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Emotion, Cognition, and Rationality


Admission requirements

  • BA students in Philosophy: propedeuse degree has been obtained and the second-year course Wetenschapsfilosofie has been successfully completed.

  • BA students from other departments (including contractstudenten): propedeuse degree has been obtained, and additionally the following philosophy courses are required: Epistemologie, Wetenschapsfilosofie.


Emotion is traditionally viewed as the enemy of cognition and rationality: one is supposed to suppress emotion in order to reason correctly. Is this view adequate? Recent research has shown that the contribution of emotion is crucial to taking sound decisions in practical situations. This holds especially in situations of ambiguity, incomplete information, and priority conflicts. In such circumstances, taking decisions on the basis of “gut feelings” or emotions is not a sign of irrationality, but often the only practical way to proceed. The new understanding of emotion has important implications for philosophical models of cognition, rationality, and especially science: emotion is revealed as playing an ineliminable role in scientific work. This course studies the new cognitivist view of emotion and its philosophical implications for our conception of rationality and knowledge.

Course objectives

A student who has successfully completed this course is able to:

  • discuss some classic models of rationality, including rational choice theory and the model of bounded rationality;

  • describe the principal trends in emotion research from the 1950s to today

  • discuss the philosophical significance and implications of anti-cognitivist and cognitivist views of emotion;

  • assess the implications of recent experimental results about the role of emotions in moral reasoning;

  • appraise images of science as emotionless and discuss the possible roles of emotion in scientists’ decision making;

  • give a class presentation and write a paper on the above topics.


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2015-2016, BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject), derde jaar.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

Class attendance is required .

Course load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hrs = 280 hours

  • Attending lectures and seminars: 14 × 3 hrs = 42 hrs

  • Time for studying literature: 110 hrs

  • Time for preparing presentation: 10 hrs

  • Time for writing papers: 118 hrs

Assessment method

  • In-class oral presentations (20%)

  • Draft research proposal and final paper (80%)


One resit will be offered, covering the entire course content and consisting of a paper. The grade will replace previously earned grades for subtests. Class participation and completion of practical assignments (presentation) are mandatory requirements for taking the tests (or resit). Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.


Blackboard is used for posting texts and Powerpoint presentations.

Reading list

The literature list will be posted on Blackboard.


Please register for this course via Study administration system uSis
See also Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “”.

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs
Registration Studeren à la carte: not applicable.

Contact details

Dr. J.W. McAllister