lyon F
12:30 Diskussion / discussion
13:00 Ende der Tagung / fin du colloque

Plus des informations sur la page:

Bénédicte Sère, Paris et Joerg Wettlaufer, Kiel

Compte-rendu de la rencontre EMMA IV « Le corps des émotions au Moyen Âge »

Par Alessandro Arcangeli (Université de Vérone – Wolfson College, Cambridge)

traduit de l’italien

Les 23 et 24 avril 2010 s’est tenue à Aix-en-Provence (Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme) la 4ème rencontre EMMA (« Les émotions au Moyen Âge »), un programme de recherche mené depuis plusieurs années sous la responsabilité scientifique conjointe de Damien Boquet (Université Aix-Marseille I / Institut universitaire de France) et Piroska Nagy (UQAM), financé de 2006 à 2008 par l’Agence Nationale de la Recherche et ensuite par l’IUF.

Programme de la rencontre EMMA4 « Le corps des émotions » : cliquer ici

NB : Ingrid Kasten qui devait animer la table-ronde de clôture n’a pu assister à la rencontre en raison des perturbations du transport aérien liées aux émanations de cendres provenant du volcan islandais.

Luca Signorelli, La résurection de la chair (détail), cathédrale d'Orvieto, v.1500

Pour cette rencontre EMMA4, le domaine d’étude proposé était, comme l’indique le titre, « le corps des émotions ». Cette question recouvre, en substance, à partir de différents points de vue, celle de l’expression corporelle des émotions. Tant dans son allocution introductive que dans ses réflexions en ouverture de la table ronde finale, Damien Boquet a souligné les limites du présupposé traditionnel selon lequel l’extérieur (les expressions, les gestes) révèlerait une dimension plus intime de l’être, une corrélation entre un signifiant et un signifié présumés dont il convient sans doute de tenir compte et dont il peut être utile de reconstruire l’histoire culturelle, mais qui ne peut constituer aujourd’hui une base épistémologique fiable.

Comme à l’accoutumée, la rencontre offrait aussi l’occasion d’un échange entre disciplines (de ce point de vue, Boquet a qualifié l’ensemble du projet de « plateforme ») : cette fois, la psychologie expérimentale était à l’honneur. Anna Tcherkassof (Université de Grenoble) a présenté la diversité des paradigmes qui caractérise ce domaine, du néodarwinisme prédominant qui suppose la pré-programmation innée d’un nombre discret d’expressions aux positions mieux disposées pour admettre le poids de la variable culturelle. Elle a présenté une expérience de laboratoire qui portait sur la reconnaissance par des observateurs de la signification d’expressions faciales présentées à partir de photographies. Comme pour le lexique des émotions, l’expérience confirme une relative ambiguïté et une imprécision des corrélations. Le modèle d’interprétation proposé par Tcherkassof fait de l’émotion un état de préparation du sujet à l’action qui, en interaction avec l’environnement, est prêt à réagir à tout changement.

Nira Pancer (Université de Haïfa) est revenue, pour le haut Moyen Âge, vers une dimension déjà exploitée par le groupe de recherche ces dernières années, à savoir celle du lexique, en réévaluant l’identification simple ou le comptage des occurrences au regard du code par lequel une expression significative nous parvient. C’est le cas de nombreuses associations de termes (cœur-poitrine) ; de même pour les usages verbaux : la fréquence avec laquelle le sujet, lorsqu’il est confronté aux émotions, apparaît (grammaticalement) comme passif est un signe clair des conceptions de la scénographie du sentir et de l’agir humain que le corpus des sources donne à voir.

Robert Marcoux (Université Laval, Québec – Université de Bourgogne, Dijon) a proposé une étude iconographique sur l’ambivalence en termes de valeur, dans la pastorale chrétienne de la fin du Moyen Âge, de la tristesse. D’un côté, la tristesse est l’expression de la conscience du péché, et par conséquent elle est un passage nécessaire dans l’itinéraire de la perfection, d’un autre côté elle est une manifestation possible du désespoir, et comme telle antichambre de la damnation. Le problème, au niveau de l’iconographie, vient du fait que, en l’absence d’autres indications de contexte, il n’est pas possible d’identifier laquelle des deux tristesses une image tend à signifier. Ainsi, pour suggérer la modalité positive, plusieurs stratégies représentatives entrent en jeu, comme l’invention (d’origine flamande) des larmes, effectivement reconnaissables sur les visages plutôt que simplement suggérées, ou la représentation des visages voilés, comme ceux des « deuillants ».

Dionysios Stathakopoulos (King’s College, Londres) a offert une ouverture sur le monde byzantin en examinant une série d’homélies, datant du dernier tiers du IVème siècle, dans lesquelles les plus grandes figures de la patristique grecque (Basile de Césarée, Grégoire de Nysse et Grégoire de Nazianze, Jean Chrisostome), encouragent, au moyen d’une rhétorique efficace, une aristocratie christianisée depuis peu seulement à un comportement entièrement nouveau : manifester de la charité – et une solidarité concrète sous la forme d’aumône – à l’adresse des pauvres mendiants, en particulier les lépreux. Les sermons mettent en scène aussi bien l’incorporation des émotions de la part des mendiants, qui exhibent leur condition misérable, que le point de vue des fidèles qui en sont les témoins ; de façon étonnante, dans leurs stratégies discursives, les évêques orateurs considèrent qu’il est naturel d’éprouver de la répulsion à la vue la difformité et de la maladie.

Piroska Nagy (UQAM, Montréal) a revisité un texte important de la première scolastique, la Summa de anima du franciscain Jean de la Rochelle (m. 1245), maître de théologie à l’université de Paris en même temps qu’Alexandre de Halès, pour s’interroger sur la relation entre émotions et corps. Témoignant d’une phase d’élaboration intermédiaire par rapport à la systématisation thomiste, le texte en vient peu à peu à redéfinir sa nature propre et son objet même. La surprise vient du fait que, tandis que sont données plusieurs définitions de l’union de l’âme et du corps, d’origine essentiellement aristotélicienne, l’affectus (mais l’auteur se sert également du terme passio) se présente comme un mouvement de l’âme, sans lien substantiel avec le corps – alors que celui-ci est plus net pour les sens.

Damien Boquet, qui a déjà produit une étude sur « l’ordre de l’affect » dans l’anthropologie cistercienne d’Aelred de Rievaulx, est revenu vers cet auteur à propos d’un texte bref (« sept-huit colonnes dans la Patrologie Latine… ») au contenu plutôt extraordinaire : une lettre dans laquelle l’abbé anglais (figure de premier plan, souvent qualifié de « saint Bernard du Nord ») affronte un scandale qui a perturbé le monastère gilbertin de Watton : un frère convers a eu une liaison avec une moniale qu’il a mis enceinte. Mais le coupable se retrouve prisonnier des religieuses et châtré par sa maîtresse même, tandis que le nouveau-né disparaît miraculeusement. Un des termes clés du texte est le mot zelus, lié dans la Vulgate à la colère divine, un choix lexical qui contribue à élaborer la justification de l’acte des moniales, en dépit de son caractère extraordinaire et en rien exemplaire.

Klaus Oschema (Universités de Heidelberg et de Berne), qui s’intéresse à ce genre de domaine de recherche dans l’intention de renouveler l’histoire politique et d’intégrer l’affect dans l’histoire générale – a parlé de la façon dont on peut façonner les émotions dans le contexte des rituels de pacification, en s’intéressant particulièrement à un détail : le fait, qui n’est ni expliqué quant à ses motivations dans les traités, ni uniformément codifié par la procédure, qui consiste dans les duels judiciaires (qui ont survécu à l’interdiction interdiction formelle à Latran IV) en une série de serments préliminaires se concluant, de la part des deux adversaires, par un geste où ils devaient se toucher réciproquement la main.

Nous constatons, donc, cette fois encore, une grande diversité des champs d’analyse. Les discussions qui ont suivi chaque présentation ont été pertinentes et efficaces, tirant souvent bénéfice de la diversité et de la variété des compétences entre les intervenants et le public. A cette occasion, comme aussi dans les conversations informelles en marge de la rencontre, le besoin s’est exprimé, au terme de plusieurs années de recherche, de faire un bilan, de remettre si possible en question chaque hypothèse, afin de poursuivre un travail qui peut parfois délibérément renoncer à proposer systématiquement des théories générales (à l’exemple du « processus de civilisation »), pour opter pour des microanalyses attentives aux langages, aux discours et aux contextes spécifiques à l’histoire culturelle des émotions. En fin de compte, la rencontre a été résolument fructueuse, tant pour ce qui est des résultats concrets de la recherche que pour les progrès que cette réflexion commune a permis d’accomplir sur un itinéraire de recherche et ses implications méthodologiques.

Une session sur l’histoire des émotions au colloque annuel de l’ISCH

Le colloque 2010 de la « Société internationale pour l’histoire culturelle » se tient cette année à l’université de Turku en Finlande du 26 au 30 mai. Le 29 mai, une session sera consacrée aux « Émotions de l’historien et les émotions dans l’histoire », voir programme ci-dessous:

Session 7: Historian’s Emotions and the Emotions in History

  • Prof. Peto Andrea, Central European University: Exceptional court, exceptional analyses? Performativity, emotions and post WWII jurisdiction
  • Ms. Leena Rossi, Cultural History, University of Turku: Historians’ feelings
  • Prof. Greg Shaya, College of Wooster: Empathy, Indifference and the Emotional Life of Modernity: Evidence from Nineteenth-Century French Visual Culture
  • Prof. Curie Virag, University of Toronto: Emotions, subjectivity and power: Narratives of cultural history in China and Europe

Amour et Raison au bûcher (Colloque Marguerite Porete, 30 mai-1er juin 2010)

A l’occasion du septième centenaire de l’exécution de Maguerite Porete le 1er juin 1310 en place de Grève, un colloque international est organisé à Paris, du 30 mai au 1er juin prochain, sur celle qui fut l’une des figures emblématiques de la spiritualité des béguines, conjuguant pensée théologique de haut vol et poétique amoureuse, en marge de l’institution ecclésiastique et des milieux universitaires.

Argument et programme du colloque : cliquer ici

Attention, il est nécessaire de s’inscrire au préalable auprès de Sylvain Piron (EHESS) à : sylvain.piron[à]

« Désir, émotion et esprit » : programme quadriennal du groupe Thumos

Le groupe de recherche en philosophie Thumos (université de Genève) propose deux bourses de thèse de 4 ans à partir d’octobre 2010, en lien avec le programme de recherche « Désir, émotion et esprit » présenté ci-dessous. Le profil des postes et les modalités de recrutement sont disponibles sur le site de Thumos.

Desire, Emotion and the Mind


Philosophy Department of the University of Geneva

Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences

1. Summary of research plan

We commonly explain emotions by means of desires, and explain desires by means of emotions. For instance, we say things like “He admires Maria so much, he wants to spend most of his time with her” and “Sam wanted to have this book so badly, he is now overjoyed”. On the traditional belief-desire model of the mind, however, it is not clear that there is a clear distinction between desire and emotion given that the so-called category of the pro-attitudes tends to lump together many different phenomena, and among these, desires and emotions. This holds also for many philosophical and psychological accounts of the emotions in which desires and emotions are not clearly distinguished. If so, how are we to make sense of these very ordinary types of explanations in which, on the face of it, one type of mental state is appealed to in explaining another type of mental state?

In light of these problems, the present project sets itself the task of explaining why and how emotions and desires should be distinguished, and proposes an account of how the relation between them should be conceived. The hypothesised account posits not only that emotions are distinct from desires, but also that the emotions, conceived as evaluative experiences of one’s environment, explain desires – causally, ontologically and epistemically – and that this fact has important consequences for our general understanding of the mental realm.

I start (§2.1 State of research) by introducing the topic and aim of the project (§2.1a). I first summarise the research on desire and emotion in the context of the goals pursued in the project (§2.1b), and subsequently discuss part of the debate in moral psychology relevant for the explanation of action in terms desire (§2.1c). On this basis (§2.2. Detailed research plan), I motivate and clarify the aforementioned overarching hypothesis. Because our emotions are trackers of values, they play a non-eliminable role in our psychology: they rationalise our desires (standardly conceived as triggers of action). Next (§2.2a), I single out four challenges for the hypothesis that open up four directions for research, i.e. four distinct sub- projects. The first concerns the very possibility of emotions constituting reason-giving states (2.2b), the second is concerned with the different ways in which emotional phenomena can be said to rationalise desires (with a particular focus on temperaments, sentiments, personality traits, etc.) (§2.2c), the third is concerned with how fruitful the proposed hypothesis is in providing a taxonomy of the pro-attitudes (§2.2d), the fourth is concerned with confronting the hypothesis and its framework with work conducted in empirical psychology (§2.2d).

The crux of the hypothesis put forward in this project is not only that emotions have, as it is often observed, a crucial regulatory role to play in our lives, but that without them we would be blind to a whole dimension of our environment, i.e. its evaluative dimension. This, if true, militates in favour of reconsidering the fundamental architecture of the mind as including emotions in addition to beliefs and desires. It is thanks to emotions that our desires and our (evaluative) beliefs get to be intelligible from a rational or normative perspective.

  1. 2.Research plan

2.1. State of research

a. Topic and Aim. Desire is a key concept in contemporary philosophy of mind, one which is fascinatingly understudied. In the framework of so-called belief-desire psychology (Davidson, 1963), also sometimes referred to as Humeanism (Smith, 1994), in which most contemporary philosophy of mind is couched, there is nothing special about desires. Desire is regarded as one type of many mental states or perhaps even just a cover term for all the phenomena that motivate and cause action, sometimes called conations or pro-attitudes: drives, instincts, appetites, needs, impulses, urges, desires, wants, values, motives, will, volitions, strivings and tryings, efforts, obligations, goals, intentions, choices, decisions, principles, normative beliefs, sentiments, character traits, temperaments, wishes, yearnings, expectations, hopes AND emotions generally. Of course, these phenomena might be different in some way or other, but for most philosophical purposes within the belief-desire model of the mind, they are the same inasmuch as they serve to propel us to action. The present project is motivated by the following worry about this view: by mixing all the phenomena listed here – note that it lumps together psychological states, processes and dispositions, but also states and processes that on the face of it might not be psychological at all – are we not missing differences which might ultimately produce a completely different picture of the mind when we really attend to them? In particular, and this is crucial for this project, the category of “pro-attitude” does not distinguish between desire and emotion. This should give us pause. Why?

We are familiar with the following folk-psychological explanations: “She desires to visit her mother because she misses her”, “He admires Maria so much, he wants to spend most of his time with her”, “Sam wanted to have this car so badly, he is now overjoyed”, “Maria wanted to go with me on holidays, what a disappointment it is for her!”. These examples illustrate a common type of explanation: emotions cause and motivate desires, and desires cause and motivate emotions. These explanations seem to make sense of one type of mental states by appeal to another type. On the belief-desire model of the mind, however, this might in fact be an illusion. For, on many popular and important psychological (Brehm, 1999) and philosophical (e.g. Marks, 1982, Searle, 1983; Gordon, 1987; Green, 1992, Wollheim, 1999, Gordon, 1987) accounts of emotions, the latter are explicitly or implicitly understood in conative terms. If this is true, then the type of explanation offered above, contrary to appearances, would not appeal to the occurrence of one type of mental states to explain the occurrence of another type of mental states; indeed, in the end, it might seem that conative phenomena explain other conative phenomena. Is this correct? Couldn’t it be rather that desire is in fact one type of emotion; or perhaps more plausibly, that desire is distinct altogether from emotion?

The hypothesis at the centre of this project rests on the claim that emotions and desires are distinct types of mental phenomena playing radically distinct roles in our mental economy. The aim of the proposed research is thus to provide an account of the way the relations between desires and emotions should be articulated, together with a theory of the relations between these phenomena and action. In a nutshell the hypothesis is the following: desires, regarded as they are in the traditional belief-desire model of the mind as inner causes of action, can and do rationalise action when they are grounded, directly or indirectly, in emotions conceived of as reason-sensitive states. The present project tries to cash out this hypothesis by bringing together three areas of research on desire that are too often insulated from one another: (i) straight philosophy of mind of the so-called pro-attitudes and its concern with the nature of mental states and their interrelations, (ii) moral psychology with its concern to characterise desire in ways that are relevant for rational and/or moral action, and (iii) empirical psychology of emotion and motivation with its concern to pin down the processes and mechanisms explaining behaviour.

This first part of the project articulates the framework and prepares the ground necessary to formulate the aforementioned hypothesis. In section B, I motivate the claim that emotions should neither be conceived in terms of desires nor desires in terms of emotions. This will provide the occasion for presenting the ideas driving present-day philosophical research on desire and motivation on the one hand and presenting present-day philosophical research on emotion on the other hand while introducing distinctions and themes necessary for motivating the main hypothesis of the project. With these distinctions in hand, I move on to discuss, in section C, debates in moral psychology on the role desires might or might not play in our ordinary explanations of action in terms of reasons. In this section, I motivate the claim that the solutions proposed in the literature on how the belief-desire model of the mind should be modified or abandoned to account for our ordinary explanations of action are not satisfactory as they stand. This, as we shall see, opens the door to the idea that a satisfactory account of the mind must regard emotions not only as distinct from desires but also as an essential and non-eliminable ingredient of our mental economy.

b. Three intuitions about desires and their link to emotions. In philosophy, research on desire is very scattered (desires are often treated in passing and in relation to other phenomena) and this is particularly true of research on desire and its link with emotions. It is fair to say though that three fundamental intuitions have traditionally driven the theory of desire, intuitions that continue to drive present-day research on this topic. And as we shall see, we seem to have analogous intuitions with respect to emotions. (1) A first intuition with respect to desire, especially strong when focusing on the experiential dimension of the phenomenon is related to the pleasures and pains coming with its satisfaction or its frustration. We might think that desires are essentially states that are oriented towards pleasure and thus that they should be compared and contrasted with aversions that are oriented towards the avoidance of pain (Duncker, 1941; Dretske, 1966; Gosling, 1969; especially Strawson, 1994), (2) A second intuition, at the other end of the spectrum, would have it that desires are evaluative representations. They represent the desired object as good in some way. This ancient and venerable way of looking at desire is congenial to the moral philosopher whose primary objective is to understand the link between action and value (Aristotle, Aquinas, and for instance Stampe, 1987; Helm, 2001; Oddie, 2005). (3) Finally, a third intuition, perhaps the first that comes to mind, insists on the link between desire and action. Desires are simply those mental states that dispose subjects to bring about the content of these states. Accounts based on this intuition are widespread in contemporary philosophy of mind and can be considered to represent the standard view (Armstrong, 1968; Searle, 1983; Stalnaker, 1987; Smith, 1994).

Now, at the first approximation at least, are these intuitions not precisely those we also have regarding emotions? If we think of emotion as being the locus of pleasures and pains (e.g. Russell, 1980 and 2003; Goldstein, 2003), as being forms of evaluations of the world and of oneself (e.g. deSousa, 1987; Tappolet, 2000) and as having intimate links with action (Frijda, 2003), it is no surprise that desires and emotions are often put in the same box. But should they really? A further look at these intuitions and the research that ground them reveal that they should not.

(1) The conception of desire/aversion as dispositions to feel pleasures or pains is perhaps one that is most congenial to the empirically minded philosopher trying to think of desire as a ‘natural kind’. For while it is difficult to even start looking for desires in the brain, the mechanics of pain and pleasure might turn out easier to detect (e.g. Morillo, 1990). On this view, the distinctive feature of desires and aversions, beyond the various states of affairs towards which they might be geared, is the pleasures and pains that the desired state of affairs brings to the subject. To desire a car is to be disposed to feel pleasure when getting it, to feel pain when not getting it. This is an elegant and simple way of conceiving of desire, one that is likely to be applicable to higher animals as well as humans and thus thought to be easily accommodated within a naturalist framework of the mind. Note however a crucial feature of the proposed account. On this way of characterising desire, the link between the latter and motivation/behaviour is indirect at best. If I desire that p, I might, if possible, try to bring about that p. But that is not at all essential to the theory (Strawson, 1994). On this view, I can desire that it rains, i.e. be disposed to feel pleasure when it does, while there is nothing I will or can do to bring it about. While this is a conceivable view of desire, it is not one that will be congenial to the belief-desire theorist who thinks of it as essentially propelling action.

Be that as it may, once this conception of desire is stated, it might immediately gain plausibility and appeal when it is realised that a variety of possible theories of the emotions is already incorporated into it. If we put together the idea that desires are dispositions to pleasures or pains and the very common and intuitive idea that emotions are nothing but pleasures and pains (valence), perhaps felt with various intensities (arousal) (Russell, 1991), then the link with emotions might be thought to be immediate. Why not say that the positive emotions are pleasures associated with or representing the satisfaction of desires and negative emotions are pains associated with or representing the frustration of desires (Wollheim, 1999)? Or similarly –and this is for example how the most important and empirically informed recent philosophical publication on desire has it– emotions are conceived of as representations of net changes in desire satisfaction  (It should be stressed that in Schroeder’s theory, desire satisfaction/frustration is associated directly with reward/punishment, and that the latter, for empirical reasons, should not be identified straightforwardly with pains and pleasures) relative to expectation (Schroeder, 2004). Note that we face here one way in which to articulate the relation between desires and emotions. While emotions here are not directly assimilated to desires, they are analysed in terms of their fate.

This being said, the view of desires suggested by the first intuition cannot be the whole story about them – nor about emotions for that matter (it makes little sense for example to say that an emotion is satisfied or frustrated). First of all, it is not clear that all states that dispose me to feel happy in some circumstances can be described as desires. Second, say, something totally unforeseen and not even imaginable by me happens and makes me really happy. In this case, wouldn’t it be really strange to say that I desired that thing even tacitly or unconsciously? If you do not think it strange –after all we might have desires with very general and vague contents– you should think of the converse case. I might very well desire something whose satisfaction brings indifference or displeasure. Should we say in this case, and even though the desire has not disappeared, that because it was not a disposition to feel pleasure in the relevant circumstances, it was not truly a desire at all?

(2) This brings us to the second intuition: the idea that it is not pleasure that is at the centre of desire, but the representation of a state of affairs as falling under the good (the value of the good), pleasure being one of the good that one might represent by desires. Perhaps, what distinguishes the motivations that, say, a robot might have from the real desires that mental beings might have is that mental beings construe the desired state of affairs as being worth pursuing (Helm, 2006). On this view, desires are representation of states of affairs as being good in some way or other, representations that have the power to move one to action. To desire a cigarette is to view smoking as worth pursuing, to desire helping your friend is to view this action as a good thing to do. In both cases, these positive representations are thought of as enough to dispose one to action.

Now here again we face a conception of desire which possesses all the ingredients for thinking of desires and emotions as having very similar structures. Although the idea of desires as presentations of values is more congenial to the philosopher than to the psychologist, the latter is familiar with the idea that emotions are presentations of values or at least forms of evaluations. Since the cognitive revolution in emotion theory (e.g. Lazarus, 1966; Solomon, 1976; Scherer, 1984), it is common to think of emotion as having as one of its fundamental functions to make subjects sensitive to what is significant for them, or of value to them, given what they care about. On this view of the emotions, objects and situations are affectively presented in evaluative terms, e.g. as being dangerous (fear), self-degrading (shame), obstructive or offensive (anger), etc. Emotions are sensitive to the evaluative dimensions of our environment given our cares, concerns, goals, etc., and as such, tend to motivate us to distinct types of actions (Frijda, 2007). In this context, then, we have of course another reason to believe that desires, this time understood as representations of objects, states and processes as good, are very much like emotions. This, together with the intuitions that desires have intimate relations with pains and pleasures, might convince someone that there is no interesting distinction between emotions and desires.

While the present project endorses the claim that emotions are indeed forms of evaluations of the world, it holds that it is wrong to think of desires in such terms. To say that desiring something implies in some sense that the subject views that thing in some favourable light is probably correct, but it is doubtful that desires in themselves represent the object in that light. First of all, many desires, instrumental desires for example, might be thought not to be in themselves representations of state of affairs as being good. Second, and crucially, on most accounts of desires, they have the wrong nature to have a representative role. If a desire is a state that has the function to change the world in the way the desire represents it to be, it is bizarre to think that it is also and in itself a representation of the world as good. Desires, many philosophers would argue, have the world-to-mind direction of fit (e.g. Searle, 1983; Humberstone, 1992; Smith, 1994; Zangwill, 1998; the initial intuition comes from Anscombe, 1957). Desires, in stark contrast with emotions, aim at the realisation of their content (see Goldie 2000 for caution on this point). It makes no sense to say, for example, that my joy at seeing the cake (as opposed to my desire to eat it), aims at the realisation of its content. As a result and with such a picture of desire, we end up with an account which downplays what is usually considered to be the most important trait of desire: its essential link to action.

(3) Insisting on the third of these intuitions, i.e. the link between desire and action, is perhaps the most secure way of bringing to the fore the differences between desire and emotion. On this view, a desire that p is essentially this state that propels us to do p. This way of thinking of desire is one that is most natural for the functionalist philosopher of mind interested in the links between belief, desire and action, and one which grounds the belief-desire model already alluded to. The philosopher who insists on the link between desire and action will emphasise those features of desires that make them the natural candidates for being essentially dispositions to action. First, and in addition to what has already been said about the direction of fit of desires, she will argue that desires, contrary to appearances, are always directed at states of affairs. Indeed, desiring an object (a car) is always, ultimately, desiring that some state of affairs involving the object obtains (possessing the car) (Searle, 1983; Humberstone, 1990). Second, she will point out that desires are always directed at a state of affairs that is believed to be non-actual, i.e. future (Kenny, 1963). It is very bizarre to desire something the subject believes is already the case. It can be argued indeed that what looks like desires concerning past events, if they are not the emotional attitudes of regret, guilt, etc., are desires that these events still be ahead of one. This is why desires are said to be concerned only with future state of affairs. Finally, she would likely insist that the bringing about of the state of affairs must be believed to be in the power of the desirer – one cannot desire bringing about something one believes one has no control over whatsoever (Anscombe 1957; Kenny, 1963). Hence, this set of claims, combined with the idea that the performance of an action has a special feel to it when it is desired, a feel that is associated with the feedback the world is exerting on us as a result of trying to make an impact on it, (O’Shaughnessy, 1980; Bayne, 2006; Pacherie, 2008), lead us to a picture of desire which essentially links it to action. All these features now indeed point towards the idea that desires are essentially states of the subject that dispose her to act so as to realise the state of affairs represented by the desire. And if this is so, then there are good reasons to think that desires are states that are very different from emotions. Why?

While emotions certainly have links with motivation and action, it cannot be as intimate as the link between desire and action that is suggested here (e.g. Prinz, 2004). First, emotions, it is often said, can be directed at objects rather than states of affairs. It seems wrong to say, for example, that admiring someone can be reduced to a case in which the subject admires one, or a collection of, states of affairs. Second, although they can and are often directed at future events, emotions are often directed at present or past events. Regret, guilt, or nostalgia are all examples of emotional phenomena that are essentially concerned with the past. And finally, emotions – unlike desires – can be about objects that are not believed to be in the power of the subject. One can feel and often feels emotions about things over which one has absolutely no control. In fact, it is often said that what is called ‘coping potential’, which can vary from ‘very much’ to ‘none at all’, is a key determinant in distinguishing emotions (e.g. Scherer, 1994). Now, what these issues point towards is that the link between emotion and action is not as intimate as that between desires and action. This of course should not come as a surprise if, as we have suggested, emotions present the world in evaluative terms, i.e. if they have, contrary to desires, the mind-to-world direction of fit.

This quick and partial review of the ideas and intuitions regarding desire and their link to emotions and emotion theories shows at the very least that understanding the latter with the help of the former is not very promising. Now, if looking at the structure of these two types of mental states should make us think that it might be a mistake to lump them together in the pro-attitude category, looking at them from the perspective of action explanation in moral psychology provides further and different reasons not to do so.

c. Desire in Moral Psychology. There is one area of philosophy, often called moral psychology, which has long insisted that there is something wrong with the ‘belief-desire model’ as it stands, and insisted that lumping all these states together under the umbrella of the conative or pro-attitude will not do. The thought in this literature is that there must be restrictions on the kind of behaviour that can be evaluated from the point of view of morality or rational behaviour, and that these restrictions are likely to have to do with the type of state that brought about the behaviour (e.g. Nagel, 1970; Dancy, 1993; Schueler, 1995, 2003). The point is often put like this: actions, at least those that are relevant for morality are done for reasons. However, not all the states that we lump together in the pro-attitude box will count as reasons for actions. My impulse to eat as opposed to my intention to go to a gourmet restaurant, for example, might not count as a reason for my action and might therefore fare differently with respect to evaluations from the point of rationality or morality. If a desire that p, say, is just a propeller of action, i.e. a triggering cause as opposed to a structuring cause (Dretske, 1988) that just happens to be operative in the subject, then the intuition is that the desire in question will perhaps explain causally the action, but will fail to provide a rational explanation or justification for it. People at least sometimes act for reasons that are not reducible to simply desiring performing the action. The idea is often put this way: it is only when the desire is appropriately connected to the world, that is, connected to it in such a way that the projected action is intelligible from the point of view of rationality or morality that it now might count as a reason for the action, as opposed to just a brute tendency towards performing it. My desire to help Jack is perhaps intelligible as a reason to help him if it is, or is grounded in, an understanding of Jack’s plight and the role I see myself having with regard to Jack’s fate.

This debate, which traditionally opposes the Humean and the Non-Humean with regard to motivation, is a rare domain of philosophy in which emphasis is put on the fact that the crucial distinctions must be made within different types of pro-attitudes. But the truth is that for obvious and legitimate reasons, this debate has not gone very far in producing an interesting taxonomy of the conative realm. As things stand now, fundamentally, mainly two strategies to get out of the limitations of the belief-desire model for the purpose of the explanation of action have surfaced.

The first consists in rejecting the model altogether with its distinction between two states (desire and belief) to which two different functions are ascribed, and reverting to the ancient and venerable idea (corresponding to one possible reading of the second intuition presented above in section B) that evaluative cognitions are in themselves sufficient for motivation. Believing that x is good is enough for motivating one to pursue x (e.g. Nagel, 1970; McDowell, 1978 and 1979; Smith, 1994; Dancy, 2000). Although the motivations for this view are extremely varied, it is fair to say that the driving idea is the following: a rational explanation of action must make reference to reasons. And whether we are internalist or externalist about reasons (Williams, 1981), only so-called cognitive states –such as believing that x is a good thing– can put us into contact with reasons and rationally motivate action. The picture (sometimes called “the deliberative model”) is one in which we deliberate about the various reasons there are/we have, on the basis of which we form intentions or make decisions. And the upshot of this view (admittedly barely sketched here) has generally been to put aside efforts to provide an account of motivation which tries to reconcile our Humean mechanistic picture of the mind with the fact that action explanations are rational explanations. In light of the many reasons we adduced for thinking that desires have an essential role to play in our understanding of how action comes about, abandoning altogether the belief desire-model might be considered to be too much of a price to pay.

The second strategy, one that can be endorsed in reaction to the first, has consisted in accepting the framework of the belief-desire model – desires are required because evaluative cognitions are not in themselves sufficient for having the motivation to act in accordance with what they recommend – while supplementing it by reconfiguring desires so as to make them apt to play the double role of propeller and reason-giver. That is how strange and new mental states, such as ‘Besires’ (Altham, 1986), ‘motivated desires’ (e.g. Nagel, 1970; Schueler, 1995), ‘second-order desires’ (Frankfurt, 1988), ‘reason providing desires’ (Platts, 1991), etc. were born. These are states that in themselves can play the double role of giving a reason for an action and causally propelling it.

This latter idea is very attractive since it combines the two intuitions according to which desires must represent the thing desired as good in some way while disposing one to act. It promises that desire will be able to play the double role of giving a reason for the action (the state of affairs is perceived to be good in some way) while also performing its duty of propelling the subject to action. It is an attractive idea, but there are good reasons to resist it at least in some versions of the view. Some of these reasons have already been adduced. Many desires, we said, might not in themselves be representations of states of affairs as good and, and could not even be so, as the considerations regarding their direction of fit have suggested. But perhaps most importantly, desires seem to be the wrong kind of state to represent the world in more diverse evaluative terms. Although we might perhaps want to say that desires are experiences of things as desirable, they are definitely not experiences of things as elegant, as admirable, as funny, as majestic, as offensive, etc. But for desires to play the kind of reason-giving role we want them to play, we would expect them to be sensitive to a wide range of evaluative properties, a sensitivity that it would be very artificial to ascribe to them. Even when we think of those desires that have a phenomenological dimension to them, it makes little sense to say that their phenomenology is such that it makes differences between these distinct values. Finally and most importantly, the idea in question rules out the possibility of a type of explanation we constantly have recourse to. We say things as “I desire this cloth because I experience/judge, etc. its elegance”, “I want to eat it because it looks tasty”, explanations that are not available if the desire itself is an experience of the elegant or of the tasty.

The arguments sketched here militate thus in favour of distinguishing what I desire from what motivates me to desire something. And this takes us back to square one: if we are not ready to abandon altogether the Humean model of the mind for the reasons adduced, and if we are not happy with the proposed amendments to it that have been proposed to make it suitable to account for the fact that action explanations are rational forms of explanations, what are we to do? In the next part of the presentation of this project I propose a solution which emphasises the epistemic role emotions plays in desire and action explanation.

2.2 Detailed research plan

The presentation of this part of the project is structured around a broad hypothesis (section (a)) that provides the framework for four distinct sub-projects (section (b), (c), (d) and (e)) each treating a specific issue or challenge arising from trying to build the case for the hypothesis.

a. The hypothesis: Emotions as causes and reasons for desires. The starting point of the presentation of the state of research regarding the topic of this project was the following: not all the phenomena that the belief- desire model of the mind puts under the pro-attitude category appear to be playing the same role in our mental economy. A rationale for this claim was provided on the basis of the sketch of two unrelated arguments emanating from two different areas of research. From straight philosophy of mind, we found good reasons to distinguish within the category of the pro-attitudes those that are emotions from those that are desires. From moral psychology, we found good reasons to distinguish within the category of desires those that might count as reasons for actions from those that are just causes of actions, leaving room, perhaps, for those that might play both roles. If the conclusions of these two arguments are to be taken seriously, then a natural manner of combining them into one single and coherent picture presents itself. The hypothesis at the centre of this picture is that emotions and desires have radically distinct roles. The idea in a nutshell is that desires, conceived of as they are traditionally as triggering causes of action can and do rationalise action when they are grounded, directly or indirectly, in emotions conceived of as reason- sensitive sates. This radical division of labour between emotions and desires makes sense in the light of (a) the epistemic status of the two types of mental sates, (b) the way they are both connected with action, and (c) the epistemic and metaphysical relations existing between the two types of states.

(a) First, the epistemic status of emotions and desires are distinct. Emotions, conceived as experiences of the world in evaluative terms may be claimed to be reason-sensitive states, and as such provide reasons for both axiological judgements and for desires to act. These desires to act, by contrast and insofar as they are essentially geared towards their realisation, do not present the world in any given way and as such cannot in themselves rationalise actions. This is the sense in which they are very different from an epistemic standpoint. (b) Because emotions are cognitive states, namely presentations of the world in axiological terms, they have only an indirect link with action. We can characterise it by saying that emotions can present at most possibilities for action, constraining, through the axiological properties it reveals, what it makes sense to desire in the circumstances. The desires born of these emotional experiences, by contrast, have a direct, in fact necessary, link with action since they are in themselves dispositions to realise their content. This is the sense in which emotions and desires differ with respect to their link with action. (c) Now, the following understanding of the epistemic and metaphysical relations existing between the two naturally suggests itself: when a desire to act directly stems from an emotion or an emotional inclination, as when I desire to hit Jack because I felt offended by his remark, then we have good reasons to think that the desire can inherit its rationalising role from the rationalising role of the emotion that gave rise to it. My desire to take revenge on Jack can rationalise my hitting him when it is understood that it is born out of my having been offended by his unfair treatment of me. At the centre of the present picture, the case in which our desires are caused and justified by our emotions enjoys a privileged explanatory status.

Now the following clarifications are in order. Whereas the case in which a desire to act is caused and rationalised by an emotion enjoys a privileged explanatory status within the present picture, this does not amount to claiming that all desires to act are causally and rationally grounded in actual emotional experiences. First, nothing in what has been said rules the possibility of (a) desires being caused and rationalised by other types of mental states, nor (b) that desires might cause and rationalise emotions and other states, for example other desires. The crucial and simple idea is that the explanation of someone’s desire proceeds in terms of what she takes to be axiologically the case and this leaves room for a variety of possible scenarios. The attitude of taking something to be axiologically the case can be an emotion, but it can also be and often is, an axiological belief, an axiological memory or an axiological imagining, etc. On the present hypothesis, however, given that a person’s emotions or emotional profile is what gives him access to the evaluative properties of the world, his beliefs, memories and imaginings with axiological content will ultimately (if at all) be rationalised through this person’s emotion or emotional tendencies. The point here is not (or not only) that many present-day desires can still be rationalised by long gone and even forgotten emotional experiences, but that desires are often made intelligible via reference to a person’s possible or likely emotional response. My desire not to accompany you to this exhibition is intelligible in the light of my contempt for contemporary art. My being disposed to feel contempt in this case can still be invoked to explain my (negative) desire in the absence of any felt emotional experience. (b) For the same reasons, if a desire causes and rationalises an emotion, for example my disappointment at the cancellation of this or that professor’s lecture, then the disappointment is made sense of through the mention of my desire to attend the lecture, which is in turn and ultimately rationalised through the mention of, say, the admiration I feel for the professor in question. Also a desire for a certain end (an intrinsic desire) will typically cause and rationalise the desires for the means (extrinsic desire) for this end as long as the initial desire is rationalised by an emotion or an emotional tendency.

Note too that the present hypothesis is prima facie compatible with the idea that some of our desires have no grounding at all, be it in emotions or in other types of mental states. These will typically be difficult or impossible to consider from a rational point of view, i.e. regarded as reason-sensitive and reason-giving. Conversely, the hypothesis is compatible or even encourages the idea that an emotion might cause and rationalise many different desires in the same subject at the same time. My admiration/awe of the professor has caused both my desire to greet and meet him but also my desire to stay at a respectable distance, etc. In addition, while the model of desires as dispositions to act, as we have seen, probably puts many constraints on what can be desired (only state of states, that are viewed as non-actual, future, believed to be in the power of the subject, etc.) the content of the desire can be as ‘open’ as we want. Jane’s distaste of this journalist’s question might cause and rationalise her desire to stop this very interview right now and/or also and more generally stop talking to journalists altogether.

On the present hypothesis, emotions are claimed to have a non-eliminable role within our mental economy. Insofar as it is what gives us sui-generis access to a world of axiological properties, emotions are said to justify our axiological judgements and our action through our desires that could not be provided by other means. It is also in virtue of this role that the hypothesised model can accommodate the intuitions of both the Humean who thinks of desires as inner causes of action with a world-to-mind direction fit, as well as the intuitions of the anti-Humean who insists that proper explanations of actions must appeal to mental states that are sensitive to reasons. The hypothesis accommodates these intuitions by avoiding the purely mechanistic picture of the Humean (emotions can constitute reasons for our desires) while steering clear of the over-intellectualist picture of the mind typically provided by the anti-Humean (acting for a reason need not result from a deliberative process in which our axiological or normative beliefs play the essential reason-providing role). In its present state, however, the hypothesis constitutes only a framework for research. Here are four crucial areas in which the hypothesis can be put to the test.

b. Emotions as reasons. A crucial and foundational claim motivates the present hypothesis: emotions track objects’ values and as such can be said to track reasons for judging and desiring. This claim is controversial and one aim of this project is to defend it in some details. The point of departure here is usefully apprehended with the help of an analogy with perception. The idea is that in the same way that perceptions track objects’ perceptual properties for us, emotions track evaluative properties (De Sousa, 1987; Tappolet, 2000, Deonna, 2006, Doering, 2007). In the same way that perception gives us a sui-generis and non- eliminable access to the perceptual environment, emotions gives us a sui-generis and non-eliminable access to the evaluative properties of our environment. While this has to be true for the hypothesis of this project to get off the ground, it faces a number of challenges. The main one can be stated as follows. While it makes no sense to ask why (in a normative sense) I saw this or that object in front of me, it often (or perhaps always) does make sense to ask why I felt this or that emotion over this or that object. And the thought behind this observation is that the disanalogy is to be explained by the fact that, contrary to the claim, emotions are not access to reasons, but reactions to them. It makes sense to ask why you are afraid of the dog, because the danger represented by it is accessed to independently of and prior to the emotional reaction. If this is the case then emotions are reactions to reasons and not detectors of reasons and as a result will not be apt to play any reason-giving role.

A good strategy to answer this challenge should proceed in the following way. If there is a disanalogy between perception and emotion in this respect, it is not because one is access and the other reaction. The fact is that emotions have indeed non-evaluative cognitive bases (a perception, a belief, a testimony, a memory, etc.) and are metaphysically and epistemically dependent on them. My fear of the dog depends metaphysically and epistemically on my perception of the dog. This however does not rule out, far from it, the fact that it is through my fear that I become aware of the danger of the dog as given in my perception of it (Teroni, 2007). If the disanalogy is now explained in this new and different way, then another explanation can be given perhaps of why we ask reasons for emotions in a way that we do not for perceptions. Because emotions have non-evaluative bases, many questions can arise with regard to what the non-evaluative facts are. Have you met the dog before? Do you know him for being vindictive and erratic? Etc. Developing this two-tier strategy to answer the challenge is the central aim of this sub-project.

c. Emotional reasons and affective dispositions. Even if it can be shown that emotions have the right kind of structure to be reason-giving states rationalising our desires, judgements and actions, the very idea of a world imbued with evaluative properties which would be given through our emotion and which would justify our judgements and desires for actions needs to be elaborated and clarified. In particular, one might think that our emotions are so dependent on what can be called our motivational set (and in particular our personality traits, our sentiments and other idiosyncratic tendencies) that they might be the wrong candidates for rationalising our desires and judgements. How should this challenge be addressed? To explain a person’s judgement, desire or an action by mentioning an emotion is to make reference to this person’s affective sensitivity to certain values. To explain for example his desire to flee by reference to her fear is to explain the desire through this person sensitivity to danger. To explain someone’s desire to help through mention of his compassion is to explain his desire through his sensitivity to the plight of others. To explain his desire to go and see this exhibition of Pollock through mention of his enthusiasm or love for conceptual art is to explain the desire through his sensitivity to some aesthetical properties of this form of art. Hence to explain a judgement, a desire, or an action in terms of distinct emotions is always to explain in terms of distinct inclinations to see the world in distinctive evaluative terms. What these examples illustrate is that the weight and intelligibility of the explanation might rest variously either on the side of the world and its evaluative properties or on the side of the person’s emotions or emotional profile. What does that mean? In many cases, such as when we explain Jack’s desire to flee from the lion by mentioning his fear, the emotions are entirely intelligible solely in the light of the relation existing between some objects/situations and their obvious axiological dimensions. It is just a fact that lions are for most of us dangerous. At other times, however, the particular emotional profile of the person’s whose desire we try to understand has to be invoked. My desire to go see a Pollock exhibition might make sense only given that I am the kind of person who has a particular attachment to Pollock or a general interest in contemporary art. While explanations in terms of emotions on the whole rationalise judgements, desires, and behaviours in the same way for all of us – distinct emotions give us access to distinct families of values –, appeal to our idiosyncratic emotional profiles (personality traits, sentiments, affective dispositions) explain our desires, action and judgments in terms of our axiological priorities, i.e. in terms of the distinct weight we put on distinct values (see Goldie, 2000; Deonna & Teroni 2009).

The upshot of all this for the project is thus twofold: first, (a) the reason-providing nature of the emotions that ground our desires appears to come from two different sources. To put it bluntly, the way the world is constrains what axiological properties can be in it given, on the one hand, the kind of creatures we are, and given, on other hand, the kind of specific or individual person we are understood in terms of our specific emotional profiles, i.e. our axiological priorities. Now, making sense of these explanations in terms of these two sources of axiological pressures, and the dynamics between them, is the aim of this sub- project. Second, (b) the emotional profiles which are here claimed to be one source of justification for our desires to act have been cashed out in terms of affective phenomena such as people’s sentiments, personality traits and other affective dispositions. Now you will remember that all these had pride of place in the list of the pro-attitudes with which we started. This confirms that not everything that this category contains should be apprehended in the same manner, and this observation favours a more refined treatment of the various phenomena being lumped together.

d. A taxonomy of the conative domain. We embarked on this project by observing that the category of the pro-attitudes lumps together a great variety of phenomena (mental states and non-mental states; emotional and conative phenomena). The framework of the present hypothesis naturally suggests means through which some order can be brought to the category. While of course the present effort at classification must leave room for the inherent fuzziness of ordinary language –many of the terms listed (such as ‘motivation’ for example) have very ambiguous or vague meanings– the hypothesis driving it indicates clearly how to proceed in this effort. Here are a few important examples.

First of all, and in the spirit of the belief-desire model, some of the terms listed there are naturally understood as being equivalent to the way the term desire has been used throughout this document. Wants and volitions, but also perhaps crucially tryings and strivings are cases in hand (for tryings, see in particular O’Shaugnessy, 1980; Hornsby, 1980). They are states with content that dispose subjects to act so as to make these contents true. Other phenomena listed, such as principles or obligations or rules of conducts are naturally interpreted within the present perspective as being types of evaluative or normative beliefs. They have the mind-to-world direction of fit.

More interestingly, other phenomena often associated with the lower or animal parts of our motivational structure and commonly classified in the conative domain, might on the present hypothesis best be regarded on the model of the emotions as it was sketched here. Indeed, it is fair to say that at least some of the phenomena that we refer to using terms such as appetites or urges seem emotional in nature. The idea here is that we often want to distinguish between, for example, a general positive attitude towards eating or sex in general (having appetite or an urge) from wanting to eat some particular piece of food or wanting to indulge in some specific sexual act (desire). From the perspective of the present hypothesis, reference to appetites and urges so understood looks like reference to states that present the world in evaluative terms, i.e. attention seems to be focused on the actual world construed as offering possibilities for causing and grounding particular desires (for an account of appetitive desires, see Davis, 1987, and, for emotional desires, Goldie, 2000).

At the other hand of the spectrum in the list of the pro-attitudes, we have all these states –of which we have said very little– that we variously refer to with the terms intentions, choices, decisions, and the like. As Bratman (e.g. Bratman, 1987), for example, has shown, these should not be confused with desires, or a mix of beliefs and desires. While I can easily have two desires that I know are incompatible, I cannot form two intentions that I know are incompatible. And this is because intentions, in contrast with desires, are not only dispositions to act, but commitments to act. Now the present hypothesis is entirely neutral with respect to this, and can thus be accommodated within any philosophical project which looks at motivation from a broader perspective. In fact, the study of action from the perspective of a person’s short and long- terms plans, life-driving projects, etc., the manner in which deliberation and intentions are formed in the process of acting out these plans and projects is of particular interest given the emphasis on emotions and emotional profiles within the present framework. To give just one example, Bratman’s notion of ‘personal policies’ – which is associated to the desires with which the subject identifies (see in particular Bratman, 1989 and 2000) – underpinning people’s acting out of strategies and plans might be enlightened if understood in the framework of what I called our emotional profiles (sentiments, personality traits and other affective dispositions). Other refinements of the taxonomy can focus on the status of imaginative desires, wishes or fictional desires insofar as these attitudes can be described as specific counter-factual dispositions to act.

What these examples illustrate is that the hypothesis driving this project offers a potentially very powerful tool for providing an appealing taxonomy of the conative domain, which is the central aim of this sub-project.

e. Emotion, desire and empirical psychology. The proposed hypothesis faces numerous philosophical challenges, as we have just seen, but it also faces challenges of an empirical nature. In this section, I pin down areas which illustrate the necessity of working within an interdisciplinary framework for progress to emerge with regard to the central topic of this project. (1) First, for emotions to play their reason-giving role, as has been already emphasised, they must be conceived as states that are sensitive to a certain kind of information in the world: evaluative information. They thus cannot simply be a mix of pleasures and pains as, for example, both the dimensionalist (Russell, 1995) and the constructionist (Barrett 2006), conceive of them, nor can they easily be understood in terms of representation of desire satisfaction and desire frustration (Schroeder, 2006; Wollheim, 1999). Now, in the philosophical theories of the emotions, the various options within this evaluative model are well-known and the same can be said about the so-called appraisal model of the emotion in empirical psychology. When this is understood, it is obvious that there are roads for mutual exploration that would be very beneficial for both philosophy and psychology. Two areas in particular are worth mentioning: (i) within appraisal theory (Scherer, 1984), or so the philosopher would think, it is unclear whether emotions are conceived directly as experiences of values or whether they are reactions to antecedently perceived values. The so-called appraisal checks within the sequence of evaluations constituting an emotion within appraisal theory are not clearly singled out as affective phenomena describable as experiences of values. (ii) From the other direction, the idea within appraisal theory that an emotion is a dynamical process (going from checks to checks and reappraising the eliciting condition on the basis of these checks while the process unfolds) is something that does not have much echo in philosophical theories of the emotions, but that should be taken into account. The theory of emotions grounding this project can thus both inform and be informed by extensive collaborations, including empirical means to decide these issues, with those directly working in appraisal theory. (2) Second, it might be thought that the suggested account of desire promotes a picture of desire that reduces it to an empty shell. That is, once the emotions or the appetites have done their job of presenting an end as worth pursuing or avoiding, what role, if any, is left for desires to play except satisfying the urge of the Humean to postulate such states ? This challenge has to be met by the Humean. The fact that desires are essentially dispositions for actions is indeed a necessary condition but not a sufficient one to distinguish it from other motivational states. But here the Humean does not lack resources: there might be rational constraints on what can qualify as the content of a desire –the desire is not only directed towards the desired state of affairs, the state of affairs is intended by the subject (Dretske, 1988)– as well as experiential or phenomenal constraints linked to the already mentioned feedback inherent in the idea of desire as trying or a striving to accomplish something (Armstrong, 1967, O’Shaughnessy, 1980; Bayne, 2006; Pacherie, 2008). And here exchange and collaboration with empirical scientists working on the motivational dimension of emotion should be of much help. Within appraisal theory, psychologists distinguish between a subject’s detection of ‘intrinsic pleasantness’ from the detection of ‘goal conduciveness’ (Frijda & Zellenberg, 2003), a distinction that, on one interpretation at least, could be mapped onto the distinction made here between emotion (and appetite?) on the one hand and intentions and plans on the other. Here, emotions and appetites detect positive and negative values and/or saliencies (intrinsic pleasantness) which are then either confronted with existing generic intentions or plans (goal-conduciveness). However, it is not clear within this picture of motivation, articulated around the distinction between intrinsic pleasantness and goal-conduciveness, what room is left for desires conceived as dispositions to make true their contents with their characteristic feedback. Ways to test empirically this manner of conceptualising the structure of the motivational processes, in particular by exhibiting behavioural dissociations between the manifestations of these alleged processes, are presently sought. (3) Third, recent empirical data (e.g. Berridge & Robinson, 1998; Berridge, 2003) strongly suggest that distinguishing between the conative and the affective makes sense. Although the evidence is very difficult to interpret, the data suggest that in pathologies of motivation of various sorts, either artificially induced in animals or naturally occurring in human (e.g. drug addiction), neural structures associated with ‘wanting’ (reward system) and neural structure associated with ‘liking’(valence), two structures that work usually in tandem start to operate in isolation. While these data certainly seem to favour the general hypothesis underlying this project, i.e. that conation and affect are not to be identified with one another, at this stage it is not clear at all that these data fit into to the model proposed here. This kind of evidence and in particular how pathologies of motivation can inform the theory of motivation must be integrated in a general theory of the relations between emotion and desire.

In these three areas, researchers within the NCCR in affective sciences, scientists with whom existing collaborations on other issues have proved either very successful or very promising have indicated their interest in pursuing the questions and problems they raise.

2.3. State of personal Research

My interests have always been principally in the philosophy of mind, and more particularly in the philosophy of emotion. My focus in this and related areas started during my undergraduate studies (University of Geneva, 1992-1996 and one year at the University of St-Andrews), and became the principal subject of my work during my PhD years at the University of Bristol (1998-2002) where I wrote my dissertation on the subject of empathy. As a post-doc in Cambridge (UK), in UC Berkeley, and in Oxford (2002-2004), I continued working, writing, and teaching in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of psychology and moral psychology with particular attention paid to the nature of emotions and their link to morality. I mention this trajectory because this extensive travelling between universities and philosophy departments in various parts of the world has shaped the specific brand of philosopher of mind I am. While there are many ways of philosophising about the mind, I do not privilege any particular one, apart perhaps from a residual concern to practice philosophy with an eye to respect our ordinary ways of thinking about the topic at hand. I believe the present project reflects this general attitude.

I returned to Switzerland towards the end of my post-doc years (2004) to take up a non-permanent teaching and research position at l’EPFL which I still hold (a position directly affiliated with the philosophy departments of the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne) with the title of Maître d’enseignement et de Recherche Suppléant (more or less equivalent to supply assistant professor). While occupying this position, I was also enrolled as, and still am, a (part-time) researcher at Centre Interfacultaire en Sciences Affectives (CISA), an inter-faculty centre of the University of Geneva which is the leading institution of the FNS funded National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Affective Sciences. This still characterises my present-day professional situation.

The core of my research and the publications2 associated to it have thus been concerned with three interrelated topics: (1) the subject of empathy and more generally the manner in which we come to attribute psychological states to one another [Deonna, The Transparency of Emotions, PhD Dissertation, 2002; Deonna, The structure of Empathy, 2007; Deonna&Nanay, The simulation vs. Theory-theory debate: plea for an epistemological turn, submitted]; (2) the subject of mental content, and in particular the idea that we may represent the world in non-conceptual ways [Deonna&Creese, Les Liaisons Dangereuses or How not to construe non-conceptual content, 2006];(3) and the nature and structure of emotions [Most relevant publications are: Deonna, Emotion, Perception and Perspective, 2006; Deonna&Teroni, Qu’est-ce qu’une emotion ? 2008, Deonna&Scherer, The intentional object disappearing act: constraints on a definition of Emotion, 2009; Deonna&Teroni, Taking affective explanations to heart, 2009], the links of emotions to morality [Most important are, Deonna, Evolution, émotion et morale, 2007, Deonna&Teroni, Distinguishing Shame from Guilt, 2008]

Although the topics of research (1), (2) and (4) have obvious and important connections with the material and arguments at the centre of this project, I shall focus here on the research accomplished directly on the topic of the emotions as it obviously constitutes the groundwork for the concerns of the present project. All the publications listed under (3) defend from various perspectives the conception of the emotion that is presupposed by the hypothesis of this project. First, they all develop on the idea that emotions are intentional states with content that represent the world in evaluative terms. The article co- written with psychologist K. Scherer, a leading appraisal theorist of the emotions, constitutes one of the rare efforts existing in the literature on the manner in which philosophy and psychology speak of emotions as states that indicate the significance the environment has for us. More importantly, my article Emotion, Perception and Perspective (2006) is of crucial importance for the present project. It is an attempt at defending an analogy between perception and emotion at various levels, the most important one being that they can be both conceived as sui-generis means of picking up information about the world, respectively perceptual and evaluative information. This article thus constitutes important groundwork for sub-project (a), although it does not directly address the main challenge at its core. My book, Qu’est-ce qu’une emotion ?, co-written with F. Teroni and now contracted with Routledge for an English translation, is a very well- received and broadly used (in the francophone world) introduction to the philosophical theories of the emotions. It is particularly relevant for the present project as it contains an important discussion of the links between emotion, desire and motivation. Starting with a criticism of the so-called belief-desire theory of emotion, it goes on to show that no theory of the emotion that presupposes that desire is an essential component of it can explain the ordinary structure of our folk-explanations in terms of emotions. To a large extent, then, this discussion in the book constitutes the point of departure of the overarching claim of the present project. Finally, the article Taking affective explanations to heart (2009), again co-written with F. Teroni, provides the basic distinctions relevant for sub-project (b) which is concerned with the explanation of our desires in terms of our emotional dispositions or our emotional profiles. It proposes a characterisation of the phenomena of emotions, moods, temperaments, personally traits, and sentiments and how they relate to one another. The work accomplished in this article can constitute a springboard for meeting the challenge of understanding why explanations of desire, action and judgement in terms of some, but not all, of these phenomena, do constitute rational or normative explanation of action.

The accomplished research and the ongoing one, i.e. the publication just described as well as the numerous participations at workshop and meetings on the same or related topics (see complete CV) over the years puts me, I believe, in a excellent position to attain the aims set out in the present project. This belief is reinforced by the fact that it will be conducted in the same context in which the work for the most recent portion of these publications has been conducted, i.e. the Centre Interfacultaire en Sciences Affectives (CISA). The NCCR “Affective Sciences: Emotions in individual behaviour and social processes”, directed by Klaus Scherer, is one of the first interdisciplinary research networks worldwide to study emotions in a comprehensive manner. Its very active research teams in the neuroscience and psychology of emotion and motivation, and in particular its philosophy unit (the Thumos group) of which I am already a member with its direct connection with the very active and productive philosophy department of the University of Geneva, is the ideal setting for the successful pursuit of such a project.

2.4 Schedule

The detailed research plan of this project (2.3) is structured around a broad hypothesis (a. The hypothesis: Emotions as causes and reasons for desires) and four distinct sub-projects (b. Emotions as reasons; c. Emotional reasons and affective dispositions; d. A taxonomy of the conative domain; e. Emotion, desire and empirical psychology) each treating a specific aspect of the framework generated by the hypothesis. As a general fact, it must be expected that progress in all the sub-projects will contribute to build the case in favour of the broad hypothesis underlying this project. More specifically, while two of them ground the hypothesis at the centre of the project (sub-projects (b) and sub-project (c)), another explore the fruitfulness of the account in related areas of the philosophy of mind (sub-project d.). Sub- project (e) has a distinct status as progress within it is directly dependent on ongoing or emerging collaborations within the NCCR in Affective Sciences.

The overarching long-term aim of the project (after 4 years) is to be ready to publish a philosophical monograph on the relation between emotion and motivation along the lines sketched in the present document. Consistent with my being embedded in an interdisciplinary setting for the duration of this project, the intended audience for this book is the philosophical and non-philosophical academic community interested in these issues. Given this long-term aim, here is how I foresee the schedule of the work to be accomplished in all of the sub-projects. Sub-projects (b) and (c), which ground the claim at the centre of the project, will naturally be tackled first. Although crucial to the aims of the project, this can be completed quickly given that the material and lines of arguments in each of them, resting as they do in part on already published material (Deonna, 2006, Deonna & Teroni, 2009), are at an advanced stage of preparation. I should thus be in a position to publish two articles (one in each of the sub-projects) in peer- reviewed international philosophy journals by the end of the first year (autumn 2011). Preparation of the material and lines of argument for the overarching claim of the project, with particular focus on sub-project (c) and (d), should also start immediately at the onset of the project. However, progress here is expected to be slower especially given that the lines of exchange and understanding between our team and the other scientist of the NCCR and elsewhere, although already into place, must be firmly anchored. Nevertheless, I expect the publication of a major article in one of the top philosophy journal on the overarching topic of this by project (on the relation between emotion and motivation) between the second and third year of the project (2012-2013), and another article on the topic of sub-project (d), i.e. on the way the conative domain should be conceptually reconfigured, around the same period. These journal articles should serve as the groundwork culminating in the publication of the aforementioned monograph at the end of the grant (2014).

The viability of the present schedule depends on the possibility of operating within a team of both young and more experienced researchers, presenting their work on a regular basis, and meeting with academics interested in this or related topics from other universities. Regarding the team, my intentions are that the two doctoral students supervised within this project will be attached to sub-projects (c) and (d) respectively. International comptitions will be open for both positions. The doctoral student attached to sub-project (d) is expected to be a straight philosopher working on the various aspects of motivation from a philosophical perspective, while the doctoral student attached to project (e) should have a background in empirical psychology with a focus on psychological theories of motivation. There shall be two regular formal seminars a week. One seminar (Emotion and Desire) will consist in either a meeting of the restricted team working directly within the project and presenting their work or in meetings with the empirical scientists working in related areas or common projects within the CISA. The other seminar (Cardialogical problems) consists in the ongoing weekly regular meeting of the philosophy team of the NCCR (Thumos group) on various topics touching philosophical aspects of the affective sciences. In addition, I plan to organise at least four international gatherings (three international workshops during the first three years and one major conference the fourth year on the relation between emotion and motivation). The doctoral students will play some part in the organisation of these gatherings, and more generally will participate in the numerous events, activities and conferences of the CISA in order to broaden their horizon in the field of the affective sciences.

2.5. Importance of the research

Many aspects of the importance of the project research have already been mentioned and I will not go over them again. Also, the expected form in which results will be published has already been mentioned in the previous section (2.4. Schedule). Let me here stress two very different aspects which constitute a big part of the motivation for pursuing it. (a) While there has been obviously great interest in the emotions and related phenomena in recent years, and correspondingly a great many publications surrounding this topic, the present project focuses on emotions to defend a very bold conception of the mind in which they play an indispensible role. It is not only that emotions have, as it is often observed, a crucial regulatory role to play in our lives, but that without them we would be blind to a whole dimension of our environment, i.e. its evaluative dimension. This, if true, militates in favour of reconsidering the fundamental architecture of the mind as including emotions in addition to beliefs and desires. (b) A second important aspect of the present research which was not perhaps sufficiently brought out in this document and which is difficult to measure concerns the interdisciplinary setting in which it will be conducted. Although philosophical through and through, the thinking and motivation behind the project has been enormously influenced by working and communicating with scientists tackling the same or related issues from an empirical perspective. And this influence not only consists in integrating material, arguments, distinctions or ideas coming from their work, but also manifests itself in what philosophy has to bring to research on these topics in general and the value it (sometimes and increasingly) has for those working on these issues in other disciplines. Working within the philosophy unit of the NCCR in Affective sciences thus provides a fertile environment for collaboration and dissemination of ideas and results across disciplines. This is not quantifiable but extremely important.


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Project leader : Julien Deonna

(click here for a pdf version of the project)

Histoire des émotions au Max Planck Institute : programme des conférences (printemps-été 2010)

Colloquium History of Emotions

The Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, led by Prof. Ute Frevert, cordially invites all interested to attend its summer semester 2010 colloquium.

When: Tuesdays 17.00

Location: Conference rooms of the MPIB, on 94 Lentzealle, 14195 Berlin.

Info: Christina Becher,, Tel. 030 82406262


20.4.2010 David Abraham

What Happened to ‘Zusammengehörigkeitsgefühl’? The Liberal Dilemma in Immigration Policy

4.5.2010 Annegret Fauser

Harnessing Music’s Emotional Power: Music as Therapy in the U.S.A. During World War II

18.5.2010 Andreas Bähr

Die Furcht vor Gewalt und die Gewalt der Furcht im 17. Jahrhundert

25.5.2010 Ruth Leys

Affect in Theory: History and Critique

1.6.2010 Benedikt Stuchtey

Aspects of the History of Child Adoption

15.6.2010 Angelika Linke

Grief, Happiness and the Construction of Social Relations. Changes in the Emotional Contextualization of Birth and Death from 1950 Until Today

29.6.2010 Hubertus Büschel

Shame and Colonial Remorse: Discourses of Power in Colonial and Post-

Colonial Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

20.7.2010 Nile Green

The Menu of Emotions: Reciprocal Dining between Persia and England, 1800-35