At the moment, I am on sabbatical as a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at the University of Calgary. I did my PhD here and it is really wonderful to be back and see old and new faces. This last week my Ch. 3 on emotions and natural kinds was read in a grad seminar, reading group, and I gave it as a talk to the department. I received really rich feedback from Marc Ereshefsky, Ken Waters, Adrian Currie, Kirsten Walsh, and a whole host of others. With their help, I have a good draft of Ch. 3, and can move on to Ch. 4 - the evolution of the emotions!
This week I am at the University of Guelph outside Toronto hanging out with my friend and philosopher Stefan Linquist. I am giving a talk at the University entitled, "Emotions as Multimodal Perceptions; or What James Got Right." It should be fun and I get to try out some new ideas. It has been very fruitful preparing the talk because it makes me see my writing from different angles. So, after this, some edits on the first Chapter and then back to Chapter Two on kinds of emotions.
The second chapter excites me because I am having to think hard about the work of Paul Ekman and a recent critic Lisa Feldman Barrett. Her work poses some very interesting challenges to the claim that emotions are natural kinds. Specifically, she argues that facial expressions associated with the so-called "basic emotions" are not universal in any deep sense. Given the consensus around Ekman's work, if she is right, then this is important stuff. I am skeptical and have my reasons, but I need to think carefully through the issues.
One upshot if she is right is really interesting. If there are basic emotions and there are universal facial expressions associated with them, then cross-cultural communication regarding how we feel might be relatively straightforward. But, if there are no basic emotions or these expressions are not universal, then such communication might be strained at best and really difficult at worst. The debate has important upshots I think.
I am writing a book tentatively called In a Sentimental Mood: Emotion, Evolution, and Expression. And, I just finished a draft of Chapter 1, "What is an emotion?" Writing a book is very different than writing articles. It is lots of work but also lots of fun. Now, off to Chapter 2!
I just returned from the Rock Mountain Ethics Conference at the University of Colorado Boulder organized by Ben Hale and Alastair Norcross. It was a great conference. My presentation was a version of A Guilt Trip: Expressivism, Moral Judgment, and Basic Emotions. My commentator Camil Golub gave me great feedback and lots to think about along with the fine folks at the conference.
Most interestingly, Don Marquis in a session with Michael Tooley argued that his "future like ours" argument for the immorality of abortion was unsound. It is always cool to see philosophers who are willing to change their minds in light of a good objections.
I just returned from ISHPSSB 2015 in Montreal Canada. It was a wonderful conference where Matt Haber and I put together two back-to-back sessions on philosophy and anthropology. The talks were great and I think well-received. Additionally, Adrian Bardon put together an excellent workshop at Wake Forest University. The theme was denialism in science and there were some amazing psychologists, philosophers, political scientists, and communications folks. All in all, an excellent summer so far...