Culture, Society and Politics
Political philosophy

The reason of passions: emotion and rationality in the landscape of (contemporary) politics.

The purpose of this symposium is to approach the topic of the relations between rationality and emotions, wondering which part it actually plays in politics.

Frihet, væpnet med fornuftens septer, slå tilbake ignoranse og fanatisme
Liberty, Armed with the Scepter of Reason, Strikes Down Ignorance and Fanaticism (Original Language Title: La Liberté armée du sceptre de la Raison foudroyé l’Ignorance et le Fanatisme). Jean-Baptiste Chapuy, French (c. 1760-1802) After Simon Louis Boizot, French (Paris, France 1743 - 1809 Paris, France)
Wikimedia Commons

In many ways, politics is the art of persuasion and too often reasonable arguments can only persuade people to a limited extent. In fact within the political landscape, through past and present, one will find a complex mixture of rational arguments and emotional discourses, while various models of rationality and emotions are confronted in the theoretical realm.

In one of his scholarly works, The Passions and the Interests (1977), Albert Hirschman described how the process of modernization transformed the "passions" motivating social and political behaviour into modern "interests" and they were thereby assigned the role of containing the social and political destructive passions. Until recently, theorists had described both political movements and political belonging as based on beliefs, ethics, and sentiment.

Do emotions, of any kind, pose a dangerous threat to rationality and political life? What becomes of democracy, for instance, when, in political debates, one replaces a rigorous and rational language with one focused on emotions, hope or fear? Is it possible to construct a democratic society without political passions, mutual trust and a belief in the right of every individual to participate in the social and political debates?

If so what kind of emotions are positive and what kind of emotions hinder this development?

We aim to explore the changing ways in which thought and feeling, rationality and passion, reason and sentiments have been understood in politics focusing both on the realm of the history of ideas and contemporary normative theory (moral, legal and political). 

The symposium will seek to define the possible paths of reflection on this topic and study the relationships between reason and emotions, concepts of rationality and "structures of feelings" as a marker of political arena and democracy.


Thursday 28th November

 09.30-10.00: Coffee & welcome

10.00-10.45: "Populism - a tool of rationality, passions, or both?" - Prof. Anat Biletzki, (Quinnipiac University USA and UiB)

 10.45-11.00 Coffee break

11.00-11.45: "Post-Truth, Polarization and Other Emotional Threats to Democracy" - Prof. Alberto Giordano, (University of Genoa, Italy)

11.45-12.30: "Politics of identity and feelings" - Ass. Prof. Anne Granberg, (UiB)

 12.30 – 14.00: Lunch

14.00-14.45:  "«A passion can only be overcome by a stronger passion»– Ernst Cassirer’s philosophical anthropology and «the emotional turn»" - Prof. Ingmar Meland, (Oslo-Met)

14.45-15.30: "The status of emotions in Arendt’s notion of principles of action" - Ass. Prof. Johannes Servan, (UiB)

 15.30-15.45 Coffee break

15.45-16.30: "Populistic leaders, democracy and the mechanism of the imitation of affects" - Prof. Paola de Cuzzani, (UiB)

16.30-17.15: "The role and meaning of dystopias as a background of the contemporary politics- Prof. Jean Christophe Merle, (Vechta University, Germany)

 19.30 Dinner

Friday 29th November

10.00-10.45: “Errors in politics, an analysis of the concept of political error” - Prof. Pascal Nouvel, (University of Tours, France)

10.45-11.30:  “A new Galateo: looking for civil feelings against political polarization” - Prof. Mirella Pasini, (University of Genoa, Italy)

 11.30-11.45 Coffee break

11.45- 12.30: "«Polite conversation is no longer desirable». Peace and Agonism in the Rhetoric of Georg Johannesen (1931-2005)" - Ass. Prof. Hans Marius Hansteen, (UiB)

 12.30-14.00: Lunch

14.00-14.45: "A reasoned feeling" - Prof. Juliette Grange, (Université de Tours, France)

14.45-15.30: “Policing Emotions: Is there space for emotion and rationality in contemporary police education" - Prof. Andrew Paul Hill, (University of Akureyri, Iceland)

 15.30-15-45: Coffe break

15.45-16.30: The partially impartial spectator as a political ideal?” - Ass. Prof. Sveinung Sundfør Sivertsen, (UiB)

16.30-17.30: Discussion and planning future of research topic