Call for paper 

Emotions in Plato – Joint Workshops in Ancient Theories of Soul and Knowledge at the University of Edinburgh and Université Paris-Nanterre


Date: 17th March 2017 (Paris) –  7th April 2017 (Edinburgh)

Deadline for proposals: 15th December 2016

Emotions have become an important topic of research in Classics, joining historical, anthropological, literary, and philosophical approaches. Specific works on emotions within the ancient philosophical corpus are however unevenly distributed, and studies on the nature and functions of emotions in Plato are still only few. A joint workshop led by Laura Candiotto (University of Edinburgh, Eidyn Centre)  and Olivier Renaut (Paris-Nanterre University, IREPH) is organized with the aim to bridge this gap, exploring the different available approaches on emotions within the Platonic corpus.

Three issues are going to be addressed specifically during the workshops:

  1. Pathè like anger, fear, hope, envy, jealousy, etc. appear as complex psycho-physiological states in the Platonic corpus, involving pleasure and pain, perception or, even, judgements. Nevertheless, the status of these embodied pathè and mental states remains unclear in the Platonic psycho-physiology. Is the contemporary notion of emotion that we conveniently use to designate certain pathè a good model for understanding their nature and functionality?The first issue deals with the notion of emotion, and its relevance for understanding Plato’s epistemology. What is the relationship among emotions, body, and soul? Do emotions supervene on individual mental states? Are they compounds of pleasure and pain? Which is their phenomenology, and in which contexts – public or private – is it detectable? Are emotions conceptual, and by what standard? What type of entity are they in the ontology?
  2. The Western philosophical tradition has defined emotions through their opposition to reason. This opposition may find its roots in Plato, since some pathè are called “irrational” because they seem to obscure the operation of reason and disturb the soul. However, it should not be taken for granted that emotions in Plato are totally devoid of rationality. In fact, they may possess the capacity of representation, or even the faculty of understanding or computation. Moreover, some pathè may be profitably associated with what is called a “rational desire”, whose purpose is the pursuit of good. Finally, whether the epistemological role of emotions might be understood as a gateway to knowledge, or at least as an adjuvant, is still an open question. A second challenge of this workshop is thus to explore the nature of Platonic pathè compared to reason and the philosophical method: Which is – if there is – their cognitive marker? How do they benefit or hinder the cognitive process of knowledge? And, more generally, which are their role and function in Plato’s psychology and anthropology?
  3. The third issue concerns moral and political agency, and specifically the power or powerlessness of emotions for judging, evaluating, understanding and acting, within the Platonic account. How to define the role of emotions in the acquisition and exercise of virtue? Have they an exclusively negative function or, by contrast, are they necessary – and in which sense – for its exercise? Which are – if there are – Plato’s moral and political emotions, and how do they work?

Each workshop, one in Edinburgh (date: 7th April 2017) and the other in Paris-Nanterre (17th March) will consist of 6 presentations, with two guests speakers, and four presentations resulting from the call for papers. Please send your proposal (500 words max) to Laura Candiotto ( and Olivier Renaut (, expressing your preference for participating in the Edinburgh or in the Nanterre-Paris workshop. Deadline: 15th  December 2016. It is envisaged that we publish a selection of the contributions in an edited volume or journal monograph issue.

Proposals may include, for example, the following topics on Plato’s thought:
– value and the relevance of emotion for Plato’s theory of knowledge and soul;

– analysis of a particular emotion, framed within one of the Workshop’s issues;
– classification of the types and functions of emotions in Plato;
– the role of emotions in knowledge;
– emotions and intellectualism;
– emotions and desire;
– emotions, body and experience.

Language: the official language will be English or French for both the workshops. Another language among the 5 official languages of the International Plato Society (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish) would be considered under the condition of disseminating to the public the full paper’s translation in English or in French.

The Joint workshop are made possible thanks to the generous funding of the Eidyn Research Centre (University of Edinburgh), and of the Doctoral School ED 139 and the Institut de Recherches Philosophiques (University of Paris-Nanterre).


Laura Candiotto (University of Edinburgh) and Olivier Renaut (Université Paris-Nanterre)