Passions and the Self: An Interdisciplinary Approach

February 10, 2018 - February 11, 2018
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford

Faculty of Philosophy Radcliffe Humanities Radcliffe Observatory Quarter Woodstock Road Oxford OX2 6GG
United Kingdom


Oxford University

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Oxford, 10th – 11th February 2018

The self has for a long time been recognized to play a crucial role in many areas of human understanding, both theoretical and practical, even though its exact nature is far from clear. Debates on the nature of the self run through the history of philosophical thinking, and questions concerning the nature of the self are still at the very centre of contemporary philosophical discussion. Various theories on the nature of the self have been put forward, and there is still great disagreement over what we are talking about when we think about the self. While some of these theories have tried to posit the self as something fixed and fully identifiable, others have come to different conclusions, maintaining that in fact the notion of the self does not correspond to anything stable and clearly recognisable. Many questions have been raised in this regard. Does the self correspond to a mental substance of some kind or to the soul, as Descartes held? Or is the self just a bundle of perceptions, as Hume apparently believed? Is the self just ‘episodic’, as Galen Strawson claims, or does it present a narrative, diachronic structure, as many today argue? Does the self coincide with the rational nature of human beings? Or is it the result of passions and sentiments? This conference aims to privilege this latter approach by inquiring into the role of the sentimental part of human nature in shaping and constituting the self, devoting particular attention to its involvement in the ethical dimension. By bringing together world-class scholars and a very promising graduate student working on the notion of the self from different perspectives – empirical, conceptual and historical – this conference represent a unique opportunity to investigate the philosophical basis and historical evolution of the notion of the self as seen from a sentimentalist perspective, and to examine what role it can play today in moral theory and moral psychology, as well as in theories of evaluation and of our understanding of others in general.


University of Oxford

Faculty of Philosophy

Radcliffe Humanities

Radcliffe Observatory Quarter

Woodstock Road

Oxford OX2 6GG


• Delphine Antoine-Mahut (ENS – Lyon)

• Carla Bagnoli (University of Modena & Reggio Emilia – University of Oslo)

• Louise Braddock (Cambridge University)

• Sophie Grace Chappell (The Open University)

• Mario De Caro (Roma Tre University – Tufts University)

• Shamsa Khan (Oxford Brookes University)

• Samuel Lézé (ENS – Lyon)

• Dan O’Brien (Oxford Brookes University)


Saturday, 10th February 

3 p. m. – 4 p. m. Dan O’Brien, The Epistemic Roles of Pride, Sympathy and the Self

4 p. m. – 4:15 p. m. Break

4: 15 p. m. – 5:15 p. m. Mario De Caro, Beyond the Hierarchical View of the Mind

5:15 p. m. – 5:30 p. m. Break

5:30 p. m. – 6: 30 p. m. Louise Braddock, Scottish Sympathy, Reading Emotion, and Therapeutic Change in Psychoanalysis

Sunday, 11th February

9:30 a. m. – 10:30 a. m. Carla Bagnoli, The Self and Temporal Attitudes

10:30 a. m. – 10:45 a. m. Break

10:45 a. m. –11: 45 a. m. Sophie Grace Chappell, Falling in Love Again

11:45 a. m. – 12 a. m. Break

12 noon – 1 p. m. Delphine Antoine-Mahut, Is a Relational and Passionate Structure of the Self the Death of the Cogito?

2:30 p. m. – 3:30 p. m. Shamsa Khan, The Self, Passions and Social Media

3:30 p. m. – 3: 45 p. m. Break

3: 45 p. m. – 4: 45 p. m. Samuel Lézé, Clinical Subjectivity in French Psychiatry: A Medical Anthropology Perspective on Emotions and the Limits of Rationality

The conference is made possible by the generous contribution of:

TORCH | The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The MIND Association

TRAVERSES | Unité de Recherches Transdisciplinaire, University of Liege

LABEX COMOD – ENS de Lyon – BATTMAN Project (The Battle for the Science of Man, 1800-1867) IHRIM | Institut d’Histoire des Représentations et des Idées dans les Modernités – CNRS UMR 5317

The attendance is free. For information, please contact Federico Boccaccini ( and Lorenzo Greco (

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