Aims and Norms: Emotions and Other Attitudes

March 23, 2012
University of Southampton

United Kingdom

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  • The British Academy


Michael Brady
University of Glasgow
Pamela Hieronymi
University of California, Los Angeles
Jonas Olson
Stockholm University
University of Southampton


Conor McHugh
University of Southampton
University of Southampton
Daniel Whiting
University of Southampton

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It is common for philosophers to suggest that belief and action have aims, and that one might understand the norms governing belief and action as rules which help us to achieve those aims. But little effort has been made to extend this proposal to other attitudes which also appear to be subject to normative standards, such as the emotions. As part of its Aims and Norms project (see below), Philosophy at Southampton will host a one-day workshop exploring such questions as: Do emotions have aims? What might those aims be? Do admiration and envy, for example, aim at the admirable and enviable? If so, can norms of emotion be explained by appeal to these aims? The workshop will also provide the opportunity to reflect more generally on the relationship between the norm(s) governing an attitude and that attitude's aim(s).

Provisional Schedule

09:00-09:30 Arrival, coffee

09:30-11:00 Presentation: Michael Brady (Glasgow) respondent: 'Emotional Experience and Attentional Focus'. Respondent: Dorothea Debus (York).

11:00-11:15 Coffee break

11:15-12:45 Presentation: Jonathan Way (Southampton), 'Values and Reasons to Favour'. Respondent: Richard Rowland (Reading).

12:45-14:15 Lunch break

14:15-15:45 Presentation: Pamela Hieronymi (UCLA), 'Reflection and Responsibility'. Respondent: Tom Roberts (Exeter).

15:45-16:00 Coffee break

16:00-17:30 Presentation: Jonas Olson (Stockholm), 'Adam Smith's Sentimentalism: Sympathy, Propriety, Merit, and Value'. Respondent: Michael Lacewing (Heythrop).

17:30 Workshop ends

A limited number of places are available at the workshop. Please contact Daniel Whiting ([email protected]) to register.

Aims and Norms Project

The above event is the third in a series of workshops hosted by Philosophy at Southampton investigating the prospects of so-called 'teleological' accounts of normativity.


Actions, beliefs, and emotions are subject to norms-they can be right or wrong, justified or unjustified, appropriate or inappropriate. But while judgments of this type are familiar, there remain pressing philosophical questions about the nature of norms and their grip on us. When is a belief, action, or emotion right or wrong, justified or unjustified? What makes this the case? And how are we able to respond to norms? In tackling such questions, philosophers typically treat norms of action quite separately from those of belief, and pay little attention to norms of other attitudes. This series of workshops will explore the possibility of a unified treatment of norms in all these domains. The workshops will focus on the hypothesis that belief and action have aims-e.g. that belief aims at truth, and that action aims at the good. Given this proposal, norms for belief and action can be understood as rules which help to achieve these aims. However, while suggestive, these ideas remain elusive. Despite an explosion of interest in these issues in the recent literature, there is little consensus on what it might be for belief and action to have aims, or on what these aims might be. This makes adequately evaluating the proposal impossible. Moreover, it is surprising that almost no attempt has been made to consider whether the approach can be extended to account for the norms of emotions. The workshop series will provide a forum for innovative new research on these issues.

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March 23, 2012, 9:00am BST

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