What is the nature of our affective states? How do they contribute to our lives? Can they be rational, and in what ways? What is the relationship between our emotions and what we find important, between emotions and value, between emotions and morality?
These are questions that have been bothering me ever since I started my PhD thesis work, in Manchester back in 2009.
At first, I didn't know where to start. I didn't even know what it was I should be looking for. I needed to approach emotions from a certain angle; to quote a piece of advice that Peter Goldie - my primary supervisor when I started - gave me once: I needed to find my own 'voice'. After numerous lively discussions with my supervisors (P. Goldie, M. Scott and J. Smith) and colleagues, I decided to attack a widely shared assumption in the philosophical literature on emotions, namely that emotions are episodic events of some sort and that everything in our affective lives somehow boil down to them. This basically means that things like love, hate, and caring, if affective, are reducible to episodes of emotion or collection thereof. It also might mean that when someone says that they have been angry with someone else for the past ten years, they just mean that they have undergone episodes of anger at various times over the past ten years. In my thesis, I argued that such an assumption is mistaken. Granting the assumption that emotions should be defined as episodic events, I argued that there is another class of affective states - which I called 'sentiments' - which are distinct from the emotions that people have talked about yet related to them in important respects. With the help of some powerful arguments in the literature on powers, I argued that sentiments are dispositions, realistically construed, to undergo various emotional episodes over time. My contention was - and still is - that, besides doing justice to our ordinary thought and discourse about the affective, the category of sentiments can do important philosophical work that emotions alone cannot do.
Given that my thesis was at the intersection of the philosophy of mind and metaphysics, I benefited greatly from discussions with colleagues from both areas. Manchester has some of the most talented, sophisticated, yet modest philosophers I have ever met, members of staff and postgraduate students alike. I'm so grateful for having met them, for their help and for their unqualified support. Above all, I'm grateful for having seen what the practice of doing good philosophy - ambitious, yet modest, difficult, yet open to all, serious, yet really fun - is all about. There is no doubt that Manchester is a great place to do philosophy.
After graduating from Manchester in 2013, I pursued further my research on sentiments as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Geneva. I then became a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Montreal, working on various projects in philosophy of mind and metaethics. I am now an assistant professor ('Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter') in philosophy at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.