35 / Social Aspects Of Sciences XI
"Feelings and Emotions": Social, Cultural and Philosophical Issues

21 – 25 May 2007   print this page

Course directors:

Reinhardt Brunner, University of Tübingen, Germany
Jasminka Lažnjak, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Darko Polšek, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Peter Stachel, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria

Course description:

Lately, "emotions" in everyday-life as well as in science have become a much discussed topic . Displays of feelings in the media and hints at the emotional value of events or products have clearly increased : "felt" temperature has become a more important issue in public than its objectively measured counterpart, and "emotional intelligence" is a catchword of psychological research as well as of the informed public. Is it possible to speak of an "emotional turn" in culture and in science or is the scientific examination of emotions - as well as the ubiquitous cultural staging of feelings - only a temporary fashion? Modern philosophy - in opposition to antiquity - has over centuries been shaped by the notion of feelings as mere subjective sensations without any aspect of rationality. This notion was lately turned upside down by Damasio's research in neuroscience. Meanwhile, scientific debate about emotions has become intense, and has become interdisciplinary in scope: it is being followed in the neurosciences, in philosophy, in behavioural studies, in sociology, in ethnology, history and the arts. The course offers several starting issues: - Does preoccupation with emotions offer any scientific insight? Can emotions be analysed "scientifically" at all, without losing their unique qualities? - Are emotions based anthropologically/biologically, and what "portion" is culturally influenced or constituted? Answers to these questions do not seem to rely on simple "either/or" decisions. - How are feelings mediated with/by rationality? What kinds of "entities" are emotions in the first place? - In what sense do we find expression and the topic of emotions in the arts and the discourses about art? And how do they express themselves in different historical/cultural contexts? - Is it possible to speak of an "emotionalisation" of the public sphere? Are the borderlines of intimacy and publicity changed by the expression of feelings? Does this have consequences for societies? If so, which ones?