Proposed: Philosophy of Emotions

Download the pdf here.

Course Description

Consider all of the emotions that you have experienced today. You may have been irritated by other commuters. You may have been happy to hear that your favourite sports team won last night. You may have been proud to tell a friend about how well you performed last term. In fact, most of our experiences have some sort of emotional content. Despite playing a vital role in our mental lives, the emotions were not considered to be important either philosophically or psychologically until the mid-twentieth century. Several questions persist: What characterizes emotions from other mental states? How do they relate to these other states? How can thoughts influence our emotions, and vice versa? How do we determine which emotional responses are reasonable or unreasonable to a given stimulus in a given context? How does emotional content affect rationality?

In this course, we will examine potential answers to these and other questions from both philosophical and psychological perspectives using both historical and contemporary resources.

Required Course Texts

  1. Deonna, J. & Teroni, F. The Emotions: A Philosophical Introduction (London: Routledge, 2012).
  2. Miscellaneous readings on electronic reserve.

 Course Schedule

All information subject to change with notice.

Week Topic Readings
01 Welcome!; What do we mean by emotion? Syllabus, TE: 1-14, E1

The Nature of Emotions

02 What do emotions have in common? TE: 14-28
03 How do emotions relate to belief? TE: 28-40
04 What do values have to do with it? TE: 40-52
05 Emotions and Judgements TE: 52-63, E2
06 [Review and Midterm] N/A

Emotion and Action

07 Perceptual Theories of Justification TE: 63-76, E3
08 How not to be eaten by a bear E4
09 Emotions and motivation E5, E1
10 The Attitudinal Theory of Emotions TE: 76-91
11 Can emotional responses be inappropriate? TE: 91-104
12 Do emotions make us less rational? A response to Spock E6
13 Wrap-up and review Everything you haven’t read.


TE The Emotions: A Philosophical Introduction
E1 Prinz, J. Gut Reactions (selections)
E2 Solomon, R. Not Passion’s Slave (selections)
E3 Bain, A. Emotions & The Will (selections)
E4 James, W. Principles of Psychology (selection A)
E5 James, W. Principles of Psychology (selection B)
E6 James, W. “The Sentiment of Rationality”