Reason and Emotion

Course details


Mon 14 Oct 2019 - Mon 18 Nov 2019

Reason and Emotion


Emotions bear complex relationships to rationality. On one hand they are seen as arational or irrational, on the other they make our actions intelligible and arguably lift us above the purely mechanistic behaviours of machines. Much like human sensory perception, emotions perform an essential function: they inform us about the world. That said, Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma can be applied to emotions: we can pose the question why is something feared or loved? Is it because it is fear- or love-inspiring in itself? This is the objectivist’s outlook on emotion. In contrast, a subjectivist stance would be that something is fear- or love-inspiring because we fear or love it. In this case, the objects and qualities we find in the world are mere projections of our own attitudes. This course is an exploration into the possibility, extent and nature of the objectivity of emotions, and their contribution to rationality. We shall cast a light on historical perspectives on reason and emotion and compare these with more recent philosophical findings in this vibrant area of contemporary research.


Programme details



Tea/coffee is provided in the Common Room after each lecture, from 3.30pm

1.45pm Registration (first week only 14 October in Rewley House Reception)

14 October 2019

Emotions and their biological roots. How important are emotions to rational thinking and social behaviour?

21 October 2019

Emotional conflict and control in Plato’s rational agent

28 October 2019

Aristotle on learning how to affect emotional changes

4 November 2019

Turning the tables: foregrounding emotion in Hume

11 November 2019

The wider spectrum: sentiments, moods and character traits

18 November 2019

Motivation, appropriateness and intelligibility of emotion



Recommended reading


de Sousa, Ronald: The Rationality of Emotion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987.

Damasio, Antonio: Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain. New York: Putnam’s and Sons, 1994. 

Price, Carolyn: Emotion. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2015.



Tuition (includes tea/coffee): £115.00


If you are in receipt of a state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses



Dr Julia Weckend

Course Tutor

Julia Weckend received her PhD from the University of Reading in 2013 and has taught philosophy at the Universities of Southampton and Reading before joining Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education as a tutor in 2014. Her teaching and research interests include the history of ideas, metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, with a particular focus on perception, cognition and emotion. She has published a number of articles and manuscript translations, and is co-editor of Tercentenary Essays on the Philosophy and Science of Leibniz (Palgrave Macmillan 2016), and editor of Leibniz’s Legacy and Impact (Routledge 2019). 

Ms Marianne Talbot

Director of Studies


Marianne Talbot took her first degree at London University, then her B.Phil at Oxford (Corpus Christi College). She has taught for the colleges of Oxford University for 30 years (1987 – 1990 at Pembroke College, 1991 – 2000 at Brasenose College). She has been Director of Studies in Philosophy at OUDCE since 2001. She is the author of Bioethics: An Introduction, and Critical Reasoning: A Romp Through the Foothills of Logic. Marianne’s podcasts have been hugely popular. Two of them have been global number one on iTunesU. One of these (The Nature of Arguments) has been downloaded 7 million times.




Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.