Thursday 4 February 2016

Workshop on Belief and Emotion

On Friday 27th November, project PERFECT (Department of Philosophy), together with the Aberrant Experience and Belief research theme (School of Psychology), held a mini-workshop on the topic of Belief and Emotion. In this post I summarise the three talks given by Allan Hazlett, Neil Levy, and Carolyn Price

Allan Hazlett opened the workshop with his paper ‘On the Special Insult of Refusing Testimony’. He argued that refusing someone’s testimony (i.e. not believing what someone tells you) is insulting, and to express such refusal amounts to a special kind of insult. Understanding telling as an attempt to engage in information sharing, Hazlett suggested that in telling someone that p, I am asking that person to believe that p because I believe it. Refusing my testimony would be to insult me because it constitutes the person's not trusting me. Hazlett concluded by asking why it is that not trusting would be insulting? He canvassed four ideas to answer this question, lack of trust (1) undermines intimacy, (2) undermines solidarity, (3) implies non-competence, and (4) constitutes non-acceptance. Elaborating on (3) Hazlett argued that trusting requires an attitude about someone’s competence, specifically about their reliability (tendency to believe truths), and their sincerity (tendency to honesty).

Neil Levy continued the workshop with his paper ‘Have I Turned the Stove Off? Explaining Everyday Anxiety’. He was interested in a certain kind of discordancy case, namely, neurotic anxiety. His focus was on the case of Joe, who believes that he turned the stove off, but nevertheless finds himself wondering ‘have I turned the stove off?’ Joe cannot be sure he turned it off, or that the apparent memory of so doing has the correct time stamp (since he cooks every morning). This case is one of discordancy since Joe engages in action which is contrary to his belief (i.e. ruminating on the matter). Levy argued against several interpretations of this case: its being a credence case (Joe has a low, non-negligible credence that he did not turn the stove off), its being an in-between belief case (Joe in-between believes that he did not turn the stove off), its being an alief case (Joe alieves that he did not turn the stove off), and its being a metacognitive error case (Joe imagines that he did not turn the stove off). Levy finished by sketching an alternative account according to which such a case is one in which the relationship between the representation and action is deviant, in its being mediated by anxiety.

Carolyn Price closed the workshop with her paper ‘Emotion, Perception, and Recalcitrance’. Price was interested in the phenomenon of recalcitrant emotion, that is, the fact that sometimes our considered judgements and our emotional responses are in tension with one another. She discussed the comparison of cases of emotional recalcitrance with cases of recalcitrant perception (conflict between judgement and perception), specifically, optical illusions. She noted that this comparison has been used to support that claim that emotion is a form of perception. However, a problem with this view is that recalcitrant emotions are judged as irrational, whereas recalcitrant perceptions are not. Price suggested that though this thought seems right, it also suggests a puzzle, namely: if emotions are not judgements, why is it that we think recalcitrant emotions are irrational? Price suggested an answer to this question which appealed to emotions and judgements answering to different standards of evidence.

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