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Philosophy of Emotion

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What is an emotion? Why is fear an emotion but anxiety a mood? What makes something anger rather than terror?

Are emotion and reason fundamentally opposed or more akin than traditional views suggest? What role should emotions play in enquiry, judgement and moral life?

This course will provide you with an introduction to the study of the philosophy of emotion; no previous knowledge of philosophy is required.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through ten 2-hour sessions, made up of lectures, class discussions, small group work and debates. Class sessions will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central.

Topics may include:

  • ontology – what is an emotion? What distinguishes one emotion from another?
  • rationality – how are emotion and reason related?
  • ethics and moral psychology – what role should emotions play in ethical theory and moral life?
  • epistemology – what is the relationship between emotion and the perception of truth?
  • psychopathology – what can emotional disorders tell us about the role and limits of affective processing?
  • non-human animals – do non-human animals experience emotions?
  • aesthetics – what is the relationship between emotion and aesthetic value?

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

You will complete three short assignments throughout the course. In total, you will write approximately 1,700-2,000 words.

Reading suggestions

Reading and resources will vary according to the specific topics covered in the module. Students may find the following introductory texts useful.

Goldie, Peter, (ed)The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Emotion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)

Solomon,Robert C., What is an emotion? Classic and contemporary readings, 2nd ed. (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press 2003)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.