Belief and Emotion

52 Pritchatts Road, Lecture Theatre 1
Friday 27 November 2015 (11:30-15:30)

Project PERFECT (Philosophy Department) and the Aberrant Experience and Belief research theme (School of Psychology) present a seminar centred on the relationship between belief and emotion. 

All welcome!!!


  • 11:30-12:30 Allan Hazlett: ‘Belief and Betrayal’ 
  • Lunch break
  • 13:00-14:00 Neil Levy: ‘Have I Turned the Stove Off? Explaining
  • Everyday Anxiety’
  • 14:00-15:00 Carolyn Price: ‘Emotion, Perception and Recalcitrance’


Allan Hazlett: ‘Belief and Betrayal’

We are familiar with the idea that our actions can be offensive because they are instances of betrayal, whether of a friend, a romantic partner, a community, an ideal, or a cause.  I shall argue, in the first instance, that beliefs can amount to instances of betrayal: you can betray a friend, for example, by believing an unsavory rumor about her.  I shall then argue for something more controversial: that true beliefs can amount to betrayal: you can betray a friend, again for example, by believing a true unsavory rumor about her.  If this is right, loyalty sometimes requires not believing the truth.  But there are cases in which suspension of judgment about some truth would amount to an instance of betrayal -- and so, in such cases, loyalty requires believing something false.

Neil Levy: ‘Have I Turned the Stove Off? Explaining Everyday Anxiety’

Cases in which we find ourselves irrationally worried about whether we have done something we habitually do (such as turning off the stove) are familiar to most people, but they have received surprisingly little attention in the philosophical literature. In this paper, I argue that available accounts designed to explain superficially similar mismatches between agents’ behavior and their beliefs fail to capture the degree to which these anxious thought cases are irrational (either entailing that the agent is rational or entailing that they are more irrational than they actually are). They also overlook a unique feature of these cases: the agents who feature in them cannot rely on their own beliefs despite the fact that their beliefs match up with their own prepotent responses. Nor are anxious thought cases best understood on the model of obsessive compulsive disorder: whereas the latter may be caused or worsened by conscious attention to routine action, anxious thoughts are assuaged by such attention. Anxious thought cases, I suggest, are not caused by the generation of a representational state that takes on something of the functional role of a belief (as in many of the extant accounts that aim to explain similar cases). Rather, they are caused by the generation of anxiety that undermines the capacity for self-trust. 

Carolyn Price: ‘Emotion, Perception and Recalcitrance’

As philosophers of emotion frequently observe, our emotional responses sometimes clash with our considered judgments. The phenomenon of recalcitrant emotion poses a difficulty for the view that emotional evaluations are evaluative judgments: emotional recalcitrance is not plausibly viewed as a clash of judgments. Instead, theorists of emotion often compare cases of emotional recalcitrance to cases of conflict between judgment and perception – for example, cases involving optical illusions. Moreover, some theorists take this to support the view that emotion is itself a form of perception. However, as Bennett Helm has pointed out, there seems to be a significant disanalogy between emotion and perception:  recalcitrant emotional responses (but not recalcitrant perceptions) are commonly described as irrational. This seems correct, but -- on the face of it -- rather puzzling: if emotional evaluations are not judgments, why should cases of recalcitrant emotion strike people as irrational? Theorists such as Christine Tappolet and Sabine Döring have tried to answer this question in ways that are consistent with the perceptual theory. I shall propose an alternative explanation -- one that is harder to square with the perceptual view. As I shall explain, my account leaves it open that some cases of recalcitrant emotion are not properly described as irrational. This is not because emotion is a form of perception, but because emotional evaluations and judgments answer to different standards of evidence.