ZiF Workshop

Hostile Emotions: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives

Date: 28 – 30 March 2019
Convenor: Thiemo Breyer (Köln, GER)

In recent years there has been a growing interest in the relevance of emotions for public debate, ideological attitudes, and the relationship of politics and the media to truth. The research on what is often called 'political emotions' has produced a considerable literature in philosophy, sociology, political science, and history. The group label is conceptually fuzzy, however, and the psychological processes underlying these collective states remain insufficiently understood. That is why the conference focused on hostile emotions: What phenomena such as Wutbürger, 'hate speech', or 'shitstorm' seem to have in common is the hostility and their character of creating or reinforcing social boundaries.

But what exactly are 'hostile emotions'? How are hostile emotions related to prosocial or self-conscious emotions? And in which situations do hostile emotions typically occur? In order to answer these and similar questions, selected hostile emotions such as antipathy, contempt, disgust, envy, hatred, regret, and ressentiment were analysed and discussed from a philosophical and psychological perspective.

How challenging a deeper understanding of hostile emotions is can be made clear by an example. Hostile emotions are complex regarding time and sociality: As the speakers Thomas Szanto, Natalie Rodax, and Markus Wrbouschek illustrated in the case of ressentiment, it initially implies diverse feelings such as envy, shame, and revenge; it evolves in a dynamic interaction of top-down and bottom-up processes; and it ultimately becomes habitualiszed, creating an illusionary experience and a disclosive posture.

Beyond that, hostile emotions not only vary with regard to their temporal, but also with regard to their intentional form and its correlative objects: Marco Cavallaro showed, for instance, that not only other persons (and their associated values and attitudes) can become the object of hostile emotions, but in the case of regret also the person herself. In addition, Susanne Schmetkamp differentiated three ways in which antipathy is reflected (a general prereflective, a reflective one towards values, and a reflective one towards persons), which fits well with Thiemo Breyer's phenomenological descriptions of the bodily experiential quality of disgust despite its cultural variability; an aspect, which was again deepened by Jarret Crawford's empirical findings concerning those groups, which are typically affected by prejudices.

In view of this and numerous other findings from the fields of philosophy and psychology, however, new questions arise: Where exactly do we draw the dividing line between antipathy and hostility on the one hand, and habits, emotions, sentiments, affects, moods, and atmospheres on the other? How do they change the general way we feel, think, and act? What role do media (such as language, images, or music) play in the emergence, stabilisation, reduction, or prevention of hostile emotions? How relative are certain hostile emotions to individual (e.g., vulnerability) and socio-cultural (e.g., form of government) factors? And what is the responsibility of social actors in dealing with hostile emotions (e.g. in everyday life, law, or psychiatry)? And, finally, what is the epistemic and normative status of hostile emotions? Can they be true or false, do they pose a threat to morality — or are they not rather an overlooked part of humans' socio-moral existence?

Thiemo Breyer

Conference Programme

Macalester Bell (Princeton, USA), Elodie Boublil (Köln, GER), Marco Cavallaro (Köln, GER), Jarret Crawford (Ewing, USA), Erik Dzwiza (Köln, GER), Agneta Fischer (Amsterdam, NED), Niklas Grouls (Köln, GER), Marie Louise Herzfeld-Schild (Wien, AUT), Jens Lange (Amsterdam, NED), Elisa Magri (Köln, GER), Angela Moré (Hannover, GER), Sara Protasi (Tacoma, USA), Natalie Rodax (Wien, AUT), Susanne Schmetkamp (Basel, SUI), Thomas Szanto (Kopenhagen, DEN), Ingrid Vendrell (Berlin, GER), Markus Wrbouschek (Wien, AUT)

Please direct questions concerning the organisation of the workshop to Trixi Valentin at the Conference Office. Questions regarding scientific content and contributions should be directed to the organizers.

Tel: +49 521 106-2769
Fax: +49 521 106-152769
E-Mail: trixi.valentin@uni-bielefeld.de