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A defence of the epistemic rational assessability of emotions

ERI 149
Wednesday 24 January 2018 (15:15-17:00)

Philosophy PGR Seminar Series 2017/18

  • Speaker: Matilde Aliffi
  • Title: A defence of the epistemic rational assessability of emotions

The Philosophy department's PGR seminar is an opportunity for postgraduate research students at Birmingham to present the material they are working on to the department's staff and other students. The seminar meets roughly on fortnightly Wednesdays from 15:15 to 17:00 in the ERI. All welcome!


We think that sometimes we feel emotions that are disproportionate or not fitting with evidence. We get angry for no reason. We fear things despite knowing that these things are not dangerous. We feel guilt for actions even though we know that we could not have done otherwise. It is tempting to consider those emotions irrational. However, there is a lack of consensus about the criteria for the epistemic rational assessability of mental states, and the rational assessability of emotions has not yet been established. The aim of this talk is to explain the epistemic rational assessability of emotions.

Using a reflective equilibrium methodology, I will present four basic constraints that individuate the epistemic rational assessability of mental states. I will argue that a mental state m is epistemically rationally assessable if and only if the following conditions are met: (1) m is the output of a representationally mediated aetiology, (2) m has a descriptive representational content, (3) it is possible to assign to m’s content an “endorsability” value, (4) the mechanism leading to the maintenance of m is generally receptive to the evidence.

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